How to Identify Record Copies

The idea of record and convenience copies is a fundamental concept in records management.

What is a record copy?

For those of us who remember carbon paper and onionskin, the record copy was the easily identifiable original document and the carbon copies were the convenience copies. But when ten copies of a record are printed from the laser printer, which one is the record copy? 

Each record series has a record copy and may have convenience copies retained in other departments within the organization. Convenience copies are all the other copies of the record which are not the record copy.

In the Local Government Records Act, a government record is defined as “any document, paper, letter, book, map, photograph, sound or video recording, microfilm, magnetic tape, electronic medium, or other information recording medium, regardless of physical form or characteristic and regardless of whether public access to it is open or restricted under the laws of the state, created or received by a local government or any of its officers or employees pursuant to law, including an ordinance, or in the transaction of public business.” [Local Government Code §201.003(8)].

Specifically excluded from the definition are “extra identical copies of documents created only for convenience or reference or research by officers or employees of the local government.” [Local Government Code §201.003(8)(A)]. These are convenience copies.

For example, the record copies of purchase orders (Local Schedule GR 1025-26) are maintained by the purchasing department and are listed under that department on the control schedule. Other departments may retain convenience copies but their purchase orders are not listed on the control schedules of each individual department.

The final step in managing local records is their final disposition. Upon completion of their retention periods,records are either destroyed or, for records with historical value, transferred to an archival facility.

Destruction of obsolete records includes the destruction of both record and convenience copies. Another basic principle of records management is that all convenience copies must be disposed of by the time the record copy has met its retention period and has been destroyed. If a convenience copy remains in the organization after the record copy is destroyed, then the convenience copy becomes the record copy. As a result, the records were not destroyed in a timely manner and the documents still remain in the organization.

Many of the records occupying filing cabinets and hard drives are obsolete convenience copies. By destroying convenience copies in a timely manner, hard drives and file cabinets are purged releasing file space in existing cabinets and forestalling purchase of new filing equipment. Filing cabinets full of obsolete records occupy valuable floor space which could be better utilized as productive work areas. Hard drive space is available for current, active records, speeding up access and reducing time needed to find and retrieve electronic documents.

Litigation Support: Effective management of records destruction ensures that records that should exist, do exist, and records that should be destroyed, actually have been destroyed.

This helps legal counsel locate records in defense of the organization’s position without having to sift through volumes of obsolete records. This also prevents extensive and costly searches for records which may or may not even exist. If convenience copies are destroyed appropriately, opposing counsel will not be able to surprise the local government by presenting documents in court which were found in discovery.

Record copy or convenience copy? By identifying record and convenience copies, local governments operate more efficiently, benefiting local government staff and the citizens of Texas.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission, excerpts from The Local Record, Spring 1999

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