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Public Records and Records Retention

Public Records and Records Retention

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Public Records and Records Retention

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  1. Public Records and Records Retention Mark Arend 18 October 2012

  2. Today’s Topics • Wisconsin Public Records Law • Wisconsin Statutes, §19:21-39 • What is a record • What is and isn’t available for public viewing • Library records policies • Records retention—how long do I have to keep this stuff? • Tagging files • Disposal of records

  3. Do your Files Look Like This?

  4. Public Records Law • Defines what a record is • Requires public access • And lists exceptions • Governs record disposal • Is binding upon all state & local government bodies or agencies

  5. What is a Public Record? • Almost anything a government agency creates or receives • Reports, correspondence, statistics, meeting documents, photos • Records in all formats (paper, computer file, video or audio recording, email) are covered under this law

  6. What Isn’t? • General library materials (books, magazines, etc.) • Routing slips & envelopes • Unsolicited material you have received (junk mail) • Duplicate copies • Duplicate copies of library records • Copies other government agencies have sent to the library • Personal property • Records and correspondence of state legislators

  7. Public Access to Public Records • Almost all records and documents of governmental agencies must be available for inspection and copying by the public • Applies only to existing records—no requirement to create new records or reports • No “magic words” needed in a records request

  8. Excluded Records Not available for Access • Records that identify users of library materials, resources, or services • Wisconsin Statutes, 43:30 • Certain personnel records • Notes, drafts, etc. prepared for staff use • All of these are subject to court order, however.

  9. Library Records Policies • Public records policy • Legal custodian • Availability of records • Records retention policy • How long records are kept • How they’re disposed of

  10. Public Records Policy • Legal Custodian • The person designated to be in charge of the library records (probably the director) • Availability of Records • When records are available • How to contact the records custodian • Any fees • Fees are limited to “actual, necessary, and direct cost” of reproduction, mailing, etc. • Post notice • Oshkosh’s policy posted at

  11. Records Retention Policy • All public agencies must have a retention policy • Adopted by the governing body • Approved by the Wisconsin Public Records Board and the State Historical Society • Types of records you have • How long you keep records • How you dispose of records

  12. Records Retention Schedule for Wisconsin Public Libraries • Found at • Lists all types of records a library is likely to have • Already approved by the State • Possible your library board adopted this policy in 2006

  13. Records Retention Schedule for Wisconsin Public Libraries • Wisconsin Law requires that you adopt a schedule before disposing of records • If you have not done this you may not dispose of any record • The times specified in the schedule are minimum retention times. You may need to keep certain records longer • Example: records relating to a capital purchase may need to be kept longer for warranty or insurance purposes

  14. Adopting a Records Retention Policy • Go through your records to figure out what you have • Take a look at the policy at • See if you have anything not listed • Determine if anything on the list is covered by a municipal policy • If you make changes in the pre-approved policy you need to have the changes approved

  15. Adopting the Policy on the DPI Site As-Is • Have the board adopt the schedule • Notify State Historical Society • Receive their approval

  16. 4. Start Tossing

  17. Tagging Files • Status • Permanent • Non-Record • Active • Inactive • Date it can be tossed • Method of disposal

  18. Why Bother Adopting the Schedule and Tagging Files? • Lets you legally dispose of stuff • By using the schedule you don’t have to decide every time you look at something • By tagging files you decide once and don’t even have to look inside the file again—just look at the label and toss

  19. Destruction of Records • Some records can just be tossed—recycle or trash. • Confidential records must be shredded or otherwise destroyed • A record may not be destroyed if litigation involving the record has commenced or if you have received a request for the record before it has been destroyed.

  20. Copiers, Printers, & PCs • Most photocopiers manufactured since 2002 contain a hard drive that stores all images copied by the copier • Some printers and fax machines may also have hard drives • Before disposing of a copier, high-end printer, or PC the hard drive should be removed or erased • The owner’s manual may have this information

  21. Resources • Wisconsin Public Records Law • Records Retention Schedule for Wisconsin Public Libraries • Trustee Essential 15: The Library Board and the Public Records Law

  22. Julie’s workshop notes posted at • Frequently Asked Questions About Libraries and Wisconsin's Public Records Law • Frequently Asked Questions About Compliance With the Parental Access to Library Records Law • More FAQs on records