Archives and Records Management Unit
Government of the Virgin Islands
#49 Decastro Street, Burhym Building
Road Town, Tortola
Virgin Islands, VG1110
Records Officers are required to close files at regular intervals. They retain the closed files for periods laid down in disposition schedules. At the end of this period some files are destroyed, but the majority are transferred to the Records Centre. This section of the procedures manual deals with all aspects of closing files and their subsequent treatment.
The Records Office staff should ensure that files are closed as soon as they become either three centimetres thick or five years old, whichever is the sooner. This is necessary because
- Files that are thicker than three centimetres are hard to manage and this may result in damage to the contents
- Papers more than five years old are rarely required for reference and should not be regarded as current records.
No further papers should be added to files which are closed.
The method of closing a file is to write the word ‘CLOSED’ diagonally in bold letters across the front cover together with the date the file was closed. The file transit sheet must be marked to show that the file has been closed. The date when this was done is also recorded.
If it is necessary for action to be continued on a topic covered in a file that has been closed, a new file part should be opened. The existence of the new part must be noted on the transit sheet for the closed part in the ‘subsequent file number’ box. All the usual control records must be completed for the new part. The new file part should also carry a note explaining that the previous part has been closed and giving its reference. If or when the closed part is transferred to the Records Centre this should also be noted on the transfer sheet and on the new file part.
Custody of Closed Files
Although no new action may be taken on a closed file, and no new papers added, closed files should be kept available in the Records Office (or in a nearby file store) for a period of time so that users may easily refer to them. If action officers request closed files, the file movement should be recorded on the transit sheet for the closed file. If the Records Office holds the current part of a closed file, the current file should be passed to the action officer with the closed part once the transit records have been completed.
Usually, closed files are retained in Records Offices for a period of three or five years. The retention period is specified in the disposal schedule (See below). At the end of this specified period, closed files are transferred to the Records Centre, the Archives or destroyed. Records Officers are responsible for seeing that these actions are carried out.
Government records must be kept for as long as they are needed but should be destroyed as soon as they cease to have legal, administrative or informational value. Only a small percentage of all Government records created are permanently preserved because of their enduring value; these are transferred to the Archives Repository.
If records are not required, or are unlikely to be required for the conduct of current business but they still have a continuing value, they should be transferred to the Records Centre.
Decisions about the transfer or destruction of closed files are the responsibility of the Head of the records and archives institution in consultant with the relevant officials. Disposal schedules are the means by which these instructions are communicated by the Records and Archives Institution.
There are two classes of Retention/Disposal Schedules. These are General Schedules, covering records relating to common functions such as finance, personnel, contracts; and Specific Schedules relating exclusively to the records of individual agencies/units. Records Offices will be issued with the Specific Schedule relating to their own agency as well as with copies of relevant General Schedules. The Records Centre should hold copies of all General and Specific disposition schedules.
In most cases the Schedules will indicate that closed files should be transferred to the Records Centre after a predetermined period of time has elapsed. Following the transfer of records to the Records Centre, staff of the centre are responsible for carrying out all subsequent procedures laid down for records, including retrieval for use, reviewing (where required), destruction or transfer to the Archives Repository.
The Records Centre staff will notify the transferring agency when a review is required. If there are any queries about how the schedules are applied, the Records Centre staff should advise. The Head of the Records Office will notify the Records Centre if there are specific reasons why records should be retained for periods other than those laid down in the schedule. The Records Centre will not normally accept records which are not included in a disposal schedule. The Head of the records and archives institution may give permission to do so.
Destruction of Records Held by Records Offices
Records which are scheduled for destruction in five years or less should not be transferred to the Records Centre unless there is no storage available in the creating agency or unit. Any such transfers should be authorised by the Head of the Records and Archives Institution.
Every six months the Records Office should complete two copies of a Proposal to Destroy Scheduled Records Form, listing the records series scheduled for destruction. The Records Centre will return the top copy of the form authorising destruction or, if there is any query, will inspect the records. The Records Office should preserve the returned forms on a file maintained for this purpose.
Arrangement for the collection of records to be destroyed should be made by the records centre. Destruction may be by shredding for recycling or by incineration. The Records Office staff should indicate on the relevant transit sheets that the files are being destroyed.
Transferring Files to the Records Centre
The Records Office will request from the Records Centre, an appropriate number of boxes for files to be transferred, a Records Centre Transfer Notification Form and a supply of Records Centre Transfer List Forms, which are to be completed by the Records Office. The Transfer Notification Form is used as the consignment form; it describes in summary all the records that are being sent, gives the overall dates covered and the records’ format.
Procedures for transferring files.
- Arrange the files to be transferred in the order in which they were originally created. This will involve sorting them into series or groups of similar records which were created and maintained as units. Within each series the records should be arranged in the order of the original reference numbers.
- Mark the relevant file transit sheets to indicate that the files are being transferred to the records centre.
- When preparing the documents for packing, take care to remove from the files any loose ephemeral material such as greeting cards, advertisement and extra copies of documents. The files should be dusted and metal pins and clips removed if this will not cause papers to become detached from the file. If a file is broken, it should be tied together with archival string.
- The records should be placed in boxes flat, one on top of the other. The boxes should not be overloaded. If possible, the boxes should contain files closed at around the same time. If any of the records do not fit into the boxes, they should be tied into bundles no deeper than 30 centimetres (10‐12 inches). No information should be written on the boxes, as the contents must remain confidential.
- Bulky lever‐arch files are ring binders which will not fit comfortably into the boxes should have their contents removed and the contents placed in envelopes or made up into bundles by being tied up with twine, and carefully labelled ready for transfer.
- The files in each box (or the contents of bundles) should be listed on a Records Centre Transfer List Form, leaving blank the columns for the action date; the Records Centre location number and the action category. Each box must be listed on a separate form (with continuation sheets as necessary). Four copies of the form should be made (three copies are for use in the Records Centre. The Centre will not accept records which are inadequately described. The form copies should be placed on top of the files in the box to which they refer and the boxes sent to the Records Centre.
- When the consignment has been received by the Records Centre, the staff will check the Transfer Lists. If there are any queries the Records Office will be contacted. Otherwise, the Records Centre will return to the Records Office a marked‐up copy of the Transfer List with the action dates, Records Centre location numbers and action category added, together with a written acknowledgement.
- The Records Office must maintain a Records Centre Transfer file. Completed Transfer Lists should be added to the file in box number order. The Transfer file provides a simple method of ordering files from the Records Centre in the future.
Retrieving Files from the Records Centre
Files that have been closed and transferred to the Records Centre may be retrieved only by authorised staff. The Records Centre will not accept requests for files from anyone except the Head of the Records Office in the agency concerned, or an agency that is a successor to it. All requests for files should therefore be directed through the Head of the Records Office.
When a user requests a file which is held in the Records Centre, the Records Officer should consult the Records Centre Transfer file to determine the exact title, reference number, box number and location numbers. Then complete three copies of the Records Centre Request Form. The three copies of the form should be sent or taken to the Records Centre and the file collected. One copy of this form will be sent with the file requested to the Records Office. The two other copies will be retained by the Records Centre.
Records issued by the Records Centre must be returned within one month unless an extension to that period has been granted. If files are retained for more than one month, the Records Centre will send a Follow‐up Form asking for the file to be returned or for the Records Office to contact the Records Centre to arrange for an extension. If no response is received from the Records Office, a reminder form will be sent.
Records Offices may withdraw records permanently from the Records Centre if it is judged essential for a file to be held for an indefinite period by the agency or the successive agency which originally transferred it. A Records Centre Request Form should be used and a note should also be written on it indicating that the file is to be withdrawn permanently from the Records Centre. On receipt of the request, the Records Centre will send a memorandum confirming the permanent withdrawal and asking the Records Office to amend its copy of the relevant transfer list.
Consulting Records in the Records Centre
Authorised personnel may choose to consult records in the Records Centre rather than ask for them to be issued on loan.
Records may be seen only by persons specifically authorised by the originating or transferring agency. Records Centre staff will ask to see this authorisation and also proof of identity before producing records.
Records that are still subject to security classification may be seen by those only who have the appropriate security clearance.
Supplying Information or Copies from the Records Centre
The general policy of the Records Centre is that only specified original records will be issued on request by authorised users through the head of the Records Office. However, there are circumstances in which users, instead of requesting records to be issued on loan, have the option of asking for one of the following alternatives.
- They may ask for information contained in the records to be supplied, instead of the original documents.
- They may ask for copies of specified documents instead of the originals.
Information, other than original records, may only be supplied when specifically authorised by the Head of the Records Centre.
The Head of the Records Centre may allow the supply of information from the records where:
- In his or her opinion the information can be obtained quickly and easily and without ambiguity
- The alternatives would be much more cumbersome and timeconsuming.
The Records Centre may supply copies of original records in place of originals whenever it appears more economical or efficient to do so. In particular, copies should be produced in the following circumstances:
- Whenever this is requested by the enquiring office
- Whenever the Head of the Records Centre decides that this should be done
- In case where it is clear that supplying copies will be more economical than supplying the whole original file and the enquiring office has agreed to it.
Action Date and Review Procedures
All records transferred to the Records Centre must be transferred out of it at the appropriate date, which is termed the ‘action date’. The Records Centre staff is responsible for ensuring that these procedures are activated and carried through at the appropriate time.
The records are in the following categories:
- Those for review
- Those for transfer to the Archives Repository
- Those for destruction
Records subject to review are brought up after a period set by the relevant disposition schedule, and then appraised by appropriate officers in the originating agency in consultation with senior records staff.
It is the responsibility of the Records Centre to notify the transferring agency that it must carry out a review. The Records Centre will do this by sending a Records Centre Disposal Form, to which a duplicate copy of the relevant transfer list or lists have been attached.
The Disposal Form lists three options on a Reply Slip at the foot of the form. The options give alternatives for dealing with the records specified in the transfer lists attached. These are:‐
- The records should be destroyed
- The records should be retained for a further period of x years as the records are still required for official business
- The records should be considered for transfer to the archival facility for permanent preservation.
A course of action will be indicated by the Records Centre.
The Head of the Records Office should complete the Disposal Form and return it to the Records Centre. When the Disposal Form is returned duly completed and signed, the Records Centre is authorised to carry out action specified.
If the Disposal Form is returned with a recommendation for further retention, the new action date is recorded by the Records Centre. If the Head of the Records Centre considers that further retention would not be reasonable, the transferring agency will be contacted.
If the originating agency does not return the Reply Slip on the Disposal Form to the Records Centre within three months, with an appropriate authorisation on it, the Records Centre will proceed with the specified action.
Destruction of Records held by the Records Centre
Records are destroyed by the Records Centre when:‐
- They are specified in the disposition schedule as being for routine destruction and the appropriate action date has come, or
- The Disposal Form is received with a signature authorizing destruction
- When every box listed on a Records Centre Transfer List has been destroyed the Records Centre will send a copy of the list, stamped “Boxes Destroyed” to the Records Office which transferred the files. On receipt of the stamped list, the Records Office must ensure that its own copies of the same list are removed from the Records Office Transfer List file and destroyed.
Department Contact Information
National Archives and Records Management Unit
Archives and Records Management Unit