E-mail Guidelines

The following guidelines are in place for managing e-mail used by either university offices or individuals. Before using these guidelines to ensure archival acceptable practices, please consult the record-keeping policies and rules with university records management. In evaluation, if the email is legally defined as a record, retain and file it in accordance to the university’s authorized records retention schedule and with the General Schedule for State Agency Records. While these guidelines are intended to apply to records being retained for historical research purposes, offices and individuals should evaluate their e-mail and determine whether it meets the legal definition of record: http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByChapter/Chapter_132.html


Basic Principles

  • E-mails are considered public records according to North Carolina Statute 132.  E-mail that is considered a record should be archived.
  • Use the retention schedule to determine the life cycle of records and therefore, how long you should keep them.
  • Records stored in folders on their hard drives or cloud servers should be preserved when employees retire, leave, or changes work occupation.
  • Do not use e-mail for confidential information or records, with the exception of unauthorized interception or encryption for security purposes.
  • Your e-mail is part of your job with no expectation of privacy or confidentiality to apply
  • You must not set up external or personal e-mail accounts to send e-mails from your official “appstate.edu” account.
  • In cases where an e-mail must be preserved for more than 10 years, including records going to the State Archives, consider printing the e-mail so that it may be retained.

What to keep

As official University Records, sent and received e-mail messages are evidence of university’s history, transactions, and activities. For e-mail sent by employees, the record copy of an e-mail is usually the creator’s original message. When an e-mail is received by an employee, the record copy is usually the one received by the primary addressee. In cases when e-mail has been replied to multiple times, the record copy is typically the last e-mail in the case that all previous messages are included. Just as it does when the communication is transmitted on paper, the content of an electronic message determines its status.


“File It”

  • If it issues policy
  • If it states decisions
  • If it outlines procedures
  • If it shows action
  • If it gives guidance
  • If it’s unique
  • If you’re not sure


“Toss It”

  • Travel reservations
  • Appointment confirmations
  • Personal messages
  • Transmits other documents without comment


Record life cycle and "life span"

Each organization, office, or isolated individuals should determine how long to keep which records based on its particular mission and legal, financial, and regulatory requirements. Considering e-mail messages and attachments as one document, or record, retention decisions can be based off three main categories: zero value, limited value, and enduring value.  The first category, e-mails with no value are retained only up to thirty days.  For the second category, e-mails with limited value are retained indefinitely.  For the third category, e-mails with enduring value are retained permanently.


Electronic Record Retention

  • In place of paper copies, electronic records must be contained in permanent electronic folders.
  • Electronic records must be accessible and retrievable through indexing.
  • Electronic records should be noted and tracked through the office Records Schedule.
  • Should the employee transfer or change employment status from the University, electronic records must be transferred to other office files.



Additional information about handling email can be found through the UNC Libraries Email Management Workshop tutorial: