Frequently Asked Questions

General Records Management FAQ

1. What is records management?

Records management is defined by Mississippi law as "the application of management techniques to the creation, utilization, maintenance, retention, preservation and disposal of records undertaken to reduce costs and improve efficiency of record-keeping. Records management includes management of filing and microfilm equipment and supplies, filing and information retrieval systems, historical documentation, micrographics, records system scheduling and vital records protection." (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-59-3)

2. What state laws address the management of and access to state government records?

Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-59-1 through 25-59-31 comprise the "Mississippi Archives and Records Management Law of 1981," as amended. The law designates the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) as the archival and records management agency of the state of Mississippi, establishes the State Records Committee to review and approve records control schedules, and sets forth records management duties of state agencies and officials.

Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-61-1 through 25-61-17 comprise the "Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983," as amended. The law codifies state policy regarding access to public records, stating that public records as defined by the law are open for inspection unless otherwise provided by law.

3. What is the State Records Committee?

The State Records Committee is composed of the governor, state registrar of vital records, state auditor of public accounts, secretary of state, and the director of MDAH, or their designated representatives. The committee has the duty to review, approve, disapprove, amend, or modify records control schedules submitted by agency heads or appointed and elected state officials through MDAH for the disposition of records based on administrative, legal, fiscal, or historical value. A records control schedule may be determined by three (3) members of the committee and may be amended by the committee on change of program mission, legislative change, or other actions affecting the basic mission of the agency and in turn affecting the records. The director of MDAH serves as chairman of the committee and schedules meetings as required. Each agency has the right of appeal to the committee for actions taken. (MCA 1972, 25-59-7)

4. What is a records control schedule?

As defined by state law, a records control schedule is a "set of instructions prescribing how long, where or in what form records shall be kept" (MCA 1972, 25-59-3). More directly it is a document describing a records series and specifying where and how long it must be retained before it is disposed of or transferred to the State Archives. Once approved by the State Records Committee, a records control schedule has the force and effect of law. Before a schedule is considered by the Committee, it must first be preliminarily agreed to by the agency, then be approved by the MDAH in-house Appraisal Committee, then be approved by the directors of the MDAH Archives and Library Division and Records Management Division, then be formally agreed to by the agency.

5. What is a records series?

A records series is a group of file units or documents arranged according to a filing system or kept together because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, document a specific kind of transaction, take a particular physical form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use.

6. How do I know if records control schedules are in place for my office? If not, to whom should I talk about having my records scheduled?

If your agency does not have a records officer (most agencies don't) or a staff member that serves as liaison with MDAH, contact:

MDAH Records Management Division
929 High Street
Jackson, MS 39202
Phone 601-354-7688
Fax 601-354-7393

Staff of the Records Management Division can let you know what schedules are currently in place and/or arrange to inventory and schedule your records. They can also supply you with boxes for transferring records to the State Records Center and arrange to pick up your records.

7. Can a records control schedule be altered once in place? If so, how?

Yes. Contact the MDAH Records Management Division to request that a schedule be amended. Once the amended schedule has been approved by the State Records Committee, it legally replaces the previous version of the schedule.

8. Do records have to be scheduled before they can be disposed of?

State law provides that public records are not to be disposed of without the consent of the MDAH director and that it is the duty of each state agency and each appointed or elected state official to submit to MDAH recommended retention schedules for records in its custody, with the exception of records addressed by general schedules for certain types of records common to all agencies or offices (MCA 1972, 25-59-15). In some cases, however, a disposal certificate may be obtained from MDAH giving the director's approval to dispose of records deemed by MDAH to not have archival value.

9. What do we do with records that we still refer to occasionally but that we have no room to store?

The State Records Center stores scheduled state government records that have continuing value to the agency but that do not need to be archived permanently. Records control schedules often specify that records be transferred to the Center and held there for a period of time before disposal. Contact the MDAH Records Management Division for assistance with scheduling your records. See question number 6 for contact information.

10. We found a bunch of old-looking books and papers in a storage building used by our agency. What should we do with them?

First of all, don't dispose of them (see question number 8 above). Before attempting to organize or clean the materials, please contact MDAH so that archivists and/or records analysts can view the materials and determine what course of action to take. Contact

MDAH Archives and Library Paper Archives
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: (601) 576-6889

11. How do I know which records are open to the public?

In general, Mississippi's public records are open to the public unless specifically exempted by state law from the provisions of the Public Records Act. However, federal law and guidelines are also applicable in some cases.

12. Why would the Archives be interested in my agency's work and records? We don't really produce anything of historical value.

Most state agency records are of value only to the agency, and that value is usually short-term. Only a small percentage of records are deemed to be of archival value. MDAH is the state agency charged with making that determination as part of its mission to document and preserve Mississippi's history and historical resources. Archivists and historians often see worth in what appears worthless to the records creator.

13. What is a records officer? Do all state agencies have one on staff?

An agency's records officer is an employee charged with carrying out the agency's records management responsibilities. The records officer sees to it that the agency creates, maintains, transfers, and disposes of official records in accordance with applicable guidelines, laws, and regulations. Very few agencies have someone serving in a professional capacity as a records officer. Many agencies do, however, have a staff member who serves as liaison with MDAH and/or staff members experienced in dealing with records management issues.

14. Is microfilming an outdated technology? Who can I talk to about microfilming and microfilm storage?

Microfilm continues to be one of the leading records storage and preservation media. MDAH Records Management staff will discuss the viability of microfilming during the records scheduling process, or any time the need arises.

15. May state agencies lease additional space for records storage? Yes. However, state law provides that "state agencies and appointed or elected state officials shall not lease additional space for records storage or renew existing leases for that purpose without approval of the State Records Committee." (MCA 1972, 25-59-15)

16. What are the benefits of records management? Records enable and support an agency's work to fulfill its mission. Because records contain information, a valuable resource, a systematic approach is essential to the management of records. The following benefits of records management and of using records control schedules have been identified by the National Archives and Records Administration as being applicable to federal agencies. They are applicable to state government as well. Records management

  • Contributes to the smooth operation of your agency's programs by making the information needed for decision making and operations readily available.
  • Helps deliver services in a consistent and equitable manner.
  • Facilitates effective performance of activities throughout an agency.
  • Protects the rights of the agency, its employees, and its customers.
  • Provides continuity in the event of a disaster. Protects records from inappropriate and unauthorized access.
  • Meets statutory and regulatory requirements including archival, audit, and oversight activities.
  • Provides protection and support in litigation.
  • Allows quicker retrieval of documents and information from files.
  • Improves office efficiency and productivity.
  • Provides better documentation more efficiently.
  • Supports and documents historical and other research.
  • Frees up office space for other purposes by moving inactive records to storage facilities.
  • Prevents unnecessary purchases of office equipment.

17. What are the benefits of using records control schedules?

Using records control schedules

  • Ensures that the important records are organized and maintained in such a way as to be easily retrieved and identifiable as evidence of the program's activities, especially in the event of an audit, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, or a discovery in a lawsuit.
  • Conserves office space and equipment by using filing cabinets to store only active paper records and conserves server space by using tapes, disks, and other off-line storage media for electronic records.
  • Saves money by moving inactive files to off-site storage areas until they are ready for final disposition.
  • Helps preserve those records that are valuable for historical or other research purposes.
  • Controls the growth of records in offices through the systematic disposition of unneeded records.

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Electronic Records FAQ

1. What is an electronic record?
As defined in Mississippi's Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, an electronic record is a record created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means. Examples of electronic records commonly generated and stored by state government agencies include desktop files, email, databases, and digital images.

2. Are electronic records subject to the same public access requirements as paper records?
Yes. Public records, as defined by Mississippi law, include "all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings or other materials regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency or by any appointed or elected official." (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-59-3). Mississippi's Public Records Law stipulates that "providing access to public records is a duty of each public body and automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records. As each public body increases its use of, and dependence on, electronic record keeping, each public body must ensure reasonable access to records electronically maintained, subject to records retention." (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-61-2).

3. Are electronic records scheduled the same way paper records are?
Yes. When the records of an agency or office are scheduled, the retention and disposition of all records, regardless of format, must be addressed. The records control schedule form has been updated and expanded for this purpose and staff of the MDAH Records Management Division and Electronic Records Section work together to produce comprehensive schedules.

4. Who can I contact with questions regarding electronic records?
Questions regarding electronic records may be directed to

MDAH Electronic Records
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601-576-6823
Email: elecrecs@mdah.state.ms.us

5. Does the Archives have any standards for digital imaging and are agencies obligated to follow them? May originals be disposed of once they have been scanned?
MDAH has compiled standards that must be used by state agencies, counties, municipalities, or other entities of the State of Mississippi, when undertaking imaging technology applications with the intent of disposing of the original public records. The standards apply only to records that have been scheduled for permanent retention by either the State Records Committee or Local Government Records Committee. The standards are intended to ensure that public records maintained only in digital format through the use of an optical imaging system remain accessible to the public, state agency and/or local government for the full period that the record must be maintained. Agencies and/or entities implementing or considering the implementation of imaging systems should contact MDAH to determine if records control schedules need to be amended or created before disposing of any original records.

6. How should archival electronic records be transferred to the Archives?
Each agency is responsible for the integrity of the records it transfers to MDAH. To ensure that permanently valuable electronic records are preserved, each agency should transfer electronic records to MDAH in accordance with the applicable records control schedule. If the agency is unable to provide proper care and handling of the media, or if the media are becoming obsolete and the agency is unable to migrate the records to newer media, the agency should contact MDAH to arrange for the timely transfer of the records even if the in-house retention period prescribed in the records control schedule has not expired.

7. Will MDAH temporarily store non-permanent electronic records?
No. Only electronic records determined through the scheduling process to be of archival value will be transferred to the State Archives upon expiration of the in-agency retention period.

8. Will records be archived in electronic form at MDAH?
Yes. Archival electronic records will in most cases be archived and made accessible electronically by MDAH.

9. Does the Archives store backups of electronic records for agencies?
Yes. The MDAH Records Management Division offers tape rotation and storage services. For information, contact MDAH Records Management Division 929 High Street Jackson, MS 39202 Phone 601-354-7688 Fax 601-354-7393

10. Where can I find information on electronic records management software?
Records Management Application [RMA] is the term used in DoD 5015.2-STD, Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications, for software that manages records. Its primary management functions are categorizing and locating records and identifying records that are due for disposition. RMA software also stores, retrieves, and disposes of the electronic records that are maintained in its repository. DoD 5015.2-STD requires that RMAs be able to manage records regardless of their media. The DoD maintains a list of software products that have been tested and certified to comply with the mandatory requirements of DoD 5015.2-STD. (This information is from the National Archives and Records Administration's records management page).

11. What is an EDMS?
EDMS stands for Electronic Document Management System. As defined by Australia's Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS), electronic document management systems are programs, procedures and/or software that manage, control and provide access to electronic documents. Their functions include version control of documents with multiple versions; enabling collaborative work; indexing of documents for easy retrieval; and providing some access and change control on documents. EDMS software often functions as a database linked to a viewer. Software then adds database information to every document as it is created. Such systems can cover a wide range of document types.

12. Should an agency standardize desktop file and directory structures?
Electronic records must remain reasonably accessible throughout their required retention period, and standardized filing rules within an agency will ease retrieval. In the absence of an EDMS or RMA, the files and directories should be indexed in an organized and consistent pattern and reflect the way the files will be used and referenced.

13. When employees depart, what should we do with their computer files?
An employee departure policy should be developed and implemented as part of the exit interview process to provide for the proper identification and management of files on the departing employee's PC. The policy should include a review of the computer to verify documented file structure and naming; documentation of what files are present and where they are located; evaluation and identification of archival documents; and the transfer or retention of active files.

14. What are the benefits of electronic records management?
Recognizing that the drive to establish electronic government (e-government) in many states has made electronic records management an issue of growing concern, the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council has identified the following benefits: The creation and management of accurate and reliable electronic records. Ensuring the legal acceptability of electronic records. Reducing costs for records retrieval. Reducing reliance on paper records and the burden of paper record keeping. Ensuring long-term access to electronic records of enduring historical, legal, cultural, or administrative value. Improving citizen access to public information. Maintaining the confidentiality and privacy of non-public personal information.

15. Why should I be concerned about the management and retention of electronic files when our information technology staff backs up everything?
Backing up is designed to enable disaster recovery from catastrophic system or data failure and rightly falls within the domain of information technology management. Back-up tapes are not a substitute for, or means of, record keeping. Backing up provides security while records management provides organization, ease of access, protection of confidentiality, and timely legal disposition.

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Email FAQ

1. What is email?
Email is electronic mail - the process of sending and receiving messages in electronic form from one PC or terminal to another via the Internet. The term is used to refer both to the communication system and to the messages sent and received. Email is often used as a substitute for a telephone call or a shout across the hall, but it can have the same potential evidentiary value as any other record documenting the transaction of public business. Because email is increasingly used to conduct state government business, it is necessary that agencies develop policies and procedures that ensure that records created or received on email systems are managed according to Mississippi's public records laws.

2. Are government email messages public records?
Yes. Public records, as defined by the Mississippi Archives and Records Management Law, include "all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings or other materials regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency or by any appointed or elected official." (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-59-3). Therefore, email messages sent or received in connection with the transaction of official business by an agency employee or an appointed or elected official are public records and are subject to the provisions of the law. Mississippi's Public Records Law, which addresses public access to government records, defines "public records" as "all books, records, papers, accounts, letters, maps, photographs, films, cards, tapes, recordings or reproductions thereof, and any other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been used, being in use, or prepared, possessed or retained for use in the conduct, transaction or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty or function of any public body, or required to be maintained by any public body." (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-61-3). The law further stipulates that "providing access to public records is a duty of each public body and automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records. As each public body increases its use of, and dependence on, electronic record keeping, each public body must ensure reasonable access to records electronically maintained, subject to records retention." (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-61-2). State government employees and officials should consider their email to be subject to public requests for inspection unless the subject matter falls into a class of records specifically exempted by law from public access requirements. They should also be aware that requests for access to electronic records must be treated in the same manner as requests for other public records. The Mississippi Public Records Law states that "a public body shall provide a copy of the record in the format requested if the public body maintains the record in that format." (Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, 25-61-10).

3. How do I know how long I should retain email messages before deleting them?
The retention and disposition of email messages meeting the definition of "public records" in 25-59-3 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated, meaning those messages made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business, must be addressed by a records control schedule approved by the State Records Committee. Records control schedules are based on the content of the records, not the formats they are generated and stored in. Email cannot be viewed as a records series in itself, with all messages having the same blanket retention and disposition requirements. Agencies must safeguard their email messages and manage them according to the approved retention period for the information contained within. An agency may be able to apply an existing schedule if appropriate. For example, if an agency has a records control schedule in place that calls for its correspondence to be retained four years before disposing of it, that schedule may be applicable to its email messages as well. When contemplating email retention, an agency should first review any existing schedules. If none are in place, or if the existing schedules appear to be outdated or obsolete, the agency should contact MDAH for assistance in scheduling its email. Email messages not made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business may be disposed of when no longer administratively useful.

4. Should our agency/office have an email usage policy?
A sound email usage policy is a good idea for all government agencies and offices. While email is a fast, easy, inexpensive form of communication, its use does create some potential hazards. Government agencies and offices should educate employees on the appropriate use of email, stressing the need to avoid actions which might incur legal liability, breach confidentiality, or lead to loss of productivity, damage to reputation, or network congestion and downtime.

5. Is my personal email going to end up in the Archives?
Not intentionally. Only email deemed as archival on an approved records control schedule will end up in the State Archives. Agencies should have clear internal policies on appropriate internet and email usage on government-owned computers. Violation of those policies and misuse of email are matters of concern to agency management, not MDAH.

6. Does MDAH specify requirements for methods and formats of transfer of email and attachments?
Not at present. As with other electronic records, transfer formats and methods are discussed during the scheduling process as permanent records are identified, and are written into records control schedules.

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