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Simplifying Access to Government Records

December 9, 2011

Simplifying Access to Government Records

One duty of a records officer is to provide public access to government records. To help simplify the records request process, records officers and the public should be clear about the records or information requested. Records retention schedules can be used as a tool to accomplish this. Some questions to ask are: Where are the records kept? How long are they kept? Who has access to the records? Sometimes retention schedules can help answer these questions.

Checking retention schedules online is easy.

To find information about government records you may want to request:

  • Visit the Archives website and click on the Records Management tab.
  • Scroll down to “Retention Schedules.” Under “Retention Schedules,” search under “General Retention Schedules” or find the name of a specific governmental entity under “Unique Agency-Specific Schedules.” You can also search by key word if you are not sure of the entity’s official name.
  • Choose the entity you think might have the desired records. Clicking on the name of that agency will bring up a list of current records they maintain.
  • Clicking on a specific record title will give a description of the information that group of records contains, as well as information about how long the records must be maintained and sometimes a designated classification.
  • With this information, you can request a specific record from the agency or governmental entity that maintains the record. Ask for the record by title or by series number. A series number identifies a group of records.
  • Contact the agency or entity to make a GRAMA request. A GRAMA request must contain your name, address, and phone number, as well as a reasonably specific description of the record you are requesting. A request may be denied if it is not reasonably specific.

With accurate information, you will have more success requesting records.

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