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Managing Your E-Mail

Are my e-mail messages College records?

Like your computer and telephone, your e-mail system is a basic office tool that facilitates communication.  E-mail messages and attachments that you send or receive in conducting the business of the College are official records and are subject to the College’s records management policies and retention schedules.

Your College e-mail should be retained or deleted based on its content, just as is the case for comparable paper-based materials among your files, like reports, plans, or photographs.

Personal e-mail is NOT a College record and should be deleted from your College e-mail system as soon as possible.

Are my e-mail messages really worth saving?

Some are, but many are not.

Sent and received messages of permanent value SHOULD NOT BE DELETED. Such messages include, but are not limited to, those that document:

  • Legal and fiscal matters
  • Student affairs
  • Personnel matters
  • Administrative decision-making
  • Policy formulation
  • Committee work
  • Public programs and events
  • Intra- and extramural relations
  • Significant endeavors of a particular person or office unit
  • Formal minutes
  • Final and annual reports

Junk-mail, personal messages, LISTSERV communications, general announcements, and other informational notices requiring no response should be routinely discarded once their usefulness has passed.

Other examples of messages that may have only transitory value and DO NOT require long-term retention are:

  • Routine office communications that might equally be handled in person or by telephone (e.g., confirmation of meeting attendance; requests for time off; draft agenda)
  • Drafts and other in-progress materials that ultimately result in a report or some other final presentation
  • Meeting notes for which formal minutes are issued
  • Messages relating to day-to-day routine operations
  • Messages received that are “convenience copies” for you and are being retained by others (a project team leader; a committee chair; a unit coordinator)

What should I do if I’m unsure about the value of some of my e-mails?

Designated office managers and academic coordinators throughout the campus, who are in frequent contact with College Archives staff to establish and administer retention schedules, have a broad knowledge about the filing practices within your unit and can help with these decisions.  Consult them first.

College Archives staff are also available to provide guidance and advice about managing your e-mail files. Contact Caroline Moseley (link) for assistance.

How should I save valuable e-mail?

While you may choose to print out e-mail and file it among your office records for easy access, do not delete the electronic version of the message.  As an increasingly pervasive electronic environment alters how we conduct business, retaining important e-mail and attachments within the College’s e-mail system not only provides for their safekeeping but also facilties searching and discovering these records.

Storing your e-mail electronically in folders (by topic or by year) optimizes searching and browsing, and can save you time.  Generally, modeling  your email folders after your paper filing system can be the easiest and most fruitful way of foldering e-mails.