Planning for Records Management

The goal of a successful records management program is to control efficiently and economically the active materials in an office and dispose of inactive records in a sensible and systematic way. Records management programs are based on the idea of the life cycle of records. This idea is explained in the previous section: Principles of Records Management.

Participating in the University records management program enables offices to work more efficiently, and saves time, money, and resources. The first step is to determine if the current filing system meets the needs of the office. The Archives staff is available to consult with office staff about their filing systems and needs. For more information about this service, contact Joan Krizack, University Archivist at x8318 or j.krizack@neu.edu.

A preliminary way for office staff to determine if the current system meets their needs is to consider the following questions:

  • What types of records are generated by the office?
    • Which are being stored as active files?
    • Are these records necessary for conducting daily office business?
    • Could less frequently used materials be stored elsewhere?
  • Is retrieval an issue?
    • Are files found quickly?
    • Are lost files a problem?
    • How many people file/retrieve records?
  • Who uses the office records?
    • How are they used?
    • What type of access do users need?

An organized and standardized system that minimizes duplication and misfiling is economical in that it saves time during initial retrieval, prevents losing files and filing duplicate records. An efficient filing system, records classification system, and appropriate filing equipment solve most common records storage and retrieval problems.

Physical and intellectual control of active records both empowers and protects an office or department. This control is realized through retention and disposition schedules, developed by the University Archives in conjunction with the office or department, which identify permanent records of long-term value and records whose value is contingent on such factors as duplication or time. Adhering to the schedules minimizes potential legal problems by keeping only what needs to be kept and only for the required retention period.

The highest priority is balancing departmental needs with established records management principles. This is accomplished by consulting with office staff to establish guidelines that work for them. Disposing of, recycling, or removing inactive records to the University Archives according to established schedules allows more effective use of active records and contributes to office efficiency.

The University Archives manages inactive records efficiently, and inactive records are readily available to the office that created them. Contact the University Archivist (j.krizack@neu.edu) for assistance in developing a records schedule relative to your particular department's needs and function.

Record Classification

Records are classified according to the role they play in recording the history of an organization and/or their importance to the continuity of operation of the organization.

The following is a general list of record types, in order of priority:

  • Vital records are those records necessary to continue the existence and basic functioning of the organization. Types of vital records include governing board minutes and student transcripts. Vital records are usually irreplaceable.
  • Important records are irreplaceable or replaceable only at great cost to the organization. These may include historical materials recording significant decisions or events in the organization's history.
  • Useful records contribute to daily office efficiency. These records may include correspondence and records of financial transactions. They can generally be destroyed after their period of usefulness to the creating office is over.
  • Nonessential records may be destroyed immediately after they are used. This type of record includes routine memos.

The classification of some records can be more difficult than others. Litigation and other issues sometimes makes it necessary to retain certain records longer than their initial classification required. Retention and disposition schedules are generally determined according to the classification of records.