Strategy #3 for Practical Records Management for Districts, Large of Small: Establish a Centralized Records Retention Center. This series is authored by Dan Gibbens with RCI.
In our first 2 articles, we’ve covered making sure 1) that you have the appropriate information on file with TSLAC, and 2) that you have identified, assigned, and documented Records Management responsibilities among District Staff.
In this edition we’ll discuss the establishment of a centralized Records Retention Center for inactive records.
Once records have become inactive and frequent or repetitive access is no longer a concern, it makes sense to move them to a centralized Records Retention Center. Doing so helps in several ways. First, it can aid in improving storage efficiency since all “like” records are housed in one location and not in duplicated environments across several locations. Second, because the “like” records are centralized, it makes for easier and consistent processes for retrieval and replacement if, and when, those records need to be produced or shared. Finally, because they are held in one location with consistent processes in place, you maintain greater control over the proper management of the records.
Some things to consider in the establishment and ongoing management of a centralized Records Retention Center include:
- Create and Maintain a Detailed Inventory of Records by Container. Retaining records is one thing; locatingrecords is a completely different thing. That is why it is critically important to carefully and thoroughly document the records that are contained in each file, box, or cabinet. This is the key to being able to successfully retrieve—and ultimately identify for permanent removal—documents that need to be accessed, produced, or destroyed.
- Actively Monitor Access and Record All “Ins” and “Outs.” Once records have been consolidated, organized, and documented, they require ongoing management to insure proper maintenance. Access to the records should be carefully monitored and controlled to insure they stay organized and secure. Because these records may need to be accessed by others, a rigorous process for tracking records moving in and out of the Records Retention Center, both to insure they are provided only to authorized constituencies and that they are properly returned and re-filed.
- Monitor and Manage “Destruction Holds.” In some cases, records that are past their retention period cannot be destroyed because they are subject to litigation. In these instances, a process is needed to ensure that these records are maintained until they are formally released.
- Routinely Destroy Records that Have Reached Their Destruction Date. Removing and properly disposing of obsolete records is an important part of effective Records Retention Management. Getting rid of obsolete records improves space utilization, helps ensure protection of vital records, and improves access to active records. It also assists in litigation support by reducing clutter, prevents costly searches for records that may not even exist, and ensures records that should be destroyed actually have been destroyed. Always maintain a log of all destroyed records.
Local Government Bulletin F: Records Storage Standards provides more information on the proper care and storage of records. A copy can be found on the TSLAC website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/pubs/bulletinf
In the next edition, we’ll discuss deciding when Records should be processed and moved to the Records Retention Center.