Electronic Records Survey

DEFINITION: A trustworthy digital repository cannot fully execute its mission or engage in realistic digital preservation planning without a projected volume and scope of electronic records that will come into its custody. It is likely that some information already exists in approved retention schedules but may require further elaboration as well as periodic updates, especially with regard to preservation ready, near preservation ready, and legacy electronic records held by records producing units.

 
Level 0   The Archives/RM unit has little or no capability or resources to collect and analyze information about the volume, location, media, format types, and life cycle management requirements for electronic records.
 Level 1 Level 1a: The Archives/RM unit relies on existing retention schedules to identify electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, and legal value in the custody of records-producing units.

Level 1b: The Archives/RM unit conducts ad hoc, one-time interviews or surveys to identify electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, and legal value in the custody of selected records producing units.
 Level 2 Level 2a: The Archives/RM unit conducts systematic interviews, surveys, and retrospective analysis of existing retention schedules to identify electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, and legal value in the custody of selected records producing units.

Level 2b: The Archives/RM unit periodically analyzes existing retention schedules to identify “at risk” electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, operational, and legal value in the custody of selected records producing units.
 Level 3 Level 3a: The Archives/RM unit supplements retention schedule analysis through collection of information about the volume and location (e.g., shared drives) of “at risk” electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, operational, and legal value in the custody of records producing units.

Level 3b: The Archives/RM unit supplements retention schedule analysis through collection of information about the media and format types of “at risk” electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, operational, and legal value in the custody of records producing units.
 Level 4 Level 4a: The Archives/RM unit has identified preservation-ready and non preservation-ready permanent electronic records in the custody of all records-producing units.

Level 4b: The Archives/RM unit uses information (e.g., date eligible for transfer) about electronic records in the custody of all records-producing units as an inventory to systematically manage the transfer and ingest of their electronic records.

 

Resources

Resources associated with the Electronic Records Survey Framework element assist with providing background information and useful examples that can be consulted when trying to explore methods for conducting a records inventory.

Definition

A trustworthy digital repository cannot fully execute its mission or engage in realistic digital preservation planning without a projected volume and scope of electronic records that will come into its custody. It is likely that some information already exists in approved retention schedules but may require further elaboration as well as periodic updates, especially with regard to preservation ready, near preservation ready, and legacy electronic records held by records producing units.

Level 0

The Archives/RM unit has little or no capability or resources to collect and analyze information about the volume, location, media, format types, and life cycle management requirements for electronic records.

Move to Level 1: Use retention schedules or conduct one time interview/surveys to identify records for selected records-producing units.

Jump to Level 2: Systematically interview records-producing units and review records retention schedules to identify electronic records with value that might be 'at risk'. [Note: For example "at risk" records could be in proprietary or obsolete file formats or on obsolete media.] 

Level 1a

The Archives/RM unit relies on existing retention schedules to identify electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, and legal value in the custody of records-producing units. [Note: At this stage the amount of formats of records is not identified.]

Level 1b

The Archives/RM unit conducts ad hoc, one-time interviews or surveys to identify electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, and legal value in the custody of selected records producing units. [Note: In general, this stage may or may not identify more than names of record series.]

Move to Level 2: Systematically interview records-producing units and reviews record retention schedules to identify electronic records with value that might be 'at risk'. [Note: For example "at risk" records could be in proprietary or obsolete file formats or on obsolete media.]

Jump to Level 3: In addition to systematically identifying records of value, additional information about the volume and location and media and formats of at risk information is collected when conducting the inventory.

Level 2a

The Archives/RM unit conducts systematic interviews, surveys, and retrospective analysis of existing retention schedules to identify electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, and legal value in the custody of selected records producing units.

Level 2b

The Archives/RM unit periodically analyzes existing retention schedules to identify “at risk” electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, operational, and legal value in the custody of selected records producing units. [Note: For example "at risk" records could be in proprietary or obsolete file formats or on obsolete media.]

Move to Level 3: In addition to systematically identifying records of value, additional information about the volume and location and media and formats of at risk information is collected when conducting the inventory.

Move to Level 4: In addition to systematically identifying records of value, the collection of additional information such as the volume, location, media, and formats of at-risk information is collected for all records-producing units and is put into an inventory to use to systematically manage the transfer and ingest of electronic records.

Level 3a

The Archives/RM unit supplements retention schedule analysis through collection of information about the volume and location (e.g., shared drives) of “at risk” electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, operational, and legal value in the custody of records producing units.[Note: For example "at risk" records could be in proprietary or obsolete file formats or on obsolete media.]

Level 3b

The Archives/RM unit supplements retention schedule analysis through collection of information about the media and format types of “at risk” electronic records of permanent historical, fiscal, operational, and legal value in the custody of records producing units.[Note: For example "at risk" records could be in proprietary or obsolete file formats or on obsolete media.]

Move to Level 4: The identification of permanent electronic records, as well as the amount, location, media, and format types is recorded in an inventory which can then be used to systematically manage the transfer and ingest of electronic records.

Level 4a

The Archives/RM unit has identified preservation-ready and non preservation-ready permanent electronic records in the custody of all records-producing units.

Level 4b

The Archives/RM unit uses information (e.g., date eligible for transfer) about electronic records in the custody of all records-producing units as an inventory to systematically manage the transfer and ingest of their electronic records.  [Note: In this case, the inventory is a living document that tracks the transfer and ingest of electronic records.  This could also be called an accession log or something else.]

Helpful Hints

Something to Consider

  • Collecting information about the electronic records you currently have and understanding the scope of records that will come into your custody is important. To be able to do this well, you will also need to understand your designated community - or whose records you are responsible for preserving.  (Review the Designated Community Framework Element.) One method of doing this is to use retention schedules; however additional information will be needed as the majority of states do not specify media or formats in their schedules. [18 out of 24 respondents to a question posed to the SERI list serve stated their retention schedules were format neutral.]
  • Conducting an inventory of current electronic records and possible future records that minimally includes formats and size of the files will be important when it comes to understanding your digital records.  An inventory is flexible and ranges from a simple collection of information to a complex item level documentation for all of your holdings. It is what you make it - its your tool, make it work for you.

Defining "At Risk"

  • This Framework Element discusses 'At Risk' - what is 'at risk' will determine on your institution. For example:
    • Do your policies address the file formats you accept and to what level you are willing to preserve them?
    • What is your comfort level with preserving and providing access to various formats?  Can you work with multiple formats or do you focus on a select few? Those outside of that select few may be considered 'at risk'.
    • A portion of the Library of Congress' Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) program material discusses ways in which digital materials may be at risk and what you can do to minimize or plan for the risks.  
  • Tennessee's Electronic Records Policy addresses file format risk by categorizing formats into different confidence levels.

 

Framework Element Chart

To work through the levels of this framework element, the self-assessment addresses what information should be collected about the electronic records and for the 'amount' of record producing units.  The chart below indicates which elements should be collected for each result.  Keep in mind that it may be helpful to collect additional types of information on your records based on your needs.

Electronic Records Survey Levels
   Value  Volume  Location  Media  File Formats  Descriptions
Level 1a  X         Use existing record retention schedules to identify records of value.
Level 1b  X         Conduct one-time interviews or surveys to identify records of value.
Level 2a  X         Analyze existing retention schedules and conduct systematic interviews and surveys to identify records of value for selected record producing units.
Level 2b           Use existing retention schedules to identify 'at risk*' electronic records of selected record producing units.
Level 3a  X  X  X     In addition to value, information about the location and amount of electronic records are recorded for 'at risk*' electronic records.
Level 3b  X      X  X In addition to volume, information about the storage media and file format of electronic records are recoded for 'at risk*' electronic records.
Level 4a           Using information from retention schedules and the electronic records survey, the Archives has identified preservation ready and non-preservation ready electronic records in the custody of ALL records-producing units.
Level 4b           The Archives uses information collected during the electronic records survey about electronic records of ALL record-producing units as an Inventory to systematically manage the transfer and ingest of electronic records.

  

* 'At Risk' is defined by your institution's environment. However, some factors of risk may include the use of obsolete file formats and/or aging storage media. Review the Strategy and Device/Media Renewal Framework Elements for additional information on these risks.

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