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ECU University History and Records: Getting Started

Guidance on managing university records at ECU, including using the records schedule, digital records, sensitive records, and transferring records with historical value..

What is a record?

Records document the various functions of an office or department. Records can take many formats including, but not limited to, paper documents, digital files, websites, email, or video. We review records for retention and disposition based on informational content, not format. 





Public Records

There are two North Carolina laws that address public records, and as a public university we are subject to them. The first is North Carolina General Statue 132, known as the Public Records Law. This statute defines public records and clarifies that public records belong to the people of North Carolina.

The second law that affects public records is North Carolina General Statue 121, known as the Archives and History Act.  This statute defines the duties of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. This act also regulates the destruction of public records. For ECU, the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources ceded this authority to the Records Management program. This is what gives us the responsibility to assist the University with records management and help interpret the UNC General Records Retention and Disposal Schedule. 

When it comes to public records, the word "public" doesn't necessarily mean open to the public. The word "public" in this context has to do with doing the public’s business or the business of government. According to state and federal statutes, health records, personnel records and student records have special confidential classifications and must be handled accordingly. If you have questions or concerns about public records, contact the Office of University Counsel. Email requests relating to public records should be sent to

Simple Records Management Workflow

This diagram provides a visual representation of a simple records management workflow. Records are initially created and actively used. Usually, there comes a point when the records are no longer actively used and that is a good time to check the retention period for that record type. The retention and disposition is regulated by the UNC General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. Once the retention period is identified, the records are stored within the office for the designated period.

After the retention period is over, the disposition of records is initiated. The disposition usually results in destruction of records or transferring select records to the University Archives for permanent preservation. For certain records, the disposition may require keeping the records permanently within the office or another secure location. The Records Center in Joyner Library can be used to house selected records that have long or permanent retention periods under the General Schedule. There is no charge for storing records in the Records Center, but permission must be obtained from the Records Management Officer before records are sent.

Staff wishing to send records to the records center must complete training before sending any records to the Records Center. Contact the University Records Manager, Amy Bright, at or to schedule training. Online training is available through Cornerstone. 

The UNC General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule

The UNC General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule provides instructions on how long records need to be retained for legal, fiscal, and historical purposes. The current General Schedule supersedes all previous general records retention and disposition schedules and serves all administrative, academic, and health affairs units of the University. You can download the most recent update to the schedule by clicking here.

If you think the a record type is missing from the schedule or if you've found an error in the schedule, please contact the University Records Manager. 

Strategies and Tips

  • Become familiar with the UNC General Records Retention and Disposal Schedule. 
    • Group paper or digital records based on appropriate section(s) of the Schedule and note the date for destruction or transfer to the University Archives in the folder or box name. 
  • Sort out your "Office of Record" records and focus on those records first. This means any records for which your office creates or maintains the official record copy. Those records are your top priority. For other records, you may need to keep a reference copy for a short time or you may have no records management responsibilities at all. Refer to the Schedule for more information. 
  • Designate a person or small team within your office to handle records management activities consistently and at regular intervals.
    • Make sure at least one permanent staff member is involved in records management. Students and temporary workers can provide help in organizing records or preparing to transfer records to the University Archives, but more institutional knowledge is needed to make decisions about what to discard or keep. 
  • Make records management part of training for new employees.
  • Attend a records management training or schedule a consultation. 

Your Responsibility

You are responsible for records you create or maintain. You should organize, review, and manage these records in accordance with the University of North Carolina General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule and any amendments to that schedule that have been agreed upon in consultation with ECU Records Management staff and the Government Records Section of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. 

Key Concepts

  • Destruction: appropriate disposal of records after retention ends, method can vary by record type (e.g. confidential recycling, secure delete, etc.)
  • Record Series: a group of related records; the sections of the General Records Retention Schedule
  • Retention and disposition: how long you must keep a record and what to do with it after that period ends
  • Record Copy: original or official copy of a record that is retained for legal, operational, or historical purposes
  • Office of Record: the office responsible for the record copy
  • Permanent: the disposition specified for records of enduring value that must be actively maintained in an accessible and readable format and preserved indefinitely (in many cases, records marked for permanent retention will eventually be transferred to the University Archives)
  • Reference Copy: an unofficial copy of a record that is maintained for ease of access and reference
  • Transitory records: records that are transactional or for temporary use (e.g. emails about appointment confirmations, follow-up actions, transmittal sheets).