I am a Trustee on the Board of our library. I also serve as the Secretary to the Board. As such, I do the note-taking and draft the meeting minutes for every board meeting. Do I need to retain my handwritten notes, once I have transcribed them into document format? If so, how long must they be kept and where? FYI, the minutes are drafted, approved by the Board, then uploaded to the library website where they are available to the public.
Thanks for your consideration. Much appreciated.
This question comes to "Ask the Lawyer" from a public library.
As quasi-governmental entities, public libraries must follow a precise array of law, regulations, and rules for record-keeping. We'll delve into that for those factors to answer this question.
What does that mean for association libraries, who can be a bit more free-wheeling in their records management? This answer doesn't (quite) apply to you, but stick around, we'll make it worth plowing through the next few paragraphs.
Governments and "quasi-governmental" entities, like public libraries, are subject to the requirements of Article 57-A of the New York "Arts and Cultural Affairs Law" ("57-A") which requires officers to "maintain records to adequately document the transaction of public business and the services and programs for which such officer is responsible."
57-A also gives the NY Commissioner of Education the right (and obligation) to set the period of retention for different types of records. The current collection of these retention periods is the LGS-1, on which "Ask the Lawyer" has written admiringly before.
The LGS-1 does have a specific section for libraries and library systems (rules #590-603, which every public library should be following), but it is silent on the topic of board meeting materials, which means that the more generic section 48, "Meeting files of governing body or board or agency, commission or committee thereof, including agendas, background materials and other records used at meetings" applies.
Rule 48 states that the retention period for "[t]emporary drafts or personal notes that were not circulated, reviewed, or used to make decisions or complete transactions" is ZERO "after no longer needed."
So: as long as the hand-written notes are considered a "temporary draft" or "personal notes" as part of the creation of the actual draft minutes (the retention of which is "PERMANENT" per Rule 47), they may be shredded after the draft minutes are typed up as described by the question.
BUT, I offer caution: if the hand-written draft minutes are used for any purpose other than to create an exact typescript version, including but not limited to interim decision-making before the next board meeting, or to inform the process of passing the official minutes, then they are transformed into something different than personal or temporary notes, and I advise they be retained together with the other permanently retained public library board meeting materials...which also makes them subject to FOIL.
Sounds complicated, right? Below is a poem to help you remember (association libraries, the last four lines are for you, too...I told you it would be worth sticking around):
A public library's records must stay
At the library per A and C Law 57-A;
The retention of those library records is done
For a period set by the LGS-1;
And the public can demand to see
Those records by asking for a FOIL copy.
Chartered libraries of any kind
The Open Meetings Law must mind
And the docs the board will see
Must be shared with the community.
In all of this, personal notes
turned into minutes per trustee votes
When no longer needed, can be disposed
...so long as notes were all they posed.
Hmm. Maybe it's just easier to read the law and rules? Just in case, I have put them below.
Thanks for a great question, and thank you for your service as a conscientious trustee and officer!
§ 57.25. Records retention and disposition
1. It shall be the responsibility of every local officer to maintain records to adequately document the transaction of public business and the services and programs for which such officer is responsible; to retain and have custody of such records for so long as the records are needed for the conduct of the business of the office; to adequately protect such records; to cooperate with the local government’s records management officer on programs for the orderly and efficient management of records including identification and management of inactive records and identification and preservation of records of enduring value; to dispose of records in accordance with legal requirements; and to pass on to his successor records needed for the continuing conduct of business of the office. In towns, records no longer needed for the conduct of the business of the office shall be transferred to the custody of the town clerk for their safekeeping and ultimate disposal.
2. No local officer shall destroy, sell or otherwise dispose of any public record without the consent of the commissioner of education. The commissioner of education shall, after consultation with other state agencies and with local government officers, determine the minimum length of time that records need to be retained. Such commissioner is authorized to develop, adopt by regulation, issue and distribute to local governments records retention and disposition schedules establishing minimum legal retention periods. The issuance of such schedules shall constitute formal consent by the commissioner of education to the disposition of records that have been maintained in excess of the retention periods set forth in the schedules. Such schedules shall be reviewed and adopted by formal resolution of the governing body of a local government prior to the disposition of any records. If any law specifically provides a retention period longer than that established by the records retention and disposition schedule established herein the retention period established by such law shall govern.
The "Meetings/Hearings" provisions from LGS-1
47 CO2 1, MU1 1, ED1 1, MI1
1 Official minutes and hearing transcripts of governing body or board, commission or committee thereof, including all records accepted as part of minutes: RETENTION: PERMANENT
48 CO2 3, MU1 3, ED1 3, MI1
Meeting files of governing body or board or agency, commission or committee thereof, including agendas, background materials and other records used at meetings
NOTE: Appraise these records for continuing administrative or historical value prior to disposition. Agendas may have continuing administrative value and may be useful for accessing information in unindexed minutes and for indexing those minutes. Other records prepared for or used at meetings may have administrative or historical value for documenting issues discussed at the meetings and referenced in the minutes.
See item no. 47, above, for records which are accepted as part of the minutes.
a Records not accepted as part of the minutes, including agendas, background materials and other records used at meetings: RETENTION: 1 year
b Temporary drafts or personal notes that were not circulated, reviewed, or used to make decisions or complete transactions: RETENTION: 0 after no longer needed
 I use "quasi-governmental" because public libraries fall into (and out of) different categories of "government" or "public" law depending on the legal issue. For instance, public libraries are subject to the Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL"), which is part of the Public Officers Law, but the board of trustees must also abide by the NY Not-For-Profit Corporation Law. There are good reasons for this, but it can make things complicated.
 Some people are fans of opera, or sports teams. I am a fan of meticulously categorized retention periods.