Records Management Principles

Records management is based on two primary ideas and one general concept: The ideas of records life cycle and records appraisal are applied to the general concept of the records series.

Records Series

A records series is a body of file units or documents arranged in accordance with a unified filing system or maintained as a unit because of their creation, function, physical form or use throughout their life cycle. Typical records series include minutes, annual reports, correspondence, project files, and maps. The key idea is that they form a series because they have an internal consistency or coherency. The concept of records series is the basis for managing records.

The Life Cycle of Records

All records have a life cycle or a cycle of active life. They are created, and their physical form and general character (informational content) are established. They are distributed, referred to, filed, re-used, and re-filed while they are current. It is generally true that as files get older they are less likely to be referred to, until they reach a point where they are no longer active in the sense that they are no longer relevant to the daily or weekly operations of the office that created them. At the end of a records series' active life, it should be disposed of in some manner, either through destruction or transfer to the Archives.

Records Appraisal

Records appraisal is the process of determining the archival value and ultimate disposition of a records series. Appraisal decisions are based on a number of criteria including the historical, legal, administrative, and financial value of the records. Appraisal is carried out by the University Archivist in conjunction with the creators of the records series in question. Since many offices produce similar types of records, general retention and disposition schedules can be created that speed this process. Since the vast majority of records created by offices do not have permanent archival value, the quantity of material that requires transfer to the archives is usually quite small. Identifying permanently valuable records before they come to the end of their life cycle is one of the basic aims of records management.