Inventory and Planning: The First Steps in Records Management
Archives Technical Information Series #76
This publication replaces Guidelines for Planning and Conducting a Records Inventory (#24) and Guidelines for Planning Local Government Records Programs (#43).
A records inventory is the foundation of sound records management and is often the first step in establishing a records management program. An inventory provides the location, identification and description of all records series held by a local government or state agency whether the records are electronic, paper or other format. A completed inventory provides the type and quantity of records created and maintained by a local government or state agency.
Planning an inventory requires support from all who create or use records within an organization. Upper management and support staff should be informed about the purpose and timetable of the inventory. After visiting individual supervisors to explain the inventory process and how it will benefit each office, conduct the inventory by describing each records series (related records used and filed as a unit). Use one inventory worksheet per records series per location to ensure efficient access and retrieval of records after the inventory.
After completing the inventory worksheets, use the data collected to appraise the records and to create a needs assessment. Evaluate the records to determine their administrative, legal, historical and research value as well as factors which may be unique to a particular local government or state agency. The resulting needs assessment is a list of records management problems or issues based on data gathered from the inventory, discussions with staff, and observations and experience gained while conducting the inventory.
The records inventory, appraisal and needs assessment are the preliminary work for a records management plan. Any plan needs to address the present situation within an organization, what needs to be developed or changed, and how to implement the changes. Both short-term and long-term plans should be included in the overall plan. It may be useful to include a policy statement as a point of departure for the plan as well as to have a records advisory board in place to advise on developing and implementing the plan.
A sound records management program will provide the basis for responsible management by setting priorities, providing staff with common goals and ensuring the program will proceed according to established expectations. The program should include a plan that is clear, concise, realistic and practical, but flexible enough to meet an organization's unique needs.