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Durable Medium Definition
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Durable Medium Frequently Asked Questions

How does the adopted definition of durable medium affect my agency?

Historically, a state agency, political subdivision or local agency was required to seek approval from the Secretary of State, as State Records Administrator, before they could destroy original paper records they were converting to another medium, often utilizing the process of scanning. Since adoption of a definition for durable medium, your agency does not need to seek permission from the State Records Administrator when making decisions about changes. Agencies now have the responsibility to review their processes and determine whether or not transitioning the records from one medium to another meets the definition of durable medium. Additionally, they should carefully research their current records series and ensure there are no requirements (regulations or laws) in existence which require a records series to be maintained in a specific medium (e.g., paper or microfilm) before making any changes.

Should agency specific records retention schedules be updated to reflect process changes made as a result of the adopted durable medium definition?

Yes. It is important that agencies update their schedules on a regular basis (annually) and whenever process changes are made in the way records are created, collected, protected or stored.

What types of records cannot be retained in a digital-only format?

Examples can be found when looking at meeting minutes in both Schedule 124 – General Records for State Agencies and Schedule 24 – General Records for Local Agencies. The Nebraska State Historical Society (State Archives) has determined that this record must remain in paper medium and may NOT be destroyed even after microfilming or scanning to a digital format.

What does the State Records Administrator recommend when determining which medium to choose for agency records?

The State Records Administrator recommends that agencies consider microfilming records for security purposes when a record has a permanent value or a long-term retention period (30 years or more) due to the unknown sustainability of digital records.  However, agencies will need to make their own decisions based on their business needs and capabilities, while being in compliance with the Uniform Photographic Copies of Business and Public Records as Evidence Act.

How do agencies demonstrate that a system used by an agency is sustainable for the required retention period as stated in Item Number 1 of the durable medium definition and if the technology they use is the right solution?

Inquire of the vendor how long their system has been in use both privately and publicly, and see if you can get company and agency contacts. Ask the vendor if they have performed any tests for electronic records durability. If so, ask them to explain their testing methodology. Most vendors will probably not explain their methodology for proprietary reasons, but their response can tell you just as much as if they did respond with their methods. With microfilm and paper, accelerated age tests prove out their sustainability. With electronic systems, there is rarely such a test or claim at this time.

In Item Number 3 of the durable medium definition, it says “accurately reproducible.”  Does this mean that the record must be accurate from the standpoint of the content or does the record need to look exactly like it did when it was created?

Content will be the most important factor, however, we suggest agencies seek the advice of their legal counsel to determine what policies they may need to develop for gathering and storing electronic records to ensure their accurate reproduction. Agencies may have specific statutes, rules and procedures that must be followed regarding the creation, storage and reproduction of their records.

How does the definition of durable medium apply to records scanned prior to the adoption of the definition of durable medium?

The definition of durable medium was effective on October 31, 2009. If the process used to scan the records to the electronic media/system meets the definition of durable medium and there are no requirements in existence mandating the records series in question to be maintained on paper or microfilm, agencies have the option to determine the media type(s) on which the record series will be retained.

Where is durable medium found in Nebraska state statutes?

View applicable statute.

If you have questions regarding the information provided above, please contact:

Cathy Danahy
Deputy Secretary of State for Records Management
Records Management Division
Secretary of State’s Office
cathy.danahy@nebraska.gov

Mary Ott
RIM Specialist
Records Management Division
Secretary of State’s Office
mary.ott@nebraska.gov

Last updated: April 2010