Harvey Christensen works on the Oregon State College Electronic Analog Computer, ca. late 1950s. Electronic records have been a part of OSU's information infrastructure since at least 1951, when the machine was developed as a student project. The machine was dedicated "to those who cannot integrate."
Harvey Christensen joined OSC's Mechanical Engineering Department Faculty in 1947 as an instructor. He earned an M.S. at OSC in 1950, and left the College for the University of Arizona in 1958. [OSU Archives P82:137.]
New IBM machines in the Oregon State College Business Office, January 1948. At about this time, IBM was developing its first generation of computers. [OSU Archives P82:1.]
Staff and equipment in the OSU Computer Center, ca. 1967. When this photograph was taken, large magnetic tapes were the primary storage media for electronic records. [OSU Archives, P151:246].
For more information about how to contact the OSU Archives, please visit our Location, Hours, & Staff Information page.
Electronic records are informational files or data files that are created and stored in digitized form through the use of computers and applications software. Electronic records are distinct from digitized images as they are created as electronic documents and not converted from another form to a digitized picture. Digitized documents are, for the purposes of this discussion, not electronic records. Electronic records are always machine dependent formats; thus electronic records are accessible and readable only with the assistance of digital processors.
Although audio and video tapes are forms of electronic records, they are excluded from this discussion because their retention and disposition are discussed extensively in the body of the University Records Retention and Disposition Schedule. Electronic records are the products of computers and computer applications software; electronic records by definition do not include the software used in the record creation or record keeping process. Computer programs, unless customized and developed as part of a research project, are not considered electronic records. Computer software, like the computer hardware necessary to run the software, should be considered an office supply or item of equipment and not an electronic record in and of itself.
Electronic records information may be stored on a variety of magnetic and optical storage devices. The format of an electronic document does not change the fact that it is a record in the legal and practical sense, but its electronic form and its dependence on machines for creation and reference does change the way these records must be stored and managed.
Oregon law clearly includes all electronic information and record formats as public records. Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 192.005 defines a public record as "… a document, book, paper, photograph, file, sound recording, machine readable electronic record or other material… regardless of physical form or characteristic, made, received, filed, or recorded in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business …" This view of electronic records is inclusive of any information created and recorded on a computer by a public employee regardless of its confidentiality or legal restrictions upon its public disclosure.
Electronic records are included in the Oregon Public Records Law; access to and disclosure of information contained in them is made under the same set of rules that cover paper-based public records. Questions about access to electronic records and requests for access to public records should be referred to the University Archivist or the University Legal Advisor.
Databases are created and accessed through a variety of commercially developed and customized database management systems (DBMS). Reports based on database information are often printed out, but databases remain in electronic form and are rarely printed out in their entirety.
If a classroom instructor maintains students' grade records only in electronic form, the electronic records should be kept for the retention period specified under Teachers' Grade Records disposition in the Student Records Section of the University Records Retention and Disposition Schedule.
The nature of electronic mail communications allows us to use the retention periods in the University Records Retention and Disposition Schedule for the vast majority of records transmitted by e-mail. Please note that if an item of correspondence falls into a category which requires that it be retained more than a few years (such as Administrative Correspondence, which has a five year retention period), it should be printed out and filed as part of the regular office files. E-mail messages which are printed out should normally be deleted in order to reduce unnecessary duplication.
Records which will ultimately go to the University Archives for permanent retention must be printed out. The Archives does not accession or provide reference services to permanent records in electronic format at this time. For additional information on e-mail, see the State Archives' State Agency E-mail Policy Guidelines.
Public Information Server — The files located on public information servers are considered publications. Electronic publications should be printed out and retained in hard copy exactly as printed publications would be retained and preserved.
If inactive electronic records or systems in your custody do not easily and logically fit within a record series addressed in the University Records Retention and Disposition Schedule, several critical questions should be answered in order to determine the appropriate disposition. When an electronic record created and maintained in your office is no longer essential to performing ongoing functions, they should be disposed of as any obsolete or useless paper record.
Continued maintenance of electronic systems may require the records management officer to migrate records and data to new systems that can take advantage of the most current systems hardware and software. Prudent management requires that offices and units committing long-term records to electronic records systems provide a system and data migration plan to the agency records officer (University Archivist).
The plan should specify a schedule for data back-ups and recopying as well as require backwards compatibility of a new electronic records system. Backwards compatibility means that, to perform continuing functions, new systems must be able to access and read previously created electronic records and data.
Standard procedure dictates that the "three generations" backup rule be followed for all units. The three-generation procedure requires that the three most recent backup tapes or disks be kept at all times and that the oldest backup copy be used for making a new backup copy. Similarly, it is recommended that some type of off-site storage of backup tapes or disks be arranged. At a minimum this means that backups should be stored in a building on campus separate from the facility housing the electronic records system.
When record data on removable electronic media, such as diskettes and CD-ROM, contain protected information and the data for reasons of obsolescence are no longer needed, it is important to destroy the actual magnetic storage unit. It is not wise to send diskettes out of the office for use by others, even if the diskettes have been reformatted. The nature of magnetic media makes it easy to recover files that have been recorded even if they have been erased or the media reformatted.
The same cautions must be exercised when surplusing computer equipment containing hard disk drives. Hard disk drives must at least be reformatted before they leave the office for another department or surplus property. If the hard drive contains confidential information it is advisable to delete the contents of the drive using one of the commercially available erasing and data blanking programs. The most desirable solution to the potential loss of control over confidential or personal privacy information is to remove and retain the hard disk drive in the office or destroy it.