Records management

What is Records Management?

Records Management is another name for ways of organising your information, whether it is held on paper or electronically. Records Management aims to control the creation, version control, distribution, filing, retention, storage and disposal of records.

What is a record?

Such things as:

  • paper files
  • emails
  • audiotapes
  • CCTV tapes
  • videos
  • raw data
  • electronic files
  • databases
  • photographs
  • microfiche

are all records if they record details of a business decision - in other words they document the decision - making process for administrative, legal, financial and historical purposes.

Examples of non-records are:

  • duplicates of official records
  • reference documents
  • documents relating to an individual's own, personal affairs

Why do I need Records Management?

The University's records are a corporate asset. They are important sources of administrative, evidential and historical information, and are vital to the University in its current and future operations. Records provide part of the corporate memory of the University and give awareness and understanding of its history and procedures.

Additionally, the University is expected to comply with several pieces of recent pieces of information legislation, such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. To do this correctly we need to have efficient and effective records management functions.

Any improvement will also bring organisational benefits such as:

  • better use of physical and server space
  • better use of staff time
  • improved control of valuable information resources
  • compliance with legislation and standards
  • reduced costs

Who is responsible for Records Management?

All University staff who create, receive and use records have records management responsibilities. Looking after the University's records is part of the day job, and if done properly will assist staff in their work.

The Special Collections in the Arts and Social Sciences Library on Tyndall Avenue houses the University College and University of Bristol collection, where University records with long-term research value are preserved and made available.

What does Records Management involve?

1. Find out what records you hold in the office / Department.
Do a survey of all the storage areas overseen by your office, and also all the cabinets and desks.
Look at your servers and find out what documents are held on your PCs and what has been burnt onto CDs or is held on microfiche / film.

2. Apply a Retention and Disposal Schedule (RDS).
An RDS lists every type of record the University creates and / or holds, and recommends how long the records should be kept for. Establishing a regular (perhaps annual) review against the RDS will help to ensure consistent and timely disposal.

Until the University compiles a Retention and Disposal Schedule of its own, please be guided by the generic Higher Education schedule compiled by JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee).

3. Manage your storage to ensure that records are accessible to staff.

Physical Storage Space

  • Make sure the filing system is easy to use and maintain.
  • Keep the storage space free from clutter.
  • Make sure the storage area is weatherproof and protected from flooding, fire and infestation.
  • Consider the security requirements of the files. Should they only be available to certain people? Do they need to be locked away?

Electronic Storage Space

  • Ensure that your shared drives are well organised.
  • Avoid meaningless file titles such as "John's files" or "miscellaneous / general".
  • Make sure that you save records where they can be accessed by your team if you are off sick, on holiday or absent from the office - store them on the shared drive.
  • Apply the Retention and Disposal Schedule in the same way as you would to your paper records.
  • Make sure that your electronic records are backed up - store them on the shared drive.

4. Identify historical records.
The JISC Retention and Disposal Schedule will identify some types of records that have a historical value and need to be preserved. Other types of records that have a historical value could be:

  • The minute books of Faculty Committees
  • The minute books of School Committees
  • Register of students
  • Financial records

Any possible historical records should not be destroyed once they cease to be useful to the business. Instead, contact the Archivist, Arts and Social Sciences Library on (0117) 331 7092.

Emails

  • There is currently no UK legislation that requires the retention of emails per se, though there are legal retention periods for certain types of information whether held in electronically or in hard copy.
  • Emails are records in the same way as paper documents are. An email, whether stored electronically or in hard copy, should be retained for the appropriate amount of time considering the subject of the email and the information contained within it.
  • Email inboxes should not be left to become unworkable through the volume of emails held in them.
  • Always bear in mind that an email could be retrieved after it has been deleted from your inbox.