Tools for Records Management
Here are some
managing paper and electronic records. In 1953 the
In general, records are created for persons to document policies, decisions and transactions. Records also keep the organization accountable to its constituency. After 5-10 years some records have value in telling the organization’s history and shaping its identity.
This work requires
management, discernment and custodianship. The guidelines are general
for a CEO to implement a records management system.
The tools are also specific enough for a
person to manage current, semi-active and historical records.
Appraisal of Current, Semi-active and Archival Records.
1. A key tool is managing and appraising records through their life cycle. This is from their creation to their active use to their ultimate disposition, either destruction or retention.
2. Current paper records have a life span of 1-3 years, and then are culled with important files transferred to semi-active status.
3. Transfer files into
uniform boxes, number them, and
place boxes at a location where they can be safely stored and easily
A list of the contents is maintained at the main desk.
4. Electronic e-mail records are organized into mailboxes and have a life span of 3 months-1 year.
5. After a year, e-mail needs to be weeded with the important mailboxes transferred to an electronic archives section. Mailbox names should include a date, for example: Event Files, 2003. One organization, MCC, has all cc: (carbon copies) automatically deposited into a department’s centralized mailboxes. A staff member is assigned to manage this material.
6. All other computer files need to be sorted annually. Names of folders and the overall organization should be reviewed and updated, with folders including inclusive dates.
7. Maintain an electronic archives on the computer, which is different than backup files.
8. All computer files should be burned onto a CD annually, with each CD clearly labeled for contents, department, person, date, and restrictions. This includes e-mail.
9. Semi-active paper records have a life span of 3-10 years. Then they are appraised to determine archival value. One can cull 60-75% of the individual files, keeping only samples, OR keep whole sets of important records, and identify those sets which can be destroyed.
10. Archiving by originating agency – It is expected that the organization which generated the official minutes or annual reports are responsible for their archiving. (For example, Mennonite Mutual Aid does not keep minutes of Mennonite Education Agency)
11. Electronic records
should also be reviewed in their
semi-active life cycle, maybe once every 3 years. Entire folders can be
destroyed, or one can pick out key files. Most of the work may involve
and organizing folders so one can easily find the archival records.
12. Archival records are those identified for long-term preservation and use, usually after 10 years. These files represent the memory of the organization, and are deposited at a regional archives. Before transferring materials to the archives, one may want to compare files being retained by the different departments, and do a final appraisal of the records. One should also become acquainted with where your organization’s vital records are kept, and what is already at the archives.
13. The main task is to list all the files that have been retained. Type the list on the computer, and include a short departmental history, a list of persons who served during this time period, and who archived them. Send this inventory to the archives, along with the files.
14. An inventory of
electronic records is just as important–
document what files were burned onto CDs, and include a history of the
department, etc., before sending to the archives.
Identifying Type, Function and Value of Records
15. Clearly identify the types or “series” of records in your office. Each set may be used for a different purpose. This series can include minutes, reports, program files, financial records, constitutions, bylaws, publicity materials, subject files, correspondence files regarding a certain project, case files, personnel files, membership records, photographs, videos, CDs, books, and artifacts. A set can include a single type, like minutes, or a mixture, like correspondence with receipts and invoices. Naming the sets helps to manage the records.
Computer records include the same types and “series” of materials, but in electronic form. Some of the language and formats are different, but the use of the records is the same.
16. Understand the function of each section of files in your office. Some records are used actively for the short term until a report has been generated, like invoices and receipts, which are then transferred to semi-active status state law allows for their destruction. Program files may be kept in the office until that particular project has been completed.
17. Terms used to
describe the different values of records
include administrative value, legal value, fiscal value, evidential
(evidence of activity), informational value, and intrinsic value. It is
values, along with a knowledge of the type and function of records,
decide how long to keep records, and their ultimate preservation and
Records Schedule and Survey
18. A records schedule is the place where one notes the decisions made on the disposition of each set of records. It indicates which files are kept for how long, and when they can be disposed of or sent to the archives.
Example: Indiana Public Schools Records Schedule, 1995
Administration – Financial Services
(No financial records may be destroyed until after audit completed, report filed and exceptions satisfied, per IC 5-15-6-3)
Record Type Retention Period Disposition
Audit report by State Board P Retain permanently
Automated financial data, stored Indefinite Until updated summary information
Bank Ledgers / Bank Account History Indefinite Destroy after 5 years and audit
Budget, Annual – record copy P Retain permanently
Comment: One change could be to retain annually an electronic copy of the automated financial data.
Records Retention and Disposal Schedule
Code Title Description Keep as Current Record Send to Archives Total
LOC.001 Administration Administrative Board or Council CY+1 Yes P
LOC.002 Annual Reports Annual Reports of the local church CY+2 No 3
LOC.003 Audio-Visual Audio and video tapes CY+9 Yes P
LOC.004.01 Banking Statements CY+3 No 4
The one change for
19. Take a survey of all the records found in your office, department, or entire organization. This is the best tool to develop a records schedule. Include name of office, types of records, dates of material, person in charge of the records, and how long to keep files in the office.
In the list, include all semi-active records found in filing cabinets, closets, and storage areas, and any permanent or archival records found in fireproof cabinets or a vault. This inventory acts as a bird’s eye view of the organization’s records, and at the same time manages records throughout their life cycle.
One can then show this
inventory to persons within the organization, and to the
Here are some additional suggestions
20. In its report to
Nashville 2001, the Data Policy
Committee of Mennonite Church USA recommended “implementing and
policies” and “archiving electronic materials.” This committee meets
and would be a good place to bring one’s surveys and schedules of
electronic records found in each organization. (Contact recording
Kathyrn Rodgers, Mennonite Church USA Great Lakes Office,
21. Conversion from older
formats into newer software and
hardware continues to be a challenge. The Historical Committee and Data
Committee are committed to the long-term retention and use of
Who, What, Where, When, Why and How
22. Four persons remain key, although all persons in an organization aid in this task. The initiative and support of the CEO is crucial for a records management system.
23. Naming a records manager, and giving that person time each week to come up with practical ways to manage records throughout their life cycles, is important.
24. Since the computer network already links persons with each other, and provides some centralized filing, the information technology (IT) person is key to aiding in this management of electronic and paper records.
25. The archivist is the fourth person who helps appraise and determine value of records. This person can see how certain records have long-term value and use, not only for the administration of a task, but in the history of the organization and church.
26. The mission statement of the Historical Committee provides one response to “why”:
God calls us to preserve our heritage, to interpret our faith stories,
and to proclaim God’s work among us. (Revised 2002)
27. Collaboration between
the agency and the archives is a key ingredient. Annual meetings and
visits can test how best to manage records and if schedules aid in the
regular destruction and retention of records. This may also help answer
the questions of what, where and when. Standard archival agreements
between the organization and the Historical Committee can also act as
the support base for this work.
Minding Mennonite Memory www.mcusa-archives.org
Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee and Archives - Goshen and North Newton
Dennis Stoesz, Archivist, April 30, 2004 (File: "RecordsManagement2004FourPages.doc")
Created by: Aaron Lehman 5/07/04