The tale that was the digitisation disposal policy

Once upon a time (not that long ago actually) in a State near here (well actually this one), a policy arrived for the digitisation and disposal of public records. And it was amazing (…the boss says awesome). And all the agencies said wow!

As time passed, the Digitisation Disposal Policy and Toolkit was used time and time again all across the land. And then it found itself needed less and less, and it heard it was not so useful anymore, that some of the things it said were too difficult, and not practical, and maybe not suited for every record-keeper. And it felt sad.

A bit like the tale of the ugly duckling, it didn’t quite fit in but it really wanted to. So along came QSA, who looked at the policy and its toolkit friend and said ‘it’s ok, we can help you be the best you can be’.

And so it began… the long process to makeover the digitisation disposal policy and toolkit into the source records disposal guideline.

There was a lot of back and forth, and talking and more talking, and consultation, and writing and re-writing, and pulling apart of words and sentences, and digging deep into the font of appraisal knowledge and practical experience. But finally we have a result!

Now, we have to admit that there were some very good things about the policy and the toolkit. So we took the really good bits, left behind the things that didn’t work, came up with some new stuff, and after consulting with some people (you guys), we pulled it together into something new.

Ok enough silliness – let’s get serious.  We’ve replaced the Digitisation Disposal Policy and Toolkit with a new source record disposal class in the GRDS.

We already had a record class to dispose of digital source records that have been migrated, which we haven’t changed – General Retention and Disposal Schedule for Digital Source Records QDAN 678 v.1.

We’ve added one new record class to the GRDS to authorise the disposal of physical source records that have been digitised or converted in some way, like paper to microfilm or even microfilm to digital!

Wait, what do we mean by physical source records? Think of it this way – a physical source record is any tangible record that takes up space, that you can touch and pick up and carry around… you get the idea. So this covers paper, microfilm, film, VHS tape, physical photos and negatives. It doesn’t apply to physical storage media for digital records though, like a CD or DVD.

The physical source records disposal class replaces the General Retention and Disposal Schedule for Original Paper Records that have been Digitised QDAN 656 v.2, the Digitisation Disposal Policy and the Microfilming Disposal Policy. But like QDAN 656, it still has some conditions you have to meet before records can be destroyed.

So, what’s in, what’s out, what’s new, what’s the same, what’s different?

  • You can still only convert temporary value records – so that hasn’t changed.
  • Before you dispose, you still have criteria you need to meet, but it’s now much easier.
  • You need to make sure the records aren’t valuable because of a physical characteristic e.g. a cool wax seal, or special paper, or a signature from Mr/Ms Awesome.
  • Technical specifications are no longer mandatory, instead they’re just recommended. This means you can pick and choose what works for you and for the record – especially as sometimes you can’t choose the specs on some scanners and MFDs.
  • There’s no compliance declaration anymore but you do have to document the disposal (same as any other disposal action).
  • You must have a defensible process to prove what you’ve done passes muster and your agency’s CEO has given it the thumbs up – check our what makes a defensible process.
  • You don’t need to do a risk assessment anymore but it is recommended and may be part of your defensible process.
  • Like all records, the converted version needs to be accessible and stored in a trusted system and kept and managed and preserved… you know the drill.
  • And last but not least the converted version has to be a complete, clear and accurate copy of the original and fit for purpose. Basically, it needs to be usable for the same purpose as the original–aka fit for purpose.

So what happened to all the extra advice that came with the digitisation disposal toolkit? Well, we’ve reviewed that too. Like all of our other advice, we’ve taken what we had and squished it and moulded it and played with words and sentences, and made it shorter, simpler and easier to understand.

So, how to make it all work together? Not everyone is going to convert records and then dispose of them (especially if they’re permanent), so we’ve split the advice into two parts.

The first is everything to do with digitisation–planning for it, how to do it, figuring out which records you should digitise, what tech specs to use, quality checks, metadata, choosing and checking equipment, and even managing the original and digitised versions afterwards. This is the stuff that you may want to look at when developing your defensible process. There is also our guideline on here about how best to go about microfilming records, which we’re going to look at really soon and make sure it’s workable.

The second part is the actual disposal of the original source records–the conditions, what you need to do, when you can destroy records and all the information you need to comply with the new record class. We’ve also moved our advice on disposing of digital source records here too.

There is also some new advice that we’ve added to the website to support the digitisation advice and the disposal of source records guideline. This includes:

Now I know you’re all suddenly wondering about all the work you’ve already done… what about that, right? Well, don’t panic, source records isn’t that much of a plot twist when you dig into it.

Everything you’ve already done is still ok. If you’ve already got a digitisation disposal policy (as per the old requirements) or digitisation procedures or anything else, it can have a place at the party too as part of your defensible process. Just check if anything needs tweaking or updating slightly.

So what next? We’ve tried to cover everything we could think of, but there is always the possibility we missed something. Let us know if we’ve left out something you still need, or you’re struggling with part or all of it.

And that’s about it. Go forth and digitise… convert… you know what I mean!

As always, you can contact us via email, the contact us form on the website, twitter, here on the blogs. Don’t forget you can always talk to other recordkeepers on CORIM the forum too. Don’t forget to sign up for QSA Client News to stay up to date.

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