Records Management & Archives Handbook: Records Maintenance & Use


Each record has a life cycle that includes four distinct stages: creation, maintenance and use, retention, and disposition. This policy addresses maintenance and use.

The purpose of filing is retrieval; therefore, heads of departments must ensure that the records in their custody are organized for efficient access. They must also facilitate the future accessibility of electronic records; protect the records from unauthorized access; require the proper storage and careful handling of fragile records; and preserve records of historical or evidential value until they are transferred to the Archives. In addition, departments need to document procedures and ensure training of new employees to provide for consistency in departmental records maintenance.


Electronic Records are records stored on electronic storage media that can be readily accessed or changed. Some examples of electronic records are e-mail messages; all types of files and folders stored on a computer’s hard drive, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, and microfilm; and files and folders that have been copied to the University’s administrative server.


  1. The department establishes and documents, in writing, standards for organizing departmental records to ensure their effective and efficient retrieval, especially in the event of a break in continuity of department staff. Documentation for each recordkeeping system should include:

    • the location of the records, including a listing of individual file names in an electronic format;
    • the department’s file naming standards and file classification system;
    • a list of databases and spreadsheets that support departmental functions, including a description of the application and its purpose, a listing of spreadsheet cell formulas, a listing of database field names, and a list of any programs that are run in conjunction with departmental applications;
    • the department’s backup and recovery procedures for electronic records;
    • procedures for migrating electronic data to upgraded versions of the software programs.


    • Where possible, electronic records classification systems are modeled after departmental file plans used for paper records.
    • Where possible, records are grouped together as records series, or sets of records that stand apart from other records in the department. Some possible records series may include . . .
      • Meeting minutes of individual committees
      • Reports and self studies
      • University publications
      • Purchase orders
      • Correspondence
      • Faculty copies of student records
  2. The Head of the Department ensures that the standards are followed consistently and modified only when necessary.
  3. The Head of the Department ensures that all confidential records are stored in a secure, locked location that is restricted from unauthorized access.
  4. The Head of the Department requires that fragile records are handled with care and are stored in acid-free folders to slow their deterioration.
  5. The department preserves vital records according to the procedures in Vital Records.
  6. The Head of the Department ensures that the department’s electronic records are copied to the University’s administrative server. It is also recommended that they be burned onto optical disks—CDs or DVDs.
  7. The department trains new employees in its records management procedures.