Trainings and tools
Government records and retention
Government records are of great value to the State of Minnesota and its citizens—they are necessary for conducting government business; they help preserve our heritage by documenting our historical places, people, and events; and they are used frequently for research and investigations. As a government agency or historical society, you take on the many responsibilities that come with holding and managing these vital documents.
What is a government record?
Related chapter: Minnesota Government Data Practices Act
Government records are defined as state and local records that are created in accordance with state law or in connection with public business transactions. Government records are created by officers or agencies of the state, counties, cities, towns, school districts, municipal subdivisions, organizations, or any other public authorities or political entities.
Examples of government records include correspondence, maps, memoranda, papers, photographs, reports, writings, recordings, e-mail, and other data, information, or documentary material. Records can be stored on various media such as paper, microform, audio and video tape, photographic materials, computer hard drives, or removable media. It is important to remember that government records refer to the recorded data or information regardless of the media it is recorded on or format it is in. For example, the information found on a birth certificate is considered the record, not the paper document or the microfilm it is recorded on.
Records retention schedules
Records retention schedules are an essential tool for managing your government records. These schedules specify minimum retention periods for records based on the records' administrative, fiscal, legal, and historical value. The Minnesota Historical Society maintains records retention schedules, including schedules for Minnesota counties, cities, townships, school districts, district courts, human resources schedules for state agencies, and financial schedules for state agencies.
State or local government agencies may create their own records retention schedules, but each schedule must have the proper review and approval prior to use.
In September 2016, members of the Minnesota Local Public Health Association Policy and Practice Committee, local county record managers, the Minnesota Historical Society, and Minnesota Department of Health staff worked on a complete revision/update of the 1988 retention schedule titled "Community Health/Nursing Services." The revised schedule, "The Local Public Health Section (Schedule no. 016-095)," supersedes the 1988 schedule, and most counties can start using it without any further action. However, some counties may require a board resolution to begin using it. Check with your county administrator or the Minnesota Historical Society for more information.
How do you provide access to government records?
Granting access to government records is one of the most important services you provide as you fulfill your mission as a government agency or historical society. Minnesota statutes that govern access apply not only to those records that remain in their local jurisdiction, but also to those that are moved to another location or another repository.
What is the responsibility of a local government entity?
As a government entity, you must be in compliance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. This means you need to designate a responsible authority and a data practices compliance official, and establish your own specific data practices policies and procedures.
- Webinars: Records retention series
- Minnesota Historical Society, state archives
- Minnesota Department of Administration: Data Practices Office
- Local Public Health Association: Resources: Records retention
- Local Public Health Association: Records retention frequently asked questions (PDF)