Records Retention

The purpose of this page is to inform campus departments of the state Public Records Management Program as it relates to the disposal of public records. The Virginia Public Records Act of the Code of Virginia vests the State Library Board with the power to oversee the records management functions of state and local government. The law authorizes the Board to regulate and manage the preservation, storage, microfilming and destruction of public records.

The heart of the state’s records management program is: Before public records are destroyed, approval must be obtained from the Virginia State Library and Archives (VSLA). Destruction approval for records is requested by completing and submitting a Certificate of Records Disposal Form, RM-3 to the designated Agency Records Officer. Upon approval by the Agency Records Officer, the records may be destroyed. The RM-3, signed by the Agency Records Officer, is your evidence that a specific group of records has been approved for disposal by VSLA.

Before any public record can be destroyed, five steps must occur:

  • A VSLA-approved retention schedule, covering the records that are to be destroyed, must exist;
  • Minimum retention time periods, as stated on the schedule, must have passed;
  • All audits, investigations or litigation must have been resolved;
  • A Certificate of Records Disposal form (RM-3) must be submitted to the Agency Records Officer;
  • You must have a signed copy of the approved RM-3 form from the Agency Records Officer.

Records that have been converted to another physical format may be destroyed after reformatted records have been inspected and approved; an RM-3 must be submitted prior to destroying the reformatted records. Certificates of Records Disposal forms (RM-3) listing records that are to be destroyed after the records have been microfilmed must include the following verification statement: "Microfilm of the above records has been completed and the film has been inspected and approved in accordance with VSLA standards for the microfilming of public records for archival retention."

A disposal certificate must be prepared each time a department wishes to destroy a specific set of records. More than one type of record can be listed on each disposal certificate. The method of disposing of records is determined by the agency, however, privacy or confidentiality must be maintained regardless of the method of destruction. Usually, burning, shredding or pulping ensures that the records are appropriately obliterated. After the records are destroyed, Section 7 of the original RM-3 form must be completed and returned to the Agency Records Officer. Also remember that if an investigation or litigation is pending or ongoing, records cannot be destroyed until the investigation is completed or the litigation resolved, regardless of whose approval had been previously obtained.

Certificate of Records Disposal Forms (RM-3) may be obtained from the Agency Records Officer. Instructions for completing the form are on the back. More detailed Public Records Management Program information is available on the following Internet sites:

Questions regarding the Public Records Management Program may be directed to the following people:

Jeanie Quesenberry, phone 831-7204
Agency Records Officer

Beth Ratcliffe, phone 831-5942