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Records Management Basics

About Records Management

Records management is the "field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use, and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records" (ISO 15489-1; 3.16).

Records contain information that is valuable and an important asset to our institution. Records help Emerson College to:

  • Comply with Federal and State laws and regulations;
  • Deliver services in a consistent and equitable manner;
  • Identify, appraise, retrieve, use, and manage College information resources throughout their lifecycle from creation to destruction or transfer to the Archives;
  • Provide continuity of business operations over time and protect the interests of the College, its employees, students, and other stakeholders; and
  • Preserve our history and the collective institutional memory.

Records management is a globally recognized business requirement that is performed by governments, institutions, and corporations. In 2001, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issued ISO 15489, a standard for developing a records management program.

Emerson College’s Records Management Program

Establishing records management practices and standards helps Emerson College fulfill its mission and guide employees in the creation, use, and lifecycle management of institutional information and resources. The Emerson College Records Management Program includes:

  • Determining which records to create in each business process and how long to retain them;
  • Deciding the form and structure that should be used to create, capture, and store records;
  • Ensuring that records are maintained in safe and secure environments and deciding which technologies will be used for recordkeeping;
  • Ensuring that records are retained only as long as required or needed;
  • Coordinating third-party services (off-site storage, shredding, scanning, etc.) that help to save costs, use office space more efficiently, and protect College records; and
  • Preserving records over time and making them accessible to employees, students, and other communities of interest.

“Organizations without retention programs can often remove from higher-cost offices areas as much as 55% of records being kept there—as either obsolete (to be destroyed immediately) or inactive (must be retained but may be transferred to a low-cost records center).”


Responsibility for Record Keeping

All employees are responsible for creating complete and accurate records in the performance of their jobs. Departmental Records Officers have been appointed by executive management to assist employees and:

  • Provide leadership and oversight of a well-managed records management program in their respective areas;
  • Enforce legal directives (litigation holds) for managing records;
  • Liaise with the College archivist on records management issues, including the transfer of permanent records; and
  • Provide records management continuity for their business units.

The College archivist is responsible for overseeing the records management program with the guidance of a Records Committee. Information Technology also plays a major role in setting up and managing systems and repositories used to create, manage, and store College records.


Definition of a Record

Records are defined as “Data or information in a fixed form that is created or received in the course of individual or institutional activity and set aside (preserved) as evidence of that activity for future reference.” (Pearce-Moses, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology)

Chances are that you create and manage a limited, routine set of records in your daily work. This flow chart from the U.S. National Archives can help you determine if something is a record.

When in doubt, please contact your DRO or the College archivist.

Records are not synonymous with Archives. While an Archives collects and provides access to records, not all records merit ongoing preservation.


Retention of Records

In records management, retention is the process of safekeeping records for a specified amount of time in order to ensure that they can properly support business functions and legal/regulatory requirements. The rules about how long to keep records and other lifecycle actions such as move to inactive storage or transfer to the Archives, are found in Records Retention and Disposition Schedules. Records retention is the minimum mandatory period that records must be kept by the College to conduct its business in a legal and fiscally responsible manner.

If you have records that do not fall under the Records Retention and Disposition Schedule, you can refer to this infographic to determine whether or not you need to keep the document and how to file it.