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Kansas Electronic Recordkeeping Strategy: A White Paper

December 29, 1999

Overview

During the past decade, the record keeping practices in public and private organizations have been revolutionized. New information technologies have transformed the way state agencies create, use, disseminate, and store information. These new technologies offer a vastly enhanced means of collecting information for and about citizens, communicating within state government and between state agencies and the public, and documenting the business of government. This document addresses the legal authority, division of responsibilities, principles and best practices related to electronic recordkeeping by Kansas state agencies.

Legal Authority

According to Kansas state law:

  • Government records are public property and cannot be destroyed without authorization from the State Records Board or through an approved retention and disposition schedule (K.S.A 45-403).
  • Unless specifically exempted, government records are to be kept open for public inspection. (K.S.A. 45-215 through 45-223)

Taken together, these two requirements provide a powerful incentive for agencies to actively engage in electronic records management. Unless a retention and disposition schedule (defined below) approved by the State Records Board is used to identify those electronic records that are appropriate to destroy - either

through their identification as part of a previously scheduled records series or the approval of a new series describing specific groups of electronic records - state agencies are legally obligated not only to retain all of the electronic records they create but also to provide public access to them (unless specifically identified as exceptions in the Open Records Act and other specific legislation). This includes the maintenance of a register describing both the electronic records held by an agency and the form in which they can be made available to the public. The ongoing maintenance of systems to store and retrieve such large amounts of data would place an unnecessary burden on agencies. Through effective management and scheduling of their records, however, agencies can focus their resources on preserving only those records that have enduring value.

K.S.A. 45-404 grants the State Records Board the authority to "approve or modify retention and disposition schedules," which identify the minimum length of time that every record series created and maintained by an agency must be retained. A record series is a group of records normally used or filed as a unit that relate to a particular subject or result from the same activity.

Two types of retention and disposition schedules apply to agency records. The General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule includes guidelines for common record series maintained by most state agencies. Each agency should also have a specific Agency Records Retention and Disposition Schedule approved by the State Records Board, which contains requirements for record series that are unique to the organization and thus not listed in the General Schedule.

Agencies work with records management staff from the State Archives to develop agency records retention and disposition schedules for submission to the State Records Board. The schedules must provide at least the following information:

  • records series titles and descriptions,
  • minimum retention periods,
  • final disposition requirements (i.e. what must be done with the records that are no longer in active use), and
  • access requirements and restrictions.

Responsibilities

The Public Records Act (K.S.A. 75-3501 through 75-3518) and the Government Records Preservation Act (K.S.A. 45-401 through 45-413) define the responsibilities of state and local government agencies to organize, protect, provide access to, and properly dispose of their records, including the transfer of

noncurrent records with enduring value to the Kansas Historical Society. Cooperation between the agencies and the KSHS is even more important with electronic records, because they are more susceptible to loss, inadvertent destruction, mismanagement, and obsolescence. Within agencies, cooperation among management, staff who create and handle electronic records, specialists in information system design, and agency records officers is also essential for the management of electronic records. For these reasons, the KSHS considers the management of electronic records a shared responsibility demanding new partnerships with state agencies.

The Agency's Role

The ability to maintain electronic records and ensure their accessibility over time is highly contingent on how records are created, organized, and maintained in the agencies that create or manage them. Individual agencies are most likely to understand their electronic systems and the specific applications required to maintain the records they contain. As technology changes over time, agencies are also best placed to ensure that records of enduring value are successfully transferred or migrated as systems evolve. Agencies are responsible for the following aspects of electronic recordkeeping:

  • Creation and maintenance of reliable and accurate electronic records - This is the responsibility of agency program managers, users of computer systems, agency records officers, and information technology staff who provide technical support and training. End users need to be informed of the policies governing recordkeeping and trained in the use of tools and systems that support electronic records management.
  • Recordkeeping policies and procedures - Agency management must ensure that recordkeeping policies and procedures are developed and implemented as part of the overall business process. The agency records officer has specific responsibility for overseeing the disposition of agency records, protecting records with enduring value, and ensuring that records are not destroyed without authorization of the State Records Board.
  • Maintenance of an electronic record register - This register is required by the Open Records Act (K.S.A. 45-221(a)(16)).
  • Submission of retention and disposition schedules for State Records Board approval - These schedules must include the minimum set of information described in the previous section and, for those information systems whose contents and complexity warrant such a document, should also include an attached recordkeeping plan.

The State Archives' Role

The Kansas Historical Society is the official State Archives with responsibility to assist state and local agencies in the preservation of government records with enduring value (K.S.A. 45-405). While in the past, preservation of such records has been achieved through their physical transfer to the State Archives, preservation of electronic records will depend on closer cooperation with agencies.

Either informally or as part of an effort to develop a recordkeeping plan, the Archives can help agencies to:

  • identify the electronic records in agency custody that are of enduring value,
  • identify and obtain authorization to dispose of the electronic records in agency custody that are not of enduring value,
  • identify the metadata that needs to be captured and maintained with electronic records of enduring value if they are to remain identifiable and accessible over time,
  • determine the length of time electronic records should be maintained and made accessible in order to meet administrative or archival requirements, and
  • develop a means for ensuring the public's right to access to archival electronic records so that agencies can meet the access provisions of the Kansas Open Records Act while protecting the confidentiality of records exempted from the Open Records Act and other legislation restricting access to records.

In the following limited cases, the State Archives will accept physical custody of electronic records of enduring value:

  • It has been demonstrated that the administrative function which the records document has been discontinued by the Kansas legislature and
    • there is no successor agency for the function or activity;
    • there is no other agency or institution which could take custody of the records; or
    • the records have a confidentiality classification that would preclude them from being stored by another agency or institution.
  • The Archives enters into an agreement with an agency to take custody of the electronic records because the alternative arrangements would result in loss of valuable records or represent an uneconomical solution to long-term preservation.

There may be equivalent situations when temporary value electronic records have to be taken into custody. Each proposed transfer of enduring or temporary value records will be considered on a case-by-case basis. When the Archives has agreed to accept custody of electronic records from an agency, the Archives and the agency must work together to ensure that the records are transferred to the Archives in an acceptable format and accompanied by the metadata necessary for maintaining access to the records.

While this white paper outlines the responsibilities of the State Archives with regard to electronic records management and preservation, it will be difficult to assume these responsibilities given current staffing levels. Currently, the State Archives has two FTE who perform records management functions in addition to other duties. The level of technical expertise needed for this position is not available among current permanent staff. However, the Kansas Historical Society presently has on staff a grant funded employee who possesses the requisite technical knowledge to provide state agencies with effective electronic records management assistance. The salary from the grant will extend through November, 2000. To fulfill the responsibilities outlined in this document, the KSHS anticipates needing an additional two FTE (making the grant employee a permanent employee and one additional staff member). The agency's last two budget requests have included enhancements for these positions.

Shared Responsibilities

Because electronic records management is a shared responsibility, several different organizations in Kansas state government bear some responsibility for implementation, oversight and monitoring. For some activities, this is a logical extension of responsibilities for traditional records management. In some cases, however, this will require new partnerships between administrators, program managers, records officers, and information technology staff in agencies as well as between the agencies and the State Archives.

The Information Technology Executive Council (ITEC) is responsible for approval of information technology policies, project management procedures, the Kansas Statewide Technical Architecture (KSTA), and the strategic information management plan. The KSTA describes the information systems infrastructure that supports the applications used by the State and guides the development of the information systems infrastructure. The Technical Architecture Review Board is responsible for keeping the architecture up to date. It evaluates agency requests for waivers, analyzes projects referred to it to determine architectural compliance, and makes recommendations to ITEC on changes and extensions to the KSTA. To achieve effective integration of recordkeeping requirements and capabilities into new systems, an ongoing partnership between these entities and the State Archives is essential.

The Department of Administration, Division of Purchases assists state agencies in acquiring goods and services. In order for them to make purchasing decisions that support state electronic recordkeeping needs and for these guidelines to reflect practices that are reasonable from a procurement perspective, the Division of Purchases and State Archives will need to coordinate their activities.

Principles and Best Practices

Principle 1: Agencies should maintain ongoing accessibility of records throughout their period of retention.

Best practices:

  • Refresh physical storage media periodically to compensate for media degradation.
  • Either store the supporting application software with data or convert it to new formats as systems change.
  • Migrate data to new systems (desktop operating systems, network operating systems, enterprise management systems, etc) as they are implemented.

Principle 2: Agencies should take measures to ensure the accurate and consistent application of retention schedules to their electronic records.

Best practices:

  • Maintain metadata and documentation to identify appropriate retention periods.
  • Use some combination of records management applications, user-based management, and extensions to existing applications and operating systems to both associate and apply retention schedules with the appropriate records.

Principle 3: Electronic recordkeeping systems should be based on open standards, whenever practical.

Best practices:

Principle 4: Agencies must manage access to their records in a manner that ensures public access rights while also protecting confidentiality.

Best practices:

  • Capture and maintain system metadata for records that specifies appropriate access permissions.
  • Provide online access to both active and inactive records, when appropriate.
  • Maintain active communication between those responsible for electronic recordkeeping and those responsible for satisfying Open Records Act requests.
  • When feasible, implement automatic measures for redacting confidential data from otherwise public records, rather than printing out documents and then redacting manually.

Principle 5: Recordkeeping considerations should be addressed in the system planning and development stage rather than waiting until the end of the records lifecycle.

Best practices:

  • Include recordkeeping requirements in project plans and Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for new projects.
  • Develop retention and disposition schedules, and recordkeeping plans when appropriate, as part of the system development process.
  • Include records capture, identification, management and retention scheduling in the business rules of new systems.

Principle 6: Agencies should take measures to ensure the reliability and authenticity of records throughout their period of retention.

Best practices:

  • Create and maintain metadata that adequately reflects the content, context and structure of records as they were originally created.
  • Create and maintain system documentation.
  • Maintain accurate system logs.
  • Use authentication to identify the users of the system.
  • Restrict write permissions on official records.
  • Use some combination of records management applications, user-based management or extensions to existing applications and operating systems to create sufficient structural and contextual metadata at the point of record creation or shortly thereafter.
  • When data is created and maintained in the course of a state activity that requires documentation, capture and maintain it as a record unit.
  • Either encapsulate metadata into information objects themselves or provide appropriate links between information objects.
  • Maintain appropriate links between database fields.

Sources of Further Guidance

Online Resources:

Legal issues of state records creation, retention and access:

Communications and computer security:

Records management and archival services:

This material is based upon work supported by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)