Everything you ever wanted to know about records management...!
Filing & Retrieval
Personal Info Disclosure FAQs
Corporate Info Disclosure FAQs
Q: Why are records important?
A: Without records the University would not be able to conduct business, to account for what has happened in the past, and to make decisions about the future.
The University's records are a vital, corporate asset, and are required:
- to provide evidence of actions and decisions;
- to support accountability and transparency;
- to comply with legal and regulatory obligations, including employment, contract and financial law, as well as the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act;
- to support decision making;
- to protect the interests of staff, students and other stakeholders.
Q: What does records management involve?
A: Records management involves controlling all records (e.g. paper files, electronic documents, emails) throughout their lifecycle from their creation or receipt until the time of their disposal.
The controls should cover every aspect of record-keeping, including classification, access, storage, retention and disposal. For a summary of the main elements of records management, see Records Management Factsheet 1: Introduction
Q: How will records management help me?
A: Records management will make it easier for you to carry out your work because you will be able to find the information you need whenever you need it. It will also:
- Save time by ensuring your documents can be found easily and quickly;
- Save space by keeping your data no longer than necessary;
- Save money by reducing your storage and maintenance costs;
- Protect your department by maintaining your information in line with relevant legislation (e.g. employment, contract and financial law, as well as the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts).
Click here for a full list of the benefits of Records Management.
Q: Where should I save my electronic records?
A: With so many choices for electronic storage available to staff, it can be difficult to know where to store your documents, spreadsheets, PDFs etc. Information Services have produced a handy two-page guide to your options for electronic storage a) whilst you are working on a document and b) when it is finished.
The below link will take you to the guidance which is held in the EDM System, so you may be asked to enter your standard username and password.
Q: Where can I keep my older paper records?
A: Your immediate office space should be reserved for the records that you need to consult frequently in order to carry out day-to-day work. Your older material should ideally be kept within a separate store room within your department. More information about what to consider when choosing and equipping a store room can be found in Records Management Factsheet 7: Preservation.
Alternatively, you can transfer your older records to off-site storage. This is a secure document storage, retrieval and delivery service provided by a third party for the University. For more details about using this facility can be found on the UoP Intranet.
Q: What's the life expectancy of a CD or DVD?
A: Do not keep data that you cannot afford to lose on portable media. The life-span of a CD or DVD is determined by several factors, including its manufacturing quality, its handling, and environmental conditions. If it is of low quality or is subjected to careless handling or high levels of humidity and heat, it may last only a couple of years and, in some cases, no more than a number of months. For more information see Records Management Factsheet 7: Preservation
It is always advisable to store critical data on the network, so that it will be protected by appropriate back up and disaster recovery procedures.
Q: How long do I need to keep my records?
A: You should retain your records in line with the University Retention Schedule.
Q: Can I instantly discard my records once the retention period has expired?
A: Not quite, before discarding any records listed in the University retention schedule, you should carry out the following actions:
- Check whether they have been requested under Data Protection or Freedom of Information legislation. If there is an outstanding enquiry, delay the destruction. The Information Commissioner's Office recommends postponing the disposal of material requested under FOI for at least six months from the date of the last communication concerning the request.
- Check whether there is any ongoing or pending litigation/investigation and, if so, retain the records as evidence and review them at a later date.
- Once the documents are no longer required destruction can be carried out, but the act of destructions should be recorded. This will ensure that there are transparent, auditable procedures. If someone requests the information following destruction, you will be able to prove that your retention schedule has been implemented and the records have not simply been mislaid.
For more guidance, see Records Management Factsheet 9: Destruction
Q: How long do I need to keep my emails?
A: Emails should not be treated as a single series with a single retention period: the length of their retention should be determined by their subject matter or business purpose, as is the case with any other electronic or paper record.
For further guidance on email retention, please see Records Management Factsheet 4: Managing Emails and Other Modern Media
Q: What staff file information should my school or department be keeping locally?
A: Local HR files are important for the management of staff within a school or department; but if too much information is retained locally, this can begin to duplicate the information held centrally by HR. Not only could this constitute over-processing (as defined by the Data Protection Act 1998), but it is also costly to manage and store local files, particularly if off-site storage (e.g. FileStore) is used.
Below is a handy guide to what schools and departments should be holding on their local HR files and what is held centrally by the HR department. The link will take you through to the EDM System, so you will be asked to enter your standard username and password.
Q: Can I scan all my records and discard the originals?
A: There is much to consider before embarking on a bulk scanning exercise, regardless of whether you intend to dispose of the originals afterwards. It is recommended that you read Records Management Factsheet 6: Scanning.
If you do decide to dispose of the originals, please remember that it is the responsibility of the business owner of the records to ensure that the relevant professional, statutory and regulatory bodies are happy to accept a scanned copy. This agreement must be obtained prior to disposal of the originals.
Q: How should I organise my department's records?
A: All records (e.g. paper files, electronic documents, emails) need to be organised systematically, so that you and other members of staff can find information easily and quickly. For more information please see sections on classification within the Records Management Factsheets. Factsheet 2: Managing Paper Records and Factsheet 3: Managing Electronic Records.
Q: How can I find my information more quickly?
A: There are various ways of reducing the time you spend searching for information, such as:
a. Systematic arrangement
Ensuring all your documents have been arranged systematically. Ideally you should use the same structure for all your information (e.g. paper files, electronic documents, emails), and then you will only need to learn one system.
b. File labels
Labelling your paper files consistently and helpfully.
c. Naming conventions
Developing naming conventions for your electronic documents to make the retrieval of information faster and simpler.
d. Version control procedures
Applying version control procedures to documents that are regularly revised, so the current versions can be readily identified.
e. Retention periods
Not keeping any of your information longer than necessary - the more you keep, the longer it will take to locate individual items. Establish for how long your major categories of records need to be held, and make sure you discard them promptly once the retention period has expired.
Avoiding unnecessary duplication: make sure information to which several members of staff require access is held within a shared folder, so there is no need for each person to retain a personal copy.