Guidelines for University Office Records

As part of the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, our mission is to make materials available for intellectual discovery, use, and learning that connects the Penn State community, scholars, and the public. University Archives collects and preserves University records that document the history and activities across the University: schools, colleges, departments, programs, institutes, and units.

Across the Commonwealth, Penn State University is creating a vast amount of records every day. University Archives must be selective in which records it can preserve, accepting less than 5% of records created.

Evaluating Records

When evaluating records for University Archives transfer, it is important to consider the following questions:

  • Does this record impact the understanding of your office, its mission, and its role within the Penn State University community?
  • Have the records been determined to have administrative, fiscal, legal, or informational value as defined by University Policy AD35 – University Archives and Records Management? Have they passed the period of retention and disposition?
  • Does my office no longer need the records for our business purposes?
  • Is my office the creator and/or office of ownership for the record (not transitory copies)?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then it should be considered for transfer. When in doubt, don’t throw it out! Keep the record and contact the University Archivist for guidance.

What to Transfer

The following types of records (hard copy or digital) are generally what typically hold enduring or historical value:

  • Constitutions and by-laws, minutes and proceedings, transcripts, organizational charts
  • Office correspondence and memoranda (incoming and outgoing) and subject files concerning projects, activities and functions
  • Reports, such as annual reports, accreditation reports, self-studies, planning documents, and reports on special topics
  • Proposals for new programs and facilities, and planning documents
  • Historical files documenting policies, decisions, committee and task force reports, questionnaires
  • Activities and events: Consider significant events and the records created in carrying them out—planning documents, flyers, programs and agendas, lists of speakers, feedback, photographs
  • Publications: One record copy of all newsletters, journals, brochures, monographs, programs, posters, and announcements issued by the University office
    • NOTE: Penn State Libraries or University Archives may already receive and catalog publications. Check with the University Archivist before sending any publications
  • Audio-visuals: Photographs, films, and sound and video recordings

Records Not Suitable for Transfer

  • Office copies of student and personnel records, including faculty dossiers, annual evaluations, promotion and tenure files, and search committee files. NOTE: These records are convenience copies of administrators and not the official University personnel file
  • Routine financial and administrative records, such as requisitions, travel expenses vouchers, payroll time sheets, accounting reports, etc.
  • Drafts of most reports and correspondence
  • Routine acknowledgments, circulars, notifications, requests, and transmittals
  • Multiple copies of a single document
  • Blank forms
  • Transitory copies of publications, reports, memos, etc., for which your office was not the originator or the office of record
  • External publications (external to the department/unit)
  • Artifacts and memorabilia like trophies or award plaques
  • PII & FERPA: Documents containing personal information such as social security numbers, passport and visa numbers, account and personal financial information, grades, GPA, etc.

Transferring to University Archives

The physical transfer of records to University Archives includes transfer of custody of the records. Once records are in University Archives custody, Special Collections’ policies for preservation, security, and access will be applied. University Archives is not a temporary storage center, nor does it send materials back to offices. The Inactive Records Center can provide storage options for offices interested in maintaining custody of their records.

The process for transferring records to University Archives is as follows:

  • Complete the University Archives Transfer Request Form
  • Once your request has been received, the University Archivist will contact you to:
    • Work with you to decide the disposition of materials not to be retained by the University Archives (destroy or transfer to the Inactive Records Center)
    • Appraise the records for historical value. This can be done over email, phone, or with a visit to your office
    • Provide guidance on preparing materials for transfer
    • Schedule the pickup of materials—usually by courier
  • To prepare records for transfer:
    • Pack records in Paige boxes or bankers boxes (University Archives can provide boxes)
    • Maintain order and organization utilized by office
    • Create an inventory of every file in each box; the University Archivist can provide a template
    • Print an inventory and place in each box, AND email copy to University Archivist.
    • Clearly label boxes with office titles and the number of the box out of total boxes
  • Define an appropriate frequency for future transfers
  • The University Archivist will formally document the receipt of materials and prioritize them for processing

Access to University Archives Collections

Collections in the University Archives are discoverable online via publicly accessible finding aids, and accessible to all researchers onsite in the Special Collections Reading Room. Please refer to the Special Collections homepage for more information about our research services and planning a visit.

The University Archives makes records available according to University Policies AD35 and AD95.

Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!

Ben Goldman
Interim University Archivist


Adopted from:

Transfer Guidelines for Office Records.” University of Illinois Archives. 

University Archives: Preparing and Transferring Records.” American Heritage Center.