Records Management Self-Evaluation Guide
Section 4. Maintenance of Special Records
Special records are those in formats other than traditional paper text files; i.e., electronic, audiovisual, cartographic, and architectural records. The physical properties of the materials used to create microfilm and special records require additional standards for their maintenance.
A. Electronic Records
- General. The following questions apply to all electronic information systems that contain federal records, regardless of media or application.
Questions to ask are:
- Are records in program or office electronic information systems readily identifiable?
- Do electronic recordkeeping systems that maintain the official copy of text documents on electronic media provide indexing or text search capabilities?
- Do electronic recordkeeping systems require user identification codes or passwords to control access and ensure integrity of the documents?
- Does the program or office regularly back up electronic records to safeguard against loss of information due to equipment malfunction or human error?
- Does the program or office avoid the use of diskettes for the exclusive long-term storage of permanent or unscheduled records?
- Do electronic recordkeeping systems provide a standard interchange format, when necessary, to permit the exchange of electronic documents between Agency or program components using different software/operating systems and the conversion or migration of documents from one system to another?
- Does the program or office maintain complete and up-to-date technical documentation for each electronic information system that contains Federal records?
- Does the program or office safeguard and maintain all software and hardware required to read electronic records throughout their life?
- Are procedural controls in place for all electronic recordkeeping systems (magnetic and imaging) to protect the integrity of the Federal records and their legal admissibility under the rules of evidence?
- Magnetic media. In addition to applying the questions under subsection A-1, Electronic Records - General, of this section, the following questions should be discussed to ensure the proper maintenance of records on magnetic media.
- Has the program or office implemented a standard procedure for external labeling of the contents of diskettes, disks, magnetic tape reels or cartridges?
- Are tapes used for permanent and unscheduled records tested within 6 months prior to use to verify that they are free of permanent errors?
- Are tapes used for permanent and unscheduled records rewound under controlled tension every 3 years?
- Is an annual statistical sample of tapes used for permanent and unscheduled records read to identify any loss of data and to discover and correct the causes of data loss?
- Are tapes used for permanent and unscheduled records copied before they are 10 years old onto tested and verified new tapes?
- Are magnetic media containing permanent or unscheduled records stored under recommended temperature and humidity conditions (between 62 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit and constant relative humidity between 35 and 45 percent), and is the media protected from potential exposure to magnetic fields?
- Office automation applications. In addition to applying the questions of subsection A-1, Electronic Records - General, of this section, special consideration should be given to electronic records created using personal computers (electronic mail, word processing documents, databases, and spreadsheets).
- Have all employees using personal computers received training and guidance in determining record status of documents that they create with office automation applications?
- Has the program or office implemented procedures for maintaining Federal records created using personal computers in an official file (hard copy or electronic recordkeeping system)?
- Are all staff who use computers trained in procedures to avoid the unintentional loss of records, including techniques for backing up files and for handling diskettes?
- Optical Imaging Systems. In addition to applying the questions of subsection A-1, Electronic Records - General, of this section, the following questions should be used in evaluating compliance with recordkeeping requirements for optical imaging systems:
- Do CD-ROM disks used to store permanent records meet NARA transfer requirements?
- Do optical imaging systems conform to NARA policy requiring the disposition of original records when converting to an optical digital data disk storage system?
B. Audiovisual Records
Questions to ask are:
- Are the original and use copies of audiovisual records maintained separate from each other?
- Are finding aids such as indexes, captions, lists of captions, data sheets, shot lists, continuities, review sheets, and catalogs (published or unpublished) maintained for all audiovisual records?
- Are cross-references to closely related textual records maintained with audiovisual records?
- Has the program or office instituted procedures to ensure that information on permanent or unscheduled magnetic sound or video media is not erased or overwritten?
- Does the program or office retain original photographic images created electronically (digital photography)?
- Does the program or office maintain originals of permanent or unscheduled photographs scanned into computer programs?
- Does the program or office store permanent audiovisual records, particularly color films and photographs, in environmentally controlled space (72 degrees Fahrenheit or less and the relative humidity between 30 and 40 percent)?
C. Cartographic and Architectural Records
Questions to ask are:
- Are maps and drawings stored flat in shallow-drawer map cases rather than folded or rolled?
- Are permanent maps and drawings stored in acid-free folders?
- Are large, heavy atlases and other bound volumes of maps or drawings stored flat, preferably on roller shelves to facilitate moving them without damage?
- Do adequate finding aids such as indexes exist for cartographic and architectural records?
- Are cross-references to closely related textual records maintained with cartographic and architectural records?
D. Micrographic Records
Questions to ask are:
- Are records on microform arranged and indexed to permit ready retrieval of individual documents?
- Do microforms contain a title header or initial target page that identifies the records?
- Are boxes containing microforms individually labeled with the records series title and date span of the records, and are they sequentially numbered?
- Are permanent and temporary records filmed separately?
- Are silver and nonsilver microforms filed separately?
- Are silver master microforms of permanent and unscheduled records inspected every 2 years while these records are in storage?
For further information, see NARA publications "Managing Electronic Records," "Managing Audiovisual Records," "Managing Micrographic Records," and "Managing Cartographic and Architectural Records."