How long should the library retain employee records, payroll records, sales and purchase records, mortgage and loan documents, and other records
Several considerations impact the answer to this question:
For a public library, the bare minimum record retention periods are found in a document called "the LGS-1." The LGS-1 has rules for retention covering everything from your library's charter, to how long you hold onto circulation records.
For an association library, which does not have to follow the LGS-1, those retention rules in the LGS-1 are a good baseline, but you have a bit more latitude.
However, no matter what baseline a library or other cultural organization chooses to adopt, it is good to keep in mind that required retention periods are routinely extended by things like:
In addition, while it can't be considered a formal "retention period", documents are also "retained" by institutions simply due to a tendency to hoard records. At times, this can be a healthy tendency (like when letters from a first grade class from 1945, written to thank the local library for a story hour, are found in moisture-resistant storage, and they are turned into an exhibit). Other times, it is not so healthy (like when borrower records from 5 years prior are accessed during a burglary or hack).
For a large library (or museum, or other cultural institution) with robust funding and a large staff, "records management" per the LGS-1 or a customized "record retention policy" is often part of a person’s (or department's) job description--and is supported in the annual budget. For a smaller library (or museum, or other cultural institution) with less-than-robust funding, and a smaller staff, "records management" is often an afterthought. This can cause complications when the records pile up, and there is no person--or budget--to sort through them and make sure they are properly retained/purged.
But this question is about retention periods, not the drama they can cause! So here is the answer:
For the types of records mentioned in the question ("employee records, payroll records, sales and purchase records, mortgage and loan documents"), the retention periods vary; some are "permanent", and others are as short at 6 years. The LGS-1 (which will pop up when you search "LGS-1") will give you the breakdown.
For an association library that doesn't want to follow the precise requirements of the LGS-1, but still wants a retention policy, below is a model policy.
Thank you for submitting an important question!
[ABC] ASSOCIATION LIBRARY
RECORD RETENTION AND DISPOSAL POLICY
Items in yellow are to be changed or removed
The ABC Library retains and disposes of records as required by law, contracts, and based on the board's determination of what is in the operational best interests of the Library.
I. Records are retained as follows:
-Association Library Charter, bylaws, Plan(s) of Service, Annual Reports: PERMANENT
-All records made available per the Open Meetings Law: PERMANENT
-Contracts: (includes leases, mortgages, loan documents, vendor contracts, employee benefit contracts, warrantees, use of independent contractors): Seven years after termination of all obligations and rights created by contract; in some cases, PERMANENT. See "Archives."
-Employee-related: Seven years after termination of employee. See "Archives."
NOTE: This will be impacted by an association library's union contracts, employee manual provisions, and employee-related policies; check these documents to ensure consistency.
-Fiscal & Financial: Seven years, unless the relevant fiscal policy, document or transaction it is related to requires longer. See "Archives."
-Records pertaining to library operations (based on the LGS-1 to ensure consistency with non-association libraries in the XYZ Library System):
-Accession records: 1 year after accessioning procedure becomes obsolete
NOTE: Some libraries accession manuscripts, rare books and special collections, but not their general library holdings. In these cases, the accession records need to be retained only for the kinds of materials still accessioned.
-Informational copies of records prepared by and received from public library system, including but not limited to directories, minutes, budgets and reports: 0 after superseded or obsolete
-Directory of public library system and member libraries, prepared by public library system (member library's copy): 0 after superseded or obsolete
-Library card application records: 3 years after card expires or is inactive
-Borrowing or loaning records: 0 after no longer needed
-Interlibrary loan records, including requests to borrow or copy materials from other libraries, receipts for materials, copy logs, accounting records, and circulation records
a) When no copies of original materials are requested: 0 after no longer needed
b) When copies of original materials are requested: 5 years after order is completed
-Catalog of holdings
a) Manuscript or published catalog: PERMANENT
b) Continuously updated catalog: 0 after superseded or obsolete
-Individual title purchase requisition which has been filled or found to be unfillable: 1 year
-Records documenting selection of books and other library materials:
0 after no longer needed
-Library material censorship and complaint records, including evaluations by staff, patrons' complaints and record of final decision: 6 years after last entry NOTE: Appraise these records for historical significance prior to disposition. Some library censorship records deal with serious constitutional issues and may have value for future research.
-Patron's registration for use of rare, valuable or restricted non-circulating materials: 6 years
-Program and exhibit file documenting planning and implementation of programs, services and exhibits sponsored or co-sponsored by the library, including but not limited to photographs, sketches, worksheets, publicity, brochures, exhibit catalogs, inventory lists, loan agreements, correspondence, attendance sheets or registration forms, and parental consent forms:
a) Parental consent records: 6 years, or 3 years after child attains age 18, whichever is longer
NOTE: Photo release records are covered under item no. 68 in General Administration section. Local Government Schedule (LGS-1) Library/Library System
b) Attendance sheets and registration forms, when no fee is charged: 0 after no longer needed
c) All other records: 6 years after exhibit closed or program ended
NOTE: Appraise these records for historical significance or value for collections documentation prior to disposition. Some of these records may have continuing value for historical or other research and should be retained permanently. Contact the State Archives for additional advice
II. Records are disposed of as follows:
At the end of the retention period, physical copies are purged via shredding as their retention period expires.
At the end of the retention period, electronic records are routinely disposed of by [insert input from your IT professional].
Prior to purging, all records of the Library are appraised for historical significance or value for collections documentation prior to disposition. Some of these records may have continuing value for historical or other research and should be retained permanently. Records retained permanently due to historic or research value are designated as "Archives."
 For more "Ask the Lawyer" on the LGS-1, see https://www.wnylrc.org/ask-the-lawyer/raqs/253. The 2022 version of the LGS-1 was, as of April 11, 2022, found here: http://www.archives.nysed.gov/common/archives/files/lgs-1-2022.pdf.
 I know library systems are very good about ensuring borrower records are purged from ILS once they are no longer needed, as authorized by the LGS-1. This is just an extreme example to make my point.
 For more information on appropriate ways to dispose of physical copies, visit http://www.archives.nysed.gov/common/archives/files/mr_pub41.pdf.
Tags: Accessibility, Archives, Employee Rights, LGS-1, Policy, Record Retention, Templates