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University Archives Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Why should I do this?
  2. What is an archives?
  3. What does the archives do? 
  4. Why does the archives do this?
  5. Given the current state of the CSU budget, how do you justify spending money on this?
  6. How much will this cost my department/college/unit?
  7. What materials do you want?
  8. But this is our stuff, why should we give it to you?
  9. Can I get the materials of our department/college/unit if we need to see/use it?
  10. Will you digitize our stuff?
  11. How much work is this for me?
  12. What is the Records Transfer Authorization Form?
  13. Definitions

1.  Why should I do this?

CSUN's University Archives is the official repository for the historical inactive records of the campus that have enduring administrative, legal, or research value.

The authority for Special Collections & Archives to collect records of historical value is derived from Chancellor’s Office Executive Order 1031, section IV, dated February 2008 stating that each campus must:

  • Formally designate an official campus custodian(s) for each type of record who will be responsible for:
    • Assuring that the campus is operating in compliance with the California State University records/information retention and disposition schedules.
    • Identifying records/information that may have historic or vital value for the campus.
  • Ensure that the designation of a vital record/information is consistent with the campus’ business continuity plans (per Executive Order 1014 http://www.calstate.edu/EO/EO-1014.html).
  • Establish procedures regarding the modification of retention and disposition schedules, as needed, to incorporate records unique to each campus. These schedules must be published by the campus and copies are to be provided to the Office of the Chancellor, upon request.

Further, from Delegation of Authority EO1031: Retention and Deposition of CSUN University Archives and Records Memorandum from Dianne F. Harrison, President, CSUN dated November 1, 2018:

The Dean of the Library (or his/her designee) is hereby charged with assuring that CSUN is operating in compliance with the California State University records/information retention and disposition schedules, and with identifying records and information that may have historic or vital value for CSUN. Each year, the Dean (or his/her designee) will take the lead in convening campus stakeholders to ensure campus records of historical value are appropriately transferred to the University Archives.

As a part of these duties, the Dean or designee will establish procedures to modify the retention and disposition schedules to incorporate records unique to CSUN in the official University Archives. These schedules will be available to the campus community, with copies provided to the Office of the Chancellor upon request.

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2.  What is an archives?

There are several definitions of the word “Archives”

  1. Materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control; permanent records.
  2. The division within an organization responsible for maintaining the organization's records of enduring value.
  3. An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations; a collecting archives.
  4. The professional discipline of administering such collections and organizations.
  5. The building (or portion thereof) housing archival collections.

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3.  What does the archives do? 


Take legal and physical custody of records or other materials and to formally document their receipt noting the records' date, title, bulk, condition, transferring office or donor, conservation needs, and access restrictions—when records come into the archives.

Arrangement and Physical Processing

Making sure materials are in a comprehensible order, are physically stable (this includes removing rubber or metal fasteners, producing stable surrogates when necessary (ex. photocopying news print, stabilizing photographic materials, basic paper repair, etc.), checking for and redacting Personally Identifying Information (PII), and rehousing in archival storage containers.

Make available for use

Create a finding aid, a single document placing materials in context by consolidating information about the collection including provenance; administrative history or biographical note; scope of the collection, including size, subjects, media; organization and arrangement; and an inventory of the series and the folders. This finding aid will then be made available in the Online Archive of California and in the library’s catalog allowing faculty, staff, students, and other users access to the materials.

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4.  Why does the archives do this?

Often records are banished to boxes in a back room, or simply tossed periodically without review. In other instances, staff continually reinvent the wheel because crucial "institutional memory" is lost. The goal of the University Archives is to preserve institutional memory and support the teaching and research needs of faculty, staff, and students as well as the larger community. Together, these materials document the events, functions, roles, and activities that comprise California State University, Northridge and its unique and vibrant community and provide a rich source for historical research and support for current administrative needs.

Examples of recent use of these materials include a journalist looking for information about Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner, a former member of the CSUN Tennis team looking for anything about the team that he was a part of, a published pictorial history of the campus published by two members of the faculty, and several members of the CSUN community looking into Section F of the GE requirements.

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5. Given the current state of the CSU budget, how do you justify spending money on this?

Personnel and budget for the University Archives are already part of the library's operating budget.

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6. How much will this cost my department/college/unit?

Your cost will be limited to staff and/or student assistant time required to pack materials, create box lists, and fill out appropriate paperwork (we will review this paperwork later in this document.)

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7. What materials do you want?

Inactive records* commonly transferred to the University Archives include:      

  • Constitutions and bylaws, minutes and proceedings, (meeting) transcripts, lists of officers of University corporate bodies.
  • Office Files: correspondence and memoranda (incoming and outgoing) and subject files concerning projects, activities, and functions.
  • Historical files documenting policies, decisions, committee and task force reports, and questionnaires.
  • Publications: one record copy of all newsletters, journals, brochures, monographs, programs, posters, and announcements issued by the University or its subdivisions; the University Archives should be placed on college, department, and office mailing lists to receive all future publications.
  • Audiovisuals: photographs, films, sound, and video recordings.
  • Personal papers of students, faculty, and staff that relate to CSUN's work.

All information formats are appropriate for consideration for transfer including unique manuscripts, microforms, photographs, maps, charts, drawings, film/video, and electronic records maintained in magnetic or optical formats such as databases, e-mail, CDs and DVDs, videotapes, audiotapes, computer tapes and discs, and word processing documents. Early consultation with the Special Collections and Archives Librarian or University Archivist is encouraged for such materials.

*Note that inactive records are defined as “Records that are no longer used in the day-to-day course of business, but which may be preserved and occasionally used for legal, historical, or operational purposes.”

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8. But this is our stuff, why should we give it to you?

Records created or received in the course of work for CSUN belong to the University. Transferring them to the University Archives does not change ownership, only custodianship. Unfortunately attempts to collect university records have historically been neglected in favor of development in other areas. Rather than seek out relevant material, the collecting of university records has been dependent upon the interest, time, and energy of those transferring materials to the archives. This haphazard approach has resulted in the loss of archival materials pertaining to the history and development of the university over the past sixty years resulting in gaps in the record.  

The library has a professional and paraprofessional staff whose education and work experience make them uniquely qualified to care for historical records in multiple formats. All archivists at CSUN have earned Master of Library Science degrees and have been working in the archival field for several years.

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9. Can I get the materials of our department/college/unit if we need to see/use it?

Although materials will be unavailable to researchers before archival processing occurs, they will be available to staff and faculty from the office of origin. Materials will be made available in the Special Collections & Archives reading room located on the second floor of the library during our regular operating hours (https://library.csun.edu/Services/ServiceDeskHours).

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10. Will you digitize our stuff?

Budget constraints make digitization unlikely. If additional money were made available for the purpose of digitization, management of that process would fall to the Digital Services Librarian.

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11. How much work is this for me?

The initial outlay of time for the first material transfer varies depending on how much material is transferred. Subsequent transfers generally take less time.

The Transfer Process

  • Physical Records: Once records are approved for transfer, make sure to maintain them in the order that they are filed. Remove records from hanging files and binders and place them in standard file folders, labeled in pencil. Place loose documents in file folders. Should you need supplies (boxes and/or file folders) for this purpose please contact Special Collections & Archives. These supplies can be delivered to your office.
  • Digital Records: Contact Special Collections and Archives for access to an external hard drive for records transfer. Drag files from the highest available folder in the directory that contain only the files to be archived. This preserves not only the files, but the order in which they have been kept and organized by the creator/donor. Example: If you are donating all files within the "My Documents" folder, then drag the entire "My Documents" folder to the drive. When finished, please EJECT the drive from the tray or directory prior to disconnecting the drive.

Complete a Records Transfer Authorization form. Create a container list for each carton, noting its number, folder numbers, folder titles, and date spans. Please spell out all abbreviations and acronyms. Submit an electronic version of the container lists to the University Archivist. Save a copy for your own records. You will be contacted to schedule a convenient pick-up date and time. A printed copy of the signed transfer form and the carton lists should accompany the transfer. We recommend and prefer annual or biannual transfers.

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12. What is the Records Transfer Authorization Form?

Please take special note of the “Restrictions” sections of the Records Transfer Authorization form. This is a mandatory field.

Statutory restrictions refer to those imposed by law, such as: 

  • Medical information subject to HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996);
  • Educational information subject to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) requirements;
  • and Personnel records under the California Public Records Act.

Examples of other commonly restricted information includes but is not limited to social security numbers, passport numbers, financial account numbers, and other Personally Identifiable Information (or PII).

Please also note that this form should be signed by the Head of the College, Department, or Administrative Unit.

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Enduring Value: The continuing usefulness or significance of records, based on the administrative, legal, fiscal, evidential, or historical information they contain, justifying their ongoing preservation.

Record: Data or information in a fixed form that is created or received in the course of individual or institutional activity and set aside (preserved) as evidence of that activity for future reference.

Repository: A place where things can be stored and maintained; a storehouse.

Inactive Records: Records that are no longer used in the day-to-day course of business, but which may be preserved and occasionally used for legal, historical, or operational purposes.

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