Two questions record managers hear quite often
are “How long do I need to keep my documents?” and “How should I store my
documents?” To continue the celebration of National RIM Month, today’s RIM
article will provide some basic information and best practices to help you
answer those questions.
How long do I need to keep my documents?
The quick (but not very helpful) answer is “it depends.”
Records retention is the length of time required for keeping documents, records, data and other information resources to ensure they support business functions for as long as needed. Each record or document has a different retention need, and some records need to be retained past their active support of business functions to support good recordkeeping practices or to meet legal or regulatory retention requirements. Some records also have long-term or enduring historical value and are expected to be retained indefinitely.
This can be confusing, but the answers to your retention questions can be found in LCC’s Retention Schedules, which are housed on the O:\ drive (O:\Interdivisional\LCC-Records_Management_and_College_Archives\Records Retention Schedules). These Retention Schedules are state-approved documents that identify how long records must be kept, when they may be destroyed, and which records should be sent to the LCC Archives for permanent preservation.
More information about retention and the Retention Schedules can be found in the Records Retention article and RIM FAQs article, both in 5Star.
How should I store my documents?
We have a responsibility to properly manage the records in our departments. For electronic records, this includes maintaining a structured folder system and file naming standards. For physical records, this includes storing them in proper containers, in the proper environment and with proper security measures.
Even though we’re not on campus right now, it’s good to be aware of the guidelines and best practices in place at LCC for records storage so we’ll be ready when we’re back in our offices. The LCC Paper Records Storage Guidelines document (available on the O:\ drive at O:\Interdivisional\LCC-Records_Management_and_College_Archives) provides “do’s” and “don’ts” for storing physical records, including:
- Records should be stored in containers designed for records storage purposes, such as filing cabinets or records boxes.
- Records should be arranged in a manner that allows for easy retrieval and disposal.
- Know who has access to the records storage space and restrict access as necessary.
- Avoid the storage or consumption of food near records storage areas.
- Prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold or excessive temperature variations should be avoided.
This “stay-at-home” time might provide a good opportunity for some of us to clean up our space on the H:\ drive or the shared drives and adjust how we store our electronic records. Some good tips to start with include:
- As much as possible, organize your folder structure areas according to your core (or main) activities (e.g. Project names; Report names).
- Incorporate into your folder structure a way to facilitate the regular purging of files. This may mean including specific years (e.g. FY18) and/or events (e.g. FY19Complete; 2018Superseded).
- Document your file structure in a simple file plan that includes the hierarchical structure of your folders and a short but clear description of what’s held in each folder.
If you’re interested in taking on the project of organizing your electronic records, contact Records Information Specialist Linnea Knapp at LCC-RIM@lcc.edu for more detailed guidance. You can also contact Linnea if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the Retention Schedules or the LCC Paper Records Storage Guidelines, or with general questions about Records & Information Management at LCC.