Minnesota  State Archives

Center for Archival Resources On Legislatures (CAROL)

Foundations: Understanding your Records and Responsibilities


Before you begin to preserve and provide access to records, you should have an understanding of what it is you have, what it is you are responsible for, and how long you are required to maintain and provide access to the records. Ask questions like: What types of records are you producing or collecting from others?  What records are important over the long term?  How long are you required to keep them? Who uses the records? Are there legal requirements to follow? Do you need to authenticate the records you provide access to?

To better understand your records, conduct a record inventory and determine their value.

Know the details about how long you are required to keep the records and when you can/should dispose of them.

You may face legal ramifications if you do not handle records appropriately.

Records made available online must be accessible to all, and you should be able to show the authenticity of records you provide access to if necessary.


Record Inventory and Appraisal

Conducting a record inventory and appraisal will assist you with being able to answer the above questions as well as create a stepping stone from which to move forward. The following page provides basic information on the importance of understanding your records and the general procedure of inventorying and appraising them. 


Record Retention and Disposition

Information on the importance of understanding the value of your records and determining how long you need to keep them for business and legal needs is provided here

*More detailed information on these topics can be found in Managing Your Government Records: Guidelines for Archives and Agencies (September 2009) and Preserving and Disposing of Government Records (May 2008 pdf) both written by Minnesota State Archives staff.  


Legal Requirements

You are responsible for following all applicable state and federal record management laws, as well as other possible requirements specific to your situation.  To assist with understanding these requirements, follow developments through professional associations, read about case law examples, and research standards and legislation as applied to your records.  Basic information is provided here.



Making web content accessible to users with disabilities improves online accessibility for everyone. Learn more about web accessibility standards.  More information on this and other access issues can be found in the Access section of this toolkit.


Authenticity / Authentication

You may be required to prove that a record is authentic and has remained unaltered since its creation. For more information on this topic review the Authentication section of this Resource Center.


Resource Center

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Links to the main sections of CAROL are provided below.

Home - Foundations - Access - Preservation - Authentication


February 21, 2012; links verified March 29, 2013.

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