Records Retention Schedule for Wisconsin Public Libraries

On February 27, 2006, the Wisconsin Public Records Board approved this comprehensive Record Retention Schedule for Wisconsin's Public Libraries and Public Library Systems. The schedule may adopted and used after this Notification of Adoption is submitted and accepted by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Public Records Board.

The new general schedule, the first in the state for public libraries and library systems, establishes the timeframe for the disposal of records that are no longer required for administrative, financial, or legal purposes. Adopting the schedule will also enable the library to dispose of designated records without prior approval of Wisconsin Historical Society. Previously, only those public libraries that had filed individual retention schedules with the Public Records Board and obtained a waiver from the Wisconsin Historical Society were permitted to dispose of records without prior notification and approval.

An ad hoc group of stakeholders interested in establishing a records retention schedule for public libraries met throughout 2005 to develop the schedule. Similar records schedules from other states were reviewed and the group gratefully acknowledges the records retention schedule adopted by the State of Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries in January 2005 as the model for this Wisconsin schedule. The group is also grateful for the guidance and assistance of Steve Hirsch and the Wisconsin Public Records Board. But the schedule may not have come about without the impetus, tireless work, and coordination of Anita Taylor Doering, Archivist at the La Crosse Public Library, to whom the Wisconsin public library community owes its thanks.

Participants in the development of the schedule included:

Anita Taylor Doering, Chair
La Crosse Public Library

Sue Braden
Reference Librarian
Hedberg Public Library, Janesville

Mike Cross
Public Library Development Director
Division for Libraries and Technology (DLT)

John K. DeBacher
Public Library Admin. Consultant

Mary E. Dunn
Tomahawk Public Library

Virginia Fritzsch
Public Records Archivist
Wisconsin Historical Society

Steve Hirsch
Executive Secretary
Public Records Board

Julie A. Schmude
Administrative Services Coordinator
Winnefox Library System, Oshkosh

Virginia Schwartz
Milwaukee Public Library
Arts & Humanities Coordinator
Milwaukee Public Library

The draft schedule includes record types that are prevalent in public libraries, as opposed to general public administrative records which are addressed in other schedules. The draft schedule was presented at the October 2005 WLA Conference in the program "Throw Me a Life Rope: Records Retention Strategies for Public Libraries." Comments and suggestions for the draft schedule were reviewed through December 1, 2005. Questions about the records schedule may be submitted to Denise Anton Wright at or Anita Doering at

Libraries are advised to adopt the schedule even though they may not have all the records listed in it. The simplest course of action is for the library to adopt the retention schedule as it is presented. Alternately, a library may adopt the entire schedule, individual sections, or a modified version. A library may develop a schedule with different retention periods from those listed. But for records to be retained less than seven years, the library may not adopt a retention period shorter than that indicated in the schedule without the approval of the Public Records Board. A new schedule, or list of modifications, must be sent with the Notification Form. Specific library records can be listed in Section 9 of the schedule, "Miscellaneous Records." An adopted schedule becomes the library's policy for record retention, destruction, and local preservation.

A library board must first formally adopt the Record Retention Schedule , with or without modifications. Then, the Notification of Adoption can be completed and submitted, with two copies, to the State Archivist. Once the form is returned with approval of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Public Records Board, the library may dispose of records in accordance with the approved schedule.

Information on records retention and the Wisconsin State Historical Society's role in the process is available here.

The Wisconsin Department of Administration's Public Records Board has information here.

The Records Board also provides the General Schedules for public entities here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Libraries and Wisconsin's Public Records Law.