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Archives Home >UWM Records Management: Guidelines, Laws, and Policies > Guideline #1

Guideline #1: Retaining Records Beyond the Scheduled Retention Period

Under Wisconsin state law, all public records must be scheduled. Both a retention period and a final disposition must be established: this information is recorded on the records retention schedule. The retention period specifies the minimum period during which a record must be retained. Final disposition may involve destruction or transfer to the Archives Department in the UWM Libraries.

For instance, if a record series is scheduled to be retained for 5 years, the records may not be disposed of until 5 years after the triggering event – such as the creation of the records, or the closing of a file.

Since the retention period is a minimum only, public agencies, including the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, are not legally mandated to dispose of their records when the retention period expires. Offices may retain records in their own custody beyond the scheduled date of disposition.

However, we strongly encourage offices to follow their records schedules and dispose of records promptly, when legally authorized to do so.

• Disposing of records in a consistent and timely fashion frees up valuable office space, both physical and virtual.

• Disposing of records in a consistent and timely fashion reduces the risk that records will be lost, misfiled, or otherwise go astray. It also reduces the volume of records that staff members often are forced to search when looking for a particular file.

• Disposing of records in a consistent and timely fashion demonstrates best business practices, as well as a commitment to the records scheduling process as practiced on this campus.

• Disposing of records in accordance with existing schedules can legally eliminate them from being requested as evidence during an audit or legal investigation.

• Disposing of records with permanent historical value by promptly transferring them to the Archives Department of the UWM Libraries ensures their preservation as useable and accessible documents for researchers.

There should be good, well-considered reasons why your office would retain records past their final disposition date. Administrative or programmatic circumstances of the moment might dictate that you need to keep records around for reference or for upcoming office operations. There may be a hold placed on disposing of records because a legal investigation or audit is underway. But it’s not good business practice to let older records pile up.

Your office should be aware of its responsibilities if it decides to retain records past their scheduled expiration dates. Bear in mind that until you legally dispose of your records your office is still their custodian and should continue to manage them effectively and appropriately.

If you’ve determined that your office needs to retain records longer than the scheduled retention period, notify UWM Records Management. We will work with you to write new schedules for those records series that require adjusted retention periods.

Questions about anything on this site? Email the Records Officer or call Records Management at (414)-229-6979.