Employee Resources - Transitory Records Guidelines

George Brown College Records

The records that the college generates and receives in the course of its work are collectively a vital and unique source of:

  • information for the management of the college and its business;
  • evidence of the college’s expertise, integrity and compliance with legislation;
  • knowledge about the college’s work and achievements.

However, not all records have the same value, and all records are expensive to maintain. It is obviously important to retain those which are required to meet:

  • operational needs for information about, and evidence of, past or planned decisions and actions;
  • legislative and other external requirements or recommendations to maintain or retain records;
  • long-term research needs or wider societal expectations.

It is equally important to dispose of those which are not needed, to improve efficiency and to minimize the overall costs of maintaining and managing records. This applies particularly to transitory records, which have only temporary value and should be routinely destroyed in the normal course of business.

What are records?

Records are documents or other items which:

  • contain recorded information;
  • are produced or received in the initiation, conduct or completion of an activity;
  • are retained as evidence of that activity, or because they have other informational value.;

The recorded information may be in any form (e.g. text, image, sound) and the records may be in any medium or format.

What are transitory records?

Transitory records are records which have only temporary value. They are produced:

  • in the completion of routine actions;
  • in the preparation of other records which supersede them;
  • for convenience of reference.

They are NOT official copies of records that need to be retained as evidence of an activity and they have no significant informational value after they have served their primary purpose.

It is important not to assume ...

  • that all drafts or working papers are transitory records. In some cases, it is necessary to retain an audit trail of the evolution of a final document (or other product) so it is important to retain records showing what changes were made, why, when and by whom;
  • that apparently ‘transitory’ items have no value. In some functions and in some circumstances, these would be important records:
    • a telephone message slip which provides evidence of the date and time that a person called;
    • an email message containing only the word ‘OK’ which was sent in response to a request for authorization;
    • a ‘proof of posting’ receipt.
  • that any copy is - or is not - the official record;
  • that all email messages are transitory records.

Common types of transitory records

These are some common types of transitory records:

  • Duplicates of records that are produced for reference only and which are exact copies (i.e. not annotated or changed in any way) of official records which are maintained in formal recordkeeping systems.
    Examples: photocopies of paper documents; electronic or printed copies of electronic documents; duplicate copies of photographs and audio or video recordings; reference sets of meeting papers, technical reports, plans etc.; departmental ‘reading’ or ‘circulation’ files. Chronological files of correspondence (often referred to as ‘day files’) may or may not be transitory records, depending on institutional policy.
  • Draft documents and working materials which do not document significant steps in the development of a final version, and which are not needed to track the development process or provide evidence of decisions or precedents.
    Examples: draft documents with only proofreading marks; initial outlines of ideas, designs, calculations etc. which were discarded or incorporated into other work which superseded them; unused audio/video material which was discarded during editing; unofficial work planning or scheduling materials or communications.
  • Documents containing requests for information that have no further value after the information is provided/received (e.g. requests for ‘stock’ publications, maps/directions, arrangements for events).
  • Transmittal documents that accompany records, but which do not themselves contain substantive information and are not required as evidence of receipt.
    Examples: fax cover sheets/header slips, compliments slips, Post-it notes, routing slips etc. (paper or electronic) which contain only transmittal information (names, contact details etc.).
  • Items received (solicited or unsolicited) for information only from external organizations.
    Examples: advertising material (e.g. brochures, catalogues, price lists); email messages received from listservs; publications (e.g. magazines, newsletters).
  • Items received for information only from elsewhere in the institution, often as part of a distribution list.
    Examples: ‘All Staff’ memoranda and notices (e.g. concerning holidays, special events, maintenance programs); publications for staff (e.g. newsletters, directories); publications for general distribution (e.g. prospectuses, plans, marketing materials).

*Note: The departments where these items originate should retain the official records and maintain them in formal recordkeeping systems, in line with institutional records management policies. For example, ‘master’ copies of publications produced by the college are not transitory records and they should be retained by the department responsible for their publication. Other copies distributed within the institution are duplicates and are therefore transitory records.

These categories are not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive. There will always be exceptions where records could appear to be transitory but, because of the way they are used or because of individual circumstances, they should be retained as official records and maintained in a formal recordkeeping system.

Where should transitory records be stored?

Transitory records should be stored wherever they are most readily accessible. They should not be transferred to Archives. They should be retained only as long as they are actively used or referred to; they should then be destroyed. They should not be retained as a substitute for, or as a supplement to, official records maintained in a formal recordkeeping system. For example, local copies of purchase orders and invoices should not be retained for longer than the official records held by Financial Services.

How should transitory records be destroyed?

As these records are used in the daily business of the college, these records will contain information that should be destroyed securely through Archives. See George Brown Shredding Procedure.


If you have any questions, please get in touch with our Archivist, Clay Thibodeau:

Tel: (416) 415-5000, Ext. 4771
Fax: 416-415-4772
E-mail: cthibodeau@georgebrown.ca