Open Records in Virginia

Public records in the state of Virginia are governed by the Virginia Public Records Act.


How Virginia Defines a Public Record
The Virginia Public Records Act describes a public record in the following way:

“Public record” or “record” means recorded information that documents a transaction or activity by or with any public officer, agency or employee of an agency. Regardless of physical form or characteristic, the recorded information is a public record if it is produced, collected, received or retained in pursuance of law or in connection with the transaction of public business. The medium upon which such information is recorded has no bearing on the determination of whether the recording is a public record.

It also describes records retention and disposition as it relates to public records:

“Records retention and disposition schedule” means a Library of Virginia-approved timetable stating the required retention period and disposition action of a records series. The administrative, fiscal, historical, and legal value of a public record shall be considered in appraising its appropriate retention schedule.

When it comes to social media, the Library of Virginia has also released a short guide that outlines how social media content relates to public records. It states that:

If posts are made or received in connection with the transaction of the agency’s public business (such as providing advice on or receiving comments about the agency, its programs, core business, etc.), then they are public records and need to be retained for their full retention period.


Social Media Guidance Documents
For quick insight into social media public record laws, the Library of Virginia’s Records Management Tips: Records Management and Social Networking Sites is a very useful resource.

The Library of Virginia’s website section on records management also offers valuable electronic records guidelines.

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