Agency-specific schedules

This week I got yet another reason to love the Library of Virginia and, most especially, their dedicated records analysts. A very small cadre of helpful friendly folks handle records-management questions from every locality and state agency in the Commonwealth. How they accomplish as much as they do and still retain their sunny demeanor is well beyond me.

Anyway, this week they released a new service on their website. In the Library's words,

The Records Analysis Section is very pleased to announce a new feature on our web site. In an effort to make accessing state agency Specific Schedules simpler, we have scanned all active schedules in our files and placed them at

Select your agency from the drop down menu and click Submit. You’ll find a complete list of schedules with department and sub-department information (when applicable) as well as the schedule’s approval date. Clicking the schedule number will open that schedule as a PDF.

Retention schedules are a great resource for anyone contemplating a FOIA request for an agency. Looking at the schedules can give you an idea of what kinds of records they have, and it also allows you to speak the agency's language when asking. For instance, you could ask the Commission on Local Government for "the words of a Virginia anthem" and get nowhere, or you could ask for the "Lyrics Notebook for the State Song Study Committee" and BINGO! (Side question: does anyone know why commission on LOCAL government received submissions for a STATE song competition?)

An agency has the obligation to process FOIA requests when a requester has identified records with "reasonable specificity," so a requester should never be shut out just because they don't describe the record precisely or use the agency's vernacular. Government and requesters should work together to identify the records desired. But the agency specific retention schedules (and really, all retention schedules) can quickly move that process along.

Thank you, Library of Virginia!

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