Tip Sheet 3 - Transitory Records

outdated publications

Identify transitory records and deal with them appropriately.

University records provide evidence of policy, decision or obligation and should be filed and saved. Transitory records have no ongoing operational, informational, evidential or historical value and can be disposed of as soon as you have finished with them.

Remember: transitory records may exist in paper, audio, electronic, or other formats.

Transitory records include:

  • Announcements and notices of a general nature
    • Notifications of meetings, special events, holidays, acceptances or regrets
    • Memos to all staff of a routine nature where you are not the originator
  • Drafts
    • Preliminary drafts which don’t reflect or record significant steps in the preparation of a final document or record decisions
    • Working papers where the results have been written into an official document and which are not required to support it
  • Convenience or duplicate copies
    • “cc” copies which require no action
    • “FYI” copies made and kept only for convenient reference or for information and that are not annotated or changed in any way
    • Printouts or extracts from databases
    • Minutes and agendas received from other parts of the university or external groups which require no action
    • Office mail log/daybook copies of correspondence which are also filed elsewhere in the filing system
    • Email messages forwarded for printing
  • Messages where the information has no operational value
    • Personal messages, for example: “meet me for lunch at noon”
    • Business messages, for example: emails to schedule or confirm meetings
  • Superseded lists
    • Address lists, distribution lists, membership lists, etc.
  • Stocks of in-house publications which are obsolete, superseded or otherwise no longer useful
    • Administrative manuals, telephone directories that do not originate from your unit
    • Published reports, newsletters or reference materials received from other parts of the university, from vendors or external organizations which require no action
    • Blank forms

Dispose of transitory records.

Discard transitory records regularly.

  • Review transitory materials regularly and discard after operational need ends
  • Clearly identify draft items and discard once the final version of a document is prepared (with exceptions below)

As a general rule, destroy transitory records as soon as they have served their primary purpose:

  • Notices – once event has taken place unless you are the originator
  • Preliminary drafts – when the final version of a document is issued
  • “FYI” – when no longer referenced
  • “cc” copies – when issue is resolved or concluded
  • Snapshots or printouts: when database is updated/rolled over

But – there are always exceptions.

Exercise judgment on what transitory records may need to be kept and for how long:

  • Drafts and working papers of
  • Legal documents (e.g. relating to negotiations of various sorts) often need to be retained to document how the final agreement was reached
  • Versions which show major changes in policy or approach may have longer term value for historical research purposes
  • Budgets or policies may have future value in the unit responsible for their creation
  • A telephone message slip or transmission document may be kept as evidence of contact at a certain time and date
  • An envelope may be kept because of the postmark
  • An annotated copy of a convenience or duplicate copy showing significant input should be filed and saved with other records related to the same activity or function
  • Periodic printouts may constitute an important “snapshot” record of a dynamic database

This document has been developed to assist in establishing good practices and procedures.  Additional questions or requests for advice on records and information management or information and privacy issues should be referred to the Information and Privacy Coordinator: info.privacy@yorku.ca.