Workshops: Workshop Handouts

Sample Filing System Policies and Procedures

Explaining the Sample Procedures Manual

Procedures manuals for any records management function help you remember the guidelines you set up in the first place for any procedure. People sometimes believe that procedures manuals are a bureaucratic waste of time that serve no useful purpose, but such manuals can help you remember the rules you developed while embarking on a certain project and can be an easy way for you to communicate these rules to others.

The following procedures manual is meant as a sample only. Do not feel compelled to follow each of the decisions codified within this manual, but use these as guidelines to see what kind of information may be important for you to include in your own manual. You need to develop a manual to suit your particular needs and the range of your own records management program.

Also, keep in mind that you can use any numbering system you want for this manual-including none at all. You can include whatever parts of this sample manual seem useful to you and exclude the rest. You can develop your manual with any style that seems useful and usable to you. And you can make your manual as long or short as you see necessary, because you are making the decisions for your own program.

Explaining the Manual's Entries

The following procedures manual is merely a sample, but for you to know best what to do with it you need to understand the conventions that it follows. Below are explanations of the various fields that occur in each of the manual's entries, along with a brief description of the information these fields contain and a few notes on how you might use these fields.

Number: The unique number for that section

This sample manual uses a consistent numbering system. You may decide to do away with a numbering system altogether.

Title: The topic for that section of the manual

Titles help the user understand the information in the manual more quickly.

The titles of each section are italicized to make them easy to spot on the page.

Date: Date that section was approved

This manual doesn't include dates, but dates are important because they help you distinguish an obsolete entry from a current entry. Some manuals also include a field that includes the first date any entry was approved, which allows you to see when that entry (in any form) was first approved. We did not include dates in this sample manual but encourage you to include them in any manual you produce.

Purpose: The purpose for this section or this policy

Some manuals include the purpose as a separate field in each entry of the manual. This manual doesn't explicitly include such a field. Think of the purpose field as an explanation for why you needed this policy in the first place. You should use it to explain the necessity of any policy in the manual.

Exhibits: Any attachments needed to clarify the policy, including sample forms, illustrations, and lists

This manual assumes that all exhibits are filed in the appendices to the manual. Note that the manual mentions whenever there is such an attachment.

Procedure: The procedures to follow for that policy

Along with the title and date fields, this is one of the most important fields to include in any procedures manual. This field isn't specifically labeled in this manual, but the procedure consists of a description of the actual steps someone must follow for an established policy.

V.1 Active Filing Systems

V.1.1 Files Management Practices

To help ensure that records in town offices are well organized and record retrieval is quick and easy, town departments should follow some basic file management practices:

  1. Use the same size and type of folder consistently
  2. Use guides or dividers to separate files into sections
  3. Use hanging folders as guides only, filing other folders within them
  4. Label file folders with typed labels
  5. Maintain a file list of any subject files
  6. Use color coding whenever possible
  7. Purge files regularly (at least annually)

V.1.2 Files Management Don'ts

  1. Don't file a piece of paper unless you have to
  2. Avoid using legal size folders
  3. Don't overfill folders; instead, break a file into more than one folder
  4. Never transfer hanging folders to record storage cartons

V.1.3 Coordinating Filing Rules for Electronic and Paper Files

When naming electronic files, town offices should, whenever possible, make sure that the filenames for the electronic files mirror those for the paper files. This will ensure that users will be able to retrieve from paper or electronic files easily.

V.1.4 Purchase of Filing Equipment

Equipment is expensive and should not be purchased unless these tools will help manage the information so much better that they repay or justify their costs.

All purchase requisitions that include records storage equipment and supplies must be sent to the town clerk for review and written authorization prior to submittal to Purchasing.

Records storage items include alkaline archival storage boxes, file cabinets, map cabinets, high-density mobile storage systems, micrographics equipment, microform readers and reader/printers, and shelving. Any questions regarding whether a particular item falls into this category should be directed to the records management officer.

V.1.5 File Folders

The Town of North Haverbrook shall use only letter size file folders. All efforts shall be made to use only letter size paper as well. Legal size folders and paper will be avoided.

V.1.6 Rules for Alphabetic Filing

Last Name First: In the case of personal names, each part of a person's name is a separate unit. The units are alphabetized in this order: last name, first name or initial, and middle name or initial (if any).

Nothing Comes Before Something: When filing, town employees should follow the rule that nothing comes before something. For instance, a title having a single letter comes before a title having a word that begins with the same letter, and a name of one word comes before a name with the same word plus one or more other words. For example: "G" comes before "Green"; "Green" comes before "Greene"; "Green Stores" comes before "Greene" (since the space between "Green" and "Stores" is counted as a character).

Abbreviations: If abbreviations are used in titles, alphabetize them as written.

Hyphenated Names: Hyphenated names of people or businesses are alphabetized as one unit.

Numerals: When numerals appear in a title, they should be alphabetized before any letters.

Punctuation: Ignore apostrophes and other punctuation when alphabetizing.

V.1.7 Subject Files

Any department that maintains a subject file should develop a uniform filing system for the records series that organizes the records by subject.

To develop a subject filing system, first evaluate the current system and its subjects:

  1. Identify obsolete subjects
  2. Identify redundant subjects
  3. Identify missing subjects

Then, working with the users of the current filing system, develop a preliminary subject filing structure that outlines.

  1. Main subjects
  2. Related secondary subjects

Avoid subject headings such as "Forms," "Correspondence," and "Reports," which indicate the format of the information rather than its content.

After finalizing a preliminary filing structure, use it to convert the current system.

Coordinate any necessary changes to the filing structure during the conversion.

Finally, develop a complete description of the filing structure and instructions on how to use the filing system and make these available to all users.

V.1.8 File Plans

The Town of North Haverbrook will develop and maintain file plans for large active filing systems (such as subject files and case files) that require especially detailed controls. These manuals (available in the Appendices VIII.3) may include

  1. Responsibilities
  2. Steps in establishing a file
  3. What records to include in a file
  4. File order of records
  5. Updating files
  6. Retention periods for various records
  7. Purging rules
  8. Access restrictions
  9. Records storage
  10. Disposition
  11. File list (of all files in the series)

V.1.9 Filing Structure for Local Area Network

For details of the Town of North Haverbrook's filing structure for its Local Area Network, see the LAN itself.

At its highest level, the town's LAN will include public storage space. This level includes

  • General town records that are public and open to all town offices

Next down will be department storage space and workspace used for individual departments to carry out their work. Stored at this level will be

  • Records and information that have not been completed and are being developed on by individual departments
  • Records and information that are not public and must be maintained by individual departments

At the next level down, the town's LAN includes personal workspace (the individual employee's personal computer). Stored at this level are

  • Files that are being developed by individual employees and that are not yet completed

V.1.10 Production of Indexes to Records

For some records (such as case files) that require detailed indexes to ensure that users can find all information they are searching for, the Town of North Haverbrook may develop an index to these records.

The town clerk's office shall work with individual departments to make sure that these indexes contain the appropriate fields and design to provide the access that users require. These indexes shall always be electronic indexes developed as databases.

Return to Files Management workshop handouts