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The Basics of Records Management
Brad Houstonon 29 September 2014
Transcript of The Basics of Records Management
What is a Record?
The Life of a Record
Everyone practices and benefits from records management!
What can UWM RM do for me?
Time and money are saved if records are managed properly!
Records management can protect us in case of an audit or investigation.
Records management helps preserve the history of your department-- and of the university.
Recorded information, in any format, that allows an office to conduct business.
Paper or "traditional" records
Electronic records (e.g. Word documents)
Emails and Instant Messages
The value of a record is determined by content, not format!
Not everything is a record.
*These become records if you share them with your colleagues.
It's a Record!
Is it related to my job duties?
(cc) image by nuonsolarteam on Flickr
Is it a record?
Am I the creator or primary user?
It's not a Record!
Records must be managed and destroyed according to state law.
Non-records should be removed from files as soon as possible.
You are responsible for managing and producing this copy throughout its life cycle.
Usually for personal use; must still be managed but can be destroyed earlier.
Am I the head of the office/group or his/her designate?
One last question...
Some examples of records vs. Non-Records:
E-mail to contractor clarifying terms
E-mail to friend making dinner plans
Memo notifying a subordinate of committee assignment (sender copy)
Memo notifying a subordinate of committee assignment (recipient copy)
(The recipient may want to hold onto this for reference purposes, though.)
Draft of a report (non-shared)
Draft of a report shared with colleagues or committee members
Records can be grouped by series.
Record Series: Similar records grouped together by function or activity.
Examples of Record Series:
Official Personnel Files
Grant Project Files
Parking Violation Notices
Faculty Committee Minutes
Each record series should have a records schedule to govern its retention and disposition.
Creation and Use
(Public Records Request)
The primary, ongoing (daily or weekly) use of the record.
Records are kept for reference but not referred to regularly.
Records are no longer needed for administrative, legal, or fiscal reasons.
90% or more of records have no enduring value and should be destroyed on expiration.
Records with historical or ongoing administrative value should be archived.
Describe and set disposition instructions for record series.
A good system is flexible and helps you find records faster.
When you create records:
Make sure the record has all of its identifying data
Figure out what series it belongs to
Ask: is this a short- or long- term record?
(That said, there are a few general tips to pass on.)
Keep your series separate.
(e.g. don't interfile student files with department accounting)
Establish an organizing principle for each series.
Good for general files or student files.
Correspondence files or fiscal recordkeeping.
Useful if you have large numbers of categories and sub-categories.
The most information about your files-- but also time-consuming.
State records may be requested for public inspection under Wisconsin state law.
There are exceptions to what records must be produced (Personnel files, student information, etc.)
For this reason, refer ALL Open Records requests to UWM's Public Records Custodian.
Once requested, records must be produced quickly-- another reason to get organized!
Less need for fruitless searches through useless documents
More space available in office/on your server
If records are destroyed according to established records schedules, you are not responsible for producing them for Open Records/Subpoena purposes.
If records are scheduled to be destroyed but HAVEN'T been, you're still obligated to produce them on request.
Keep track of records disposition.
In other words: "How long must I keep this record?"
This is usually dictated by a Records Schedule .
Above all: BE CONSISTENT!
An inconsistent filing system is almost worse than none at all-- how do you know which system to use?
File according to your filing system.
Sticking to your system will help you (or your successor) find records years down the road.
Create a working file inventory.
Usually folder-level is good enough-- but keep it up to date!
(i.e. what records you have, and how much of them)
Records Schedule creation should happen at this point.
Maintain records for their full retention period.
In Wisconsin, these are also called Records Retention and Disposition Authorities (RRDAs).
Types of Records Schedule:
If your office creates a unique type of record, a specific schedule will be created.
Specific schedules are maintained by UWM Records Management and are available on request.
Schedules for common records created by multiple offices.
Committee Meeting Minutes
Student Advising Files
Accounts Payable Records
General Schedules may be maintained by UWM, UW System, or the State of Wisconsin and are available online.
What's in a Record Schedule?
Series Title and Description
Helps you identify the series by describing its purpose and what records are included.
When you begin "counting" the retention period. (after creation, after close of file, etc.)
How long you are required to maintain records in the series. This may or may not have a statutory or regulatory citation.
A minimum only-- you may hold onto records longer if needed!
What to do with the record once its disposition has expired (destroy, destroy confidentially, or send to Archives).
If no records schedule exists, contact Records Management to help create one.
Does it document an action or decision?
For one thing, it's the law:
Wis. Stat. 16.61: Records belong to Wisconsin, and may not be destroyed without a record schedule.
Wis. Stat. 19.31-19.39: Records produced in the course of state business may be requested and viewed by members of the public.
But there are lots of benefits to good Records Management, too.
Will we still know our history at UWM's centennial? Maybe... if we know what to save!
If your records have long-term but not permanent value, this may be an option.
UWM contracts with Hansen Storage for its off-site records needs.
Records are kept in a climate-controlled storage environment.
Add or recall records through a computer interface.
You must have an account with Hansen to store records there.
Contact the UWM Purchasing Department for details.
The Retention/Disposition period is set by the series records schedule (RRDA).
You can keep records for longer than the retention period, but you open yourself up to legal risk.
There are two basic disposition options: destroy or archive.
Most records can be destroyed/deleted without any special process.
Records containing confidential information must be destroyed securely.
Examples of Confidential Information:
Student Grade Records
Most buildings have brown shredding bins for confidential destruction.
Usually if a record is archival, it will say so on its records schedule.
Examples of archival records:
Committee meeting minutes
Official Personnel Files
If your office has archival records, call the UWM Archives to schedule a pickup.
In theory, you manage e-records the same way as paper records.
If your records are needed for evidence in a lawsuit, you must stop destroying them.
The good news: Legal Affairs will tell you if a litigation hold is in effect.
If you have even reason to believe that your office might be sued, preserve all relevant records.
Preserve all records in the affected series-- not just the ones you deem "relevant" to the case!
In practice, of course, electronic records have their own concerns.
Wisconsin Admin. Rule 12 provides legal e-records guidelines.
Electronic records must be:
Accessible: you can find it
Accurate: reflects the original record
Authentic: has not been tampered with
Reliable: always reproduced accurately
Legible: the letters are clear
Readable: the content is coherent
(Yeah, but what does all that mean to me?)
Accessible: have a good e-filing system!
In addition to folders, make sure you know which drive/drives your content lives on.
Authentic and Accurate: write-protect your finished records!
PantherFile, for example, has the ability to log any changes made to records and revert to previous versions.
Readable and Reliable: make sure your files are up to date!
Files 5 years or younger: you USUALLY don't have to worry about this.
Files older than 5 years: make sure to migrate your records whenever a new software version comes out.
e.g. report.doc --> report.docx
Better yet, save your important files in open formats:
PDFs or RTF files (text)
TIFF or JPEG2000 (images)
WAV or MP3 (audio)
Electronic Records Storage: 3 basic options
Keep your records in the format and system in which they were created.
This is useful for short-term or active records, but not recommended for long-term access.
Export your records and store them elsewhere, such as an external hard drive.
This saves the "look and feel" of your e-records, but is also the hardest system to maintain long-term.
Move your records to near-line storage when preparing to send them to Archives.
Print out and file your records in a normal paper file.
This method is the easiest for most people, but it also takes up the most space in the office.
What about the special cases?
E-mail should be treated as paper correspondence for records purposes.
Transitory E-mail (scheduling, cc: mails, etc.): Destroy when no longer needed
Routine E-mail (project correspondence, response to routine questions, etc.): Destroy 6 months after creation
If e-mail has historical value, export it and send it to the Archives.
See the E-mail management presentation for additional email tips.
Social media postings (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) ARE records and must be managed accordingly.
This is mostly relevant for department-official social media accounts.
Your personal social media account is not necessarily a record, but you should draw clear lines between personal and professional accounts.
Be mindful of any department or school social media guidelines.
Rule of Thumb: "Does this post reflect well upon me and/or UWM?"
In general, treat digitzed records the same as you'd treat born-digital records:
Have a way of organizing and accessing them
Have a place to store them (securely if needed)
Keep them up-to-date on both hardware and software
Consider your searching needs before selecting a format:
Full-text search needed: PDF
Visual inspection only needed: TIFF or JPEG
What are your storage and security needs?
If either need is high, contact UITS first.
The same principles as paper records security, just different tools:
Don't take home records, or put records on a device (laptop, thumb drive, etc.) that leaves the office.
Maintain robust passwords for any account with sensitive information.
Don't use UWM accounts for personal matters, or vice-versa.
Dispose of records according to their schedules to minimize the chance of data being leaked.
If a security breach DOES occur:
Contact the Office of Information Security and/or Legal Affairs.
Determine who may have been affected by the breach
Keep a log of everything you do!
If you are using University resources for personal matters, those records COULD be disclosed-- don't rely on this exception!
Records Staff can perform records surveys to help you figure out what records you have.
If a new schedule is needed, we will help determine your retention needs and create an RRDA for your approval.
Records Schedules sunset, or expire, every 10 years, so make sure your office is up-to-date!
(In most cases office records are covered by a general schedule, so no new RRDA is needed.)
We are happy to answer your questions about how long to keep a type of record-- just call or email!
We can assist your office with transferring its historical files to the archives.
To expedite processing:
Weed your records of extraneous materials
Complete the Records Transfer form on the RM website
Write an inventory of the records you're sending over
The Archives is interested in:
Subject Files (projects, etc.)
Publications (newsletters, posters, etc.)
Any other materials that "tell the story" of your department
If you need to refer to your archived records later, you can "check out" folders and boxes to your office.
Contact the records manager for assistance if you need records back.
You should designate an "official courier" as the contact/pickup person for your office.
Your building may have its own shred bin, but you can arrange for a records management pickup if not.
If your materials are non-confidential, destroy them at your office.
For LARGE (20+ boxes) shredding jobs, contact Buildings and Grounds for shredding pickup.
We can provide general help or office specific training sessions.
A dedicated records coordinator in your office can be a great compliance aid-- we can train you further!
Brad Houston, University Records Officer
This presentation available online at:
For large amounts of digitized records, an integrated system (e.g. ImageNow) may be appropriate.
Should I digitize my records at all?
Maybe-- if at least two (and preferably all three) of the following are true:
1)Your office has a very large amount of records
2) Your office is required to hold onto records for a long time
3) Multiple people need to access records on a regular basis
(If only one of these applies, keeping your records on-site is probably the better option.)
(If two of these apply, look into off-site storage first.)
Digitization is generally *not* a money-saver, and introduces security risks-- don't just do it because it's "cool"!