Your first question is probably “what is an RDA?” The acronym RDA stands for Records Disposition Authorization. An RDA provides a formal statement of when a record can be destroyed and what authority serves as the basis for its destruction. This document can, however, be much more. A comprehensive RDA becomes a plan for the entire life of a record series from creation to final disposition. Among other things, a comprehensive RDA should include—
RDAs and the retention schedules differ in a number of ways. The retention schedules describe the various records of an office, state if a record is permanent, identify the minimum amount of time a temporary record must be kept and state a legal authority or rationale for that retention period. They generally do not tell you where to keep a record, how long the record may be in active use, and when a record can be moved to inactive storage or an archive. Those determinations are office-specific based on the resources available to you and the operating procedures of your office. The retention schedules will provide you with the foundation for writing your RDAs; but you are encouraged to consider them only a starting point. If your office handles a large number of records and a lot of people deal with them, consider putting more than the minimum into your RDAs.
RDAs are fundamental to an efficiently operating records management program in any office with a large volume of records. RDAs allow an official to summarize on a single form what records are out-dated and eligible for disposal, and then use that form to request permission from the County Public Records Commission to destroy. Such authorizations may be continuing, i.e. ready to use whenever records of a particular type have reached the end of their life-cycle and may be destroyed or placed in an archive. Once created, the RDA would only need periodic review to ensure that the plan you laid out for a group of records still makes sense and complies with your needs and any applicable legal requirements. Each office should have a set of RDAs that covers all the records it creates as well as older ones it inherits. (See the sample RDA Form developed by the Tennessee State Library and Archives This form may be copied and used to submit RDA’s to the records commission.)
The following general principles and considerations may be helpful in making decisions about how to manage your records. They are quoted verbatim from the Tennessee State Library and Archives Tennessee Archives Management Advisory entitled Appraisal and Disposition of Records.