Center for Archival Resources On Legislatures (CAROL)
Foundations: Record Inventory and Appraisal
A record inventory must be conducted to determine what records are currently being produced as well as what is currently being stored within an agency. It is also important to understanding what formats the records are in so appropriate practices can be applied for continued preservation and access to the records. A record inventory must be done by each individual agency. Keep in mind that agencies need to consider both paper and electronic records; separate inventories and appraisals for paper and electronic records should be conducted and then compared during the appraisal process.
“Conducting an inventory means to do four things:
1. Physically inspect all of the files in the unit and record the essential information about them.
2. Identify duplicate, fragmented, and related records.
3. Match the records to the records schedules. [if extant]
4. Evaluate the existing records (documentation) against your documentation strategy and information needs." (EPA, Conducting a Records Inventory)
After you have a complete picture of all of the records you have, you can begin to appraise them. Appraising the records means taking a look at the value of the records. Do the records hold value over time for the agency and/or others or are the records valuable for only the department for a certain period? Records may have administrative, fiscal, legal, and/or historical value and all must be considered when appraising records.
A description of the procedure that NOAA uses to appraise and receive archive approval for scientific records provides a good explanation of the workflow and why these practices are important; the process is explained in NOAA Procedure for Scientific Records Appraisal and Archive Approval Guide for Data Managers.
The results of the records appraisal can be used to set record retention periods and schedules that set policies for how long records should be kept for and what should happen to the records once they are no longer valuable to the agency. More information on record retention and disposition can be found in the record retention and disposition section of this resource center.
Minnesota Legislative Records Inventory
The NDIIPP project staff conducted an inventory of Minnesota legislative records in the fall of 2011. The case study can be found here.
Sample Inventory Worksheets
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February 15, 2012; links verified March 29, 2013.