Records Management:: Resources:: What is a Record?

What is a Record?

A Guide to Missouri’s State Records Management Program

This guide is designed to help you determine which of the many documents you work with are records. Within this document, the term agency is used loosely. It may be replaced by office, department, division, board, commission, etc. whichever is applicable to your function in state government.

What is a Record?

Missouri’s State and Local Records Law answers that question:

RSMo 109.210 (5) "Record", document, book, paper, photograph, map, sound recording or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or in connection with the transaction of official business.

What isn’t a Record?

The State and Local Records Law answers that question as well:

RSMo 109.210 (5) Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included within the definition of records as used in sections 109.200 to 109.310, and are hereinafter designated as"nonrecord" materials.

Key Concepts

Office of record
Office, agency, division, or department that is responsible for maintaining the record copy of the material.

Official business
Activities associated with the agency’s primary functions as well as activities that document administrative matters.

Regardless of physical form or characteristics
This refers to the fact that the content and context of the material is what determines whether it’s a record or not. The physical form, media, or format is irrelevant. Even a sticky note can be a record if it documents the official transaction of business.

Value of Records
Administrative or operational value – materials that assist the agency in performing its primary functions.

Fiscal value – materials that establish the agency’s financial rights and obligations.

Historical, informational, or research value – materials that explain or clarify the agency’s history.

Legal or evidential value – materials that demonstrate the agency’s compliance with legal requirements or materials that document the agency’s functions, activities, or structure.

Record Evaluation: What’s on Your Desk?

Basically, the documents on your desk, on your PC or network, and in your file cabinets are one of three things:

  1. Official Records,
  2. Non-Record Materials, or
  3. Personal Papers

Still not certain what’s a record and what isn’t? Then work through the following three step process:

Step 1: Determine the purpose, value, and adequacy of the documentation.

  1. What is the purpose of the documentation?
    • Was the material mandated by statute, administrative rule, or any other state or federal regulation?
    • Does the material support a financial or legal claim or obligation?
    • Is the material required to operate the agency’s programs or provide program support functions?
    • Was the material created or received in the conduct or transaction of official business?

  2. What is the value of the documentation?
  3. Is the documentation adequate?
    • Does the material provide evidence of, verify, or authentic:
      1. the agency’s actions that ensure its continuity?
      2. the agency’s actions that demonstrate the consistency of those actions?
      3. formulation of policies, procedures, or decisions?
      4. board, committee, or staff meeting minutes?
    • Does the material protect state and individual rights and interests (financial, legal, or other)?
    • Does the material provide information required by statute, administrative rule, or any other state or federal regulation?

Step 2: Ask yourself the following series of questions:

1) Have you answered "yes" to any of the questions in Step 1?

            YES - Go to question 2
            No – Go to question 5

2) Are you or your agency the creator or office of record for such documentation?

            YES - Go to Official Records
            No – Go to question 3

3) Did you comment or take action on the document?

            YES - Go to question 4
            No – Go to Non-Record Materials

4) Is the retention of the document necessary to support the decision trail of your comment or action?

            YES - Go to Official Records
            No – Go to Non-Record Materials

5) Have you answered "no" to all the questions in Step 1?

            YES - Go to question 6
            No – Go to question 2

6) Does the material consist of non-official or private information which pertains solely to an individual’s own affairs and does not relate to or have an effect upon the conduct of the agency’s business?

            YES - Go to Personal Papers
            NO - Go to Non-Record Materials

Official Records

  1. Any documentation related to the agency’s official duties or activities. Examples may include:

    • Decision papers
    • Correspondence:
      • Memoranda
      • Letters
      • E-mail
    • Data files
    • Reports
    • Official Publications

  2. Supporting materials sufficient to document and/or explain the document trail/decision making process for administrative, legal, fiscal, programmatic, and historical purposes.

Official records may be original materials or copies of original materials – regardless of media or format. These records must be maintained for the period specified on your agency’s Records Retention and Disposition Schedule.

Non-Record Materials

  1. Materials that do not contribute to an understanding of the agency’s operations or decision-making process.
  2. Materials that have no substantial administrative or operational value
  3. Extra copies of official records retained elsewhere that serve as:
    • Convenience copies kept solely for ease of access and reference
    • Information/Reference copies of records sent to individuals or
      agencies that are interested in, but not acting upon, the information
    • Technical reference documents needed for general information

You may dispose of non-record materials when you no longer need them.

Personal Papers

  1. Diaries and journals not prepared for transaction official business
  2. Papers accumulated by an employee prior to employment with the agency
  3. Privately purchased books and publications that do not relate to official business

Treat personal papers in the same manner as non-record materials.