Office of the Provost Campus Box 3000, 104 South Building
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3000
(919) 962-2198 FAX: (919) 962- 1593
January 19, 2000

TO: Deans, Directors, and Department Heads

FROM: Richard J. Richardson

RE: E-mail Retention Guidelines

I am pleased to relay to you the E-mail Retention Guidelines (attached) which have been developed by the University Records Committee for compliance with the N.C. Public Records Law. These guidelines should be followed by all persons using electronic mail to conduct university business.

Because the State of North Carolina still does not recognize any form of electronic record as suitable for archival purposes, these guidelines direct us to print a paper copy of any e-mail message which is of lasting or archival value to the University. This may appear to be a burden to those of us who receive numerous e-mail messages every day, but that is simply the price we have to pay in order to comply with State Law and to insure that valuable university records are not lost. Note that such copies do not have to be made on a daily basis, nor does every e-mail message have to be included. much of what we receive through e-mail has no long-term value and can be deleted as soon as its immediate value is ended. This should be done, of course, in accord with your unit's approved retention and disposition schedule.

 I encourage you to share a copy of these guidelines with others in your unit. Questions can be addressed to Mr. Frank Holt, University Records Manager, at 2-6402 or or to the Chair of the University Records Committee, Dr. Timothy R. Sanford, Assistant Provost, at 3-7991 or tim_ sanford@unc.edg.The Records Management Program will be holding two information sessions about these guidelines on Thursday, February 10 from 9-10:00 and on Monday, February 14 from 3 - 4:00 in the pleasants Assembly Room in Wilson Library, and I suggest that you or a representative from your unit attend one of them. These sessions will also cover briefly the Database Indexing Requirements as communicated to you by Dr. Sanford on December 15, 1999.

Best Wishes!


Records Management Program  CB# 3926, Wilson Library
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-8890
(919) 962-6402 Fax (919) 962-6401

For Compliance With The N.C. Public Records Law

The management of electronic mail at UNC-CH is regulated through University policies and procedures that are based on guidelines approved by the NC Department of Cultural Resources. The same rules apply to managing e-mail that apply towards managing paper records. The only difference is the format.

A public record is information made or received in the transaction of public business by a state agency. If the content of an email message is a public record (personal email messages are not considered public records), the email message must be handled in accordance with approved regulations developed by the UNC-CH Records Management Program and approved by the NC Department of Cultural Resources.

Among email messages that are public records, as defined above, two types of email messages exist. First, the content of some e- mail messages has limited or transitory value. This type of message may be categorized as "administrative" and is created in performing common, facilitative functions that support a department. Retaining such messages serves no use beyond their transitory value. (Example: a message seeking dates for a proposed meeting.) Retaining this type of message is not needed, and such messages should be deleted as soon as their short term reference value expires.

Second, the content of some email messages has lasting or archival value and can be categorized as "program" messages. E-mail users must print a paper copy of electronic messages that contain information of lasting value. This "lasting value" definition includes e- mail messages whose contents have the following characteristics:

Printed electronic mail messages meeting this "lasting value" definition must be filed within your office's paper filing system for disposal in accordance with your approved records retention and disposition schedule, which may include eventual transfer to the custody of University Archives. Before printing an electronic message, the user must activate the electronic mail client's header option to display all transmission history. After electronic messages having lasting value have been printed, it is suggested that these e-mail messages be saved to a centralized mail folder (directory and sub-directory) within your e-mail system and retained for short term administrative use. Consult with your network administrator for guidance on storing such electronic messages. These messages then may be deleted once their administrative value ends.

The employee using email is responsible for retaining and ultimately disposing of the message in accordance with instructions contained in an approved records retention and disposition schedule. Do not re ly on computer backups of electronic data to satisfy preservation requirements or routine access needs, as this does not meet the requirements of the NC Public Records Law.

These guidelines are based on policies appearing in the UNC-CH Records Management Manual for properly managing electronic records (Policy 3.1) and electronic mail (Policy 3.2). For clarification of these guidelines, please consult the staff of the University Records Management Program (962-6402).

RMG-1, 11/5/99