Records Management

A. Introduction

Many college and university archival programs include records management. This section outlines basic considerations and components of records management programs either within or organizationally separate from archival programs. See also the suggested readings in Appendix II.

B. Records Management Objectives

  • Protect institutional information resources throughout their life cycle. This includes complying with state and federal laws and regulations, identifying vital records, and implementing strategies for preserving information and records of long-term value.
  • Improve the flow of information in the organization.
  • Establish a records management component in institutional information resource policy and planning.
  • Provide for adequate data collection and information access and retrieval; including institutional positions on privacy and confidentiality.

C. A Policy Statement:

  • defines what "record" means within the context of the institution's mission and administrative rules, state and federal laws;
  • specifies ownership of institutional records;
  • designates records management responsibilities and roles in areas such as systems development and maintenance, information architecture design, and standards development;
  • defines records management roles and responsibilities at all levels of the institution;
  • indicates how to develop, approve and implement retention and disposition policies and who will do them;
  • explains how to provide internal and external access to institutional records and information; this policy should address state and federal laws that may be appropriate, especially privacy and open records laws, as well as institutional administrative rules;
  • specifies policies and practices that will make wise use of information technology to ensure the right tools for the right applications.

D. Organizational Relationships

The administrative relationships must facilitate a systems approach to records management; i.e., analyze and appraise all components of an information systems as a unit. This approach requires coordinated and cooperative organizational relationships to bring together and address the needs of the records creator, information technology staff, records management, archives and others. Organizational relationships should:

  • provide authority for program staff to operate on an institution-wide basis including authority for the archivist/records manager to negotiate directly with campus offices regarding all facets of the records management program;
  • ensure access to appropriate campus offices and staff;
  • include a working relationship with campus legal and audit staffs;
  • foster effective working relationships with information technology staffs and others involved in information policy and planning and systems design;
  • provide a structure for cooperation and communication between the institution's archival and records management program personnel, in cases where the records management program is organizationally separate from the Archives.

E. An Advisory Body Can:

  • provide guidance to the records manager;
  • promote greater institutional support for records management program activities;
  • act as the policy approval and advocacy body in the review and approval of institutional records retention and disposition schedules and standards.

Appropriate members of this body include: the institution's archivist and records manager; along with representatives from legal services, internal audit, each of the major organizational units, and the institution's information technology unit.

F. Components of a Records Management Program May Include:

  • policy and procedure development;
  • records inventory, appraisal, retention, and disposition;
  • inactive files management and control (records center);
  • helping develop or dealing with digital information systems, data collection (forms management), management of active files, correspondence, reprographics, micrographics, reports, mail, and vital records; and establishing training and outreach programs.

Fundamental areas of a basic records management program include:

1. Policy and procedure development.

Policies should provide authority and define parameters of the program, define relationships with other institution units (See C. above), and denote levels of responsibility and services provided. The records manager/archivist should produce a records management manual to specify the institution's records program policies and procedures.

2. A records retention and disposition program.

a) Inventory and appraise records to gather basic information about the organization's records to facilitate records appraisal, to establish retention and disposition schedules, to achieve economies in the storage and disposition of inactive records, and to identify the institution's vital records.

b) Develop schedules to define retention and disposition responsibilities. During the schedules' development, they must incorporate legal, audit, administrative and historical values of the institution's records and information. The archivist should consult the institution's legal counsel and internal auditor while reviewing or approving these schedules. This review can be the responsibility of the advisory group described in D. above.

c) Records managers/archivists can use a variety of methods to implement retention and disposition policies.

—Make them available to those in the working offices; i.e., office administrative staffs.
—Publicize them using the most accessible communication vehicle; e.g., administrative manuals, Web pages or other online communication technologies.
—Share retention and disposition policies with information technology staffs and with those responsible for the institution's information resource planning.
—Implementation should also include provision for periodic audits and reviews to insure that the retention policies are up to date and that campus offices are implementing them appropriately.

3. Data collection/forms management.

  • Systems analysis and design should improve information flow, ensure that data collection supports the business applications of the organization, streamline data collection instruments and systems, enhance the use of collected data, ensure that state and federal rules and regulations regarding data collection are satisfied, and select appropriate tools for data collection.
  • Forms and inventory control should maintain control of official institutional forms and document revisions to them, eliminate duplicate forms, ensure that all forms representing the institution have been officially approved, and control printing supplies and costs.
  • Increasingly, institutions will purchase e-forms (electronic forms) software packages to support institutional processes. These packages, while useful, greatly encourage the proliferation of unofficial forms. The records manager should be involved in the development of specifications for software, so that the objectives in place for paper forms will also be applied to the electronic systems. This involvement will also help appropriately define official records and deal with retention and disposition issues during the design process.

4. Active records management.

  • Develop filing systems and file naming standards. The records manager/archivist should be prepared to provide advice on types of filing systems appropriate for particular types of processes and records. Some institutions may request the development of file naming standards to support electronic filing systems.
  • Deal with electronic information management systems. Adequate protection of institutional information resources and appropriate management of them throughout their life cycle can only be accomplished effectively by the early involvement of records professionals in the systems development phase. Records manager/archivists should be knowledgeable/keep abreast of technological developments in this area on their campuses and maintain ongoing involvement in information systems' growth and development.
  • Supervise filing supplies and storage equipment. The records manager/archivist should have the authority to recommend types of file equipment purchases that will support uniformity of filing practices and to request justification for the purchase of highly specialized filing systems.
  • Assist with micrographics/imaging. Many colleges and universities maintain micrographics operations; imaging and workflow systems are becoming more prevalent. They can be effective tools to reduce bulk and to preserve information stored on fragile media. If not a part of the institutional archives or records management program, a working relationship must be established and maintained with such operations or systems.

5. Inactive records management.

  • Records center management ensures the protection, access and retrieval of institutional records until their retention value has been met. It includes accession and inventory control, security and access provisions, and environmental controls.
  • The records manager should work with the data manager and information technology staff to ensure the retention of electronic data in accordance with retention and disposition policies and that data remain accessible and retrievable throughout their life cycle.
  • Records disposition ensures the destruction of records in accordance with approved retention policies, appropriate handling of confidential materials, the end of all activity on the records, and the transfer of records designated for permanent preservation to the institution's archives.

6. Training and outreach program.

To be effective, the records manager/archivist will have to rely on others in the institution to assist in carrying out the objectives of the records management program. The training and outreach program should:

  • regularly provide workshops and other training which outline basic program policies and procedures and office responsibilities;
  • establish a system of records liaisons/coordinators within the major units of the institution to serve as basic contacts for the records management program;
  • use other tools which may be helpful, e.g., articles in campus newsletters, brochures on various records management topics, and electronic communication technologies to inform and educate the campus community about the records program.