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Managing Your Records
The purpose of records management is to ensure proper handling of records throughout the records lifecycle, from creation to final disposition. You can learn more in our publication, The Records Lifecycle. Well-developed record management policies and procedures and retention schedules provide the framework for an effective records management program. An efficient records program allows staff to quickly locate, process, and distribute records.
The role of records managers are to assist the RMO in implementing, assessing, and continually improving the organization’s records management program. There are a number of basic activities that are part of everyday records management where you can help:
- creating records
- inventorying records
- retrieving records
- applying retention schedules
- storing records
- disposing of records
Records are created by everyone, every day, and in a variety of formats. Records document business transactions including the purchase of supplies and services, provision of services to customers, and payment of wages to employees. They may exist in paper, electronic, microfilm, audiovisual, or other formats. When creating records, you should use good quality media (particularly for records that have historical value), use non-proprietary formats or lossy compression for electronic records, and ensure that records are as accurate as possible.
Work with your RMO to document your creation activities in your records management policy and procedures.
It is important to know what records you have so that you can manage them well. A records inventory is a process that identifies and describes your organization’s records and matches them to existing retention schedules or storage locations. For electronic records, it also involves collecting data about the supporting information system.
For more information, see our Inventory webpage.
You can reduce staff time spent searching for records by properly filing, labeling or indexing them. Tools, such as indexes and file plans, help you to find and organize records. File plans provide the file structure and establish naming conventions for your records.
For more information, see our Active Records webpage.
Applying Retention Schedules
Retention schedules indicate the minimum length of time each record series needs to be maintained and what should happen once the retention period has been met. Retention periods are set based on the record’s legal, fiscal, administrative, or historical value. If you dispose of records following your retention schedule, you no longer have to produce those records when requested by a customer, colleague, auditor, or court.
For more information, see our Retention and Disposition Schedules webpage.
Records must be stored well to ensure that they remain accessible throughout their retention period and that historical records are preserved. Good storage practices include protecting the record or electronic media from physical damage, tampering, or unauthorized access. Frequently used records, or active records, are usually stored nearby, to make it easy for staff to retrieve them. Inactive records can be transferred to offsite storage to free up valuable office space.
For more information, see our Inactive Records webpage.
Disposing of Records
When the retention period has been met, it is best to promptly dispose of records. If you hold onto records longer, your organization must produce those records for legal actions and audit. Your organization will also incur costs for storing such records longer than it needs to. Disposition usually means destruction of records or permanent preservation for historically valuable records. Work with your RMO to ensure that records are properly disposed and documented.