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Recordkeeping In Brief 38 - Keeping publications and promotional materials as records

This recordkeeping in brief leaflet discusses the issues concerned with managing publications and promotional materials as records, including what to keep and how long to retain publications and promotional materials, and tips for their management and transfer to archives.

Purpose and scope

In this context, a publication includes any form of information which is published, intended to be made available to the public or able to be accessed by the public. It also includes published information issued or made available to staff within the organisation, e.g. a procedure manual published on the organisation's intranet. Publications can be hardcopy, online or in another format, and with or without an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).

What records should be kept?

It is good practice to keep:

  • records relating to the drafting or development of the publication or item (for example draft versions, email or paper based correspondence about an item's design), and
  • copies of the published or issued versions of publications and promotional items. This can include: books, web publications, CD-ROMS, videos, posters, online or hard copy forms or leaflets.

Keep records of drafts if there is a business need to do so. There may, for example, be a need to retain all the drafts of more significant or high risk publications but not for others. This should be defined in organisational recordkeeping procedures and communicated to relevant staff.

It is good practice to keep a record of each published version of a publication as it is superseded, unless the change is so minor as to make no substantive difference (for example, a small formatting change or correction of a typographical error).

Managing versions

Use titling rules so you can differentiate between drafts and published versions of a publication or other document. For example:

  • Annual Report 2004-2005 - Draft 1
  • Information leaflet - August 2003
  • Guidelines on best practice - August 2004 / Revised January 2005

Number of copies

It is good practice to keep two copies of those hard copy publications that are identified as State archives. This is for the following purposes:

  • one copy to be a mint condition copy that is not used for everyday reference. This is the copy that will ultimately be transferred to State Records as a State archive (see 'Retention requirements', below), and
  • one copy to be used as a reference copy for the organisation's library or similar.

Forms

Many organisations produce forms that are used in the conduct of their business. Like other published materials, 'master' copies of forms that are developed and issued for use should be retained as records, whether in electronic or hard copy format.

Legal deposit

Legal deposit is a statutory provision which obliges publishers to deposit copies of their publications in deposit libraries such as the State Library of NSW. Government organisations can also be required to lodge primary publications, such as Annual Reports, with the NSW Parliament or their responsible Ministry [1] . These requirements are distinct from requirements to keep publications as records and archives.

Retention requirements

Retention requirements for the records of publications and promotional materials vary depending on their purpose and significance to the organisation.

Publications and promotional materials created as part of core business

NSW Government agencies and State owned corporations should refer to their functional retention and disposal authorities for retention requirements relating to background research, substantive drafts and final versions of publications or promotional items created in the conduct of their 'core business'.

Examples of publications or promotional items relating to an organisation's 'core business' could include:

  • a master copy of a poster promoting workplace safety issued by Workcover, or
  • an information leaflet on flu vaccinations from NSW Health.

Sector specific authorities will often contain requirements for core publications. For example, universities should refer to General Retention and Disposal Authority: University Records (GDA23) to determine retention periods for published materials created in the conduct of their core business, such as approved curricula, subject handbooks and final research reports.

Where there is overlap, retention requirements for records of publications and promotional materials in functional retention and disposal authorities will override the requirements in the general retention and disposal authorities.

Note: There may be a specific function in an organisation's functional retention and disposal authority dedicated to providing retention requirements for publications, or they may be found under relevant activities within the functions to which they relate, e.g. PLANNING, POLICY, PROCEDURES, RESEARCH, REPORTING, TRAINING are activities which commonly include disposal classes for publications.

Plans, policies, procedures and reports

Annual reports

A copy of each agency’s Annual report is required as State archives. Your agency can meet this requirement by uploading a copy of your digital Annual Report to the OpenGov NSW website. For more information see www.opengov.nsw.gov.au.

General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records (GA28)

As noted above, decisions regarding the retention of background research, substantive drafts and final versions of plans, policies, procedures and reports relating to core functions should be made in functional retention and disposal authorities.

The retention requirements for administrative functions are included under the activities of PLANNING, POLICY, PROCEDURES, REPORTING etc in the Authority. For example:

  • STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT - PLANNING for background research, substantive drafts and final versions of corporate, business or strategic plans.
  • OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY - POLICY for background research, substantive drafts and final versions of policies relating to occupational health and safety.
  • GOVERNMENT RELATIONS - REPORTING for background research, substantive drafts and final versions of formal reports to government such as Annual Reports.

General retention and disposal authority: local government records

The retention requirements for the drafting and final versions of plans, policies, procedures, and reports are specified in the retention and disposal authority under relevant functions and the activities of PLANNING, POLICY, PROCEDURES, REPORTING etc. See also:

  • CORPORATE MANAGEMENT - Reporting for Annual Reports.

Published addresses, conference proceedings and training materials

For the retention requirements for published and unpublished conference proceedings and addresses at conferences see:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, COMMUNITY RELATIONS - CONFERENCES
  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, STAFF DEVELOPMENT - CONFERENCES
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, CORPORATE MANAGEMENT - CONFERENCES.

For other addresses see:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, COMMUNITY RELATIONS - ADDRESSES
  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, GOVERNMENT RELATIONS - ADDRESSES
  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, STAFF DEVELOPMENT - ADDRESSES
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, COMMUNITY RELATIONS - ADDRESSES.

For published training materials, see the organisation's functional retention and disposal authority if training is a core business of the organisation, or:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, STAFF DEVELOPMENT - TRAINING
  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, GOVERNING BODIES - TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, PERSONNEL - TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT.

Universities should consult General Retention and Disposal Authority: University Records (GDA23).

Advertising and promotional publications

Some publications are general in nature and need only be retained for business purposes and then destroyed. For example, the drafting and final versions of publications designed to promote or publicise aspects of the organisation's activities, e.g. posters, brochures, leaflets, published histories, or general promotional or explanatory information about the organisation and its services in pages on its website need only be kept for a short period of time. See:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, COMMUNITY RELATIONS - MARKETING
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES - MARKETING
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, INFORMATION MANAGEMENT - PUBLICATIONS.

Note: The organisation may wish to retain some advertising and promotional publications for longer periods if they are unique or interesting or have other potential uses. For example, promotional materials may be used for future display or for use in future marketing campaigns etc.

Internally directed publications

Publications other than plans, policies, procedures or reports that are for internal use also have short retention periods. See:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, PUBLICATION - DRAFTING
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, INFORMATION MANAGEMENT - PUBLICATIONS.

Audio visual materials

Retention periods for the production, rights management and final versions of audio-visual materials are covered in:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Audio visual programs and recordings (GDA11)
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, INFORMATION MANAGEMENT - PUBLICATIONS.

Websites

State Records' guideline Keeping web records contains advice on the capture of websites and web-based publications.

The retention of publications on websites should be in accordance with the standard retention periods recommended for publications described above (i.e. the length of their retention depends on their purpose). See also:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative Records, PUBLICATION - PRODUCTION for drafts and final versions of forms, e.g. forms for business transacted either manually or on websites, or for records that demonstrate the structure and organisation of the website and substantial changes made, e.g. site maps.

Records of business transacted on websites, e.g. via online forms, should be retained according to disposal actions given under the relevant functions in current general and functional retention and disposal authorities.

Snapshots

State Records does not promote the use of snapshots as they are difficult and costly to maintain and often need to be maintained long term. If the website is frequently updated, snapshots would have to be very regular or augmented with change logs or they would not mitigate risks.

If the organisation is managing snapshots of their website, their retention should be addressed in the organisation's functional retention and disposal authority.

Production records

Records relating to the production of publications, e.g. graphic design, indexing or printing for paper publications or graphic design, preparation of source files, loading or updating information to websites for electronic publications, are only required for short periods of time. See:

  • General Retention and Disposal Authority - Administrative records, PUBLICATION - PRODUCTION
  • General retention and disposal authority: local government records, INFORMATION MANAGEMENT - PUBLICATIONS.

Pre-1940 publications and ephemera

If your organisation holds publications, promotional items or ephemera [2] from before 1940, contact State Records to discuss the disposal of these materials.

Management tips

  • Publications and promotional materials that are kept as records should be registered in official recordkeeping systems and stored in appropriate conditions.
  • Triggers such as uploading to the 'live' website or obtaining an ISBN can be used as a way to remind staff of the need to save a publication as a record.
  • Publications that are designated as State archives should not be used as reference copies. For example, Councils should retain one set of their Annual Reports as State archives and a separate set as reference copies to fulfil their obligation under section 12 of the Local Government Act 1993.
  • It is not necessary to keep promotional objects, such as badges, toys or mugs 'on file' with the records relating to their development. Where the organisation chooses to retain a collection of such objects, however, it may be useful to include information in relevant file/s about the physical location of the objects, for ease of retrieval.
  • Some publications or promotional items can be difficult to store in standard shelving and packaging (for example large posters). Information on suppliers to contact regarding purchasing shelving and packaging for non-standard formats is available from the Product Directory on the Records Management Association of Australasia's website
  • If publications required as State archives are only published electronically, e.g. online or as a pdf document, they should be registered with other records in official recordkeeping systems and kept accessible over time. See State Records' guidelines Managing digital records for more help on managing electronic records over time.

Transferring publications

While those publications and promotional materials that are identified as State archives are subject to the same rules regarding use and transfer as other records, the table below provides some additional advice for these classes of records.

Issue Explanation
When should publications be transferred? Publications may be transferred when they are produced provided that completed transfer documentation is sent with the publication. Only one copy of each publication that is required as a State archive should be transferred.
You may find it easier to transfer as part of a series, e.g. annual reports 1990-2000. If you are in any doubt that the publications will be retained appropriately, then transfer when produced.
Who should transfer publications? Liaise with your library or information centre if they distribute publications to ensure that publications are sent to State Records with the proper documentation.
Often publications are sent to State Records in the same way as legal deposit libraries. This is not appropriate for transferring archives. Publications must be accompanied by the required transfer documentation. They will not be accepted without this documentation.
What if the publications are electronic? At this stage electronic records cannot be transferred to State Records as archives. Retain them in the organisation in accessible form and contact State Records for advice on their ongoing management.
How should I document the transfer? All transfer documentation must be completed as for other records. This includes:
  • transfer proposal
  • series proposed for transfer
  • series information form (if necessary)
  • consignment list.
See example of completed consignment list (doc, 35kb) for publications.
How should I package? publications Package publications in a Type 1 box if they are of a suitable shape and size. If not, contact State Records for advice. If you are transferring small numbers of publications that do not fill a box, then a sturdy envelope will often be adequate packaging.

For more information

State Records, Procedures for transferring custody of records as State archives, 2004.

State Records, Implementing a retention and disposal authority, 2003.

Footnotes

[1] Requirements for NSW Government agencies in relation to legal deposit are explained in Premier's Memorandum 2000-15 Access To Published Information - Laws, Policy and Guidelines. Available from the Premier's Department's website: http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/

[2] Ephemera: Items of a transient nature and low value that are expected to have a brief currency. They are usually printed or manufactured in quantity for a specific event or activity and are intended neither to survive the topicality of that event or activity nor to survive as original records. They may be retained for their information or as graphic specimens, particularly for exhibitions. (Acland, Glenda 'Glossary' in Judith Ellis (ed.) Keeping Archives. 2nd Edition, Australian Society of Archivists Inc, Thorpe Publishing, Port Melbourne, 1993.)

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2005 / revised 2009.
This work may be freely reproduced and distributed for most purposes, however some restrictions apply.
ISSN 1440-3978