Records Management & Archives Handbook: Records Survey & Inventory


The first step in the process of developing records retention schedules is to survey the department’s functions and inventory its records. Initially, the Director of Records Management and Archives visits each department to conduct the survey and inventory with the Head of the Department and the Department Records Coordinator. Thereafter, a review may be made at the request of either the department or the Director of Records Management and Archives.


  1. The Director of Records Management and Archives and the Head of the Department arrange a time to meet in the department to conduct the survey and inventory, which, depending on the size of the department, takes from several hours to several days. The survey consists of the following questions:

    • What are the functions of the department?
    • Is the department organized into divisions or sections? If so, what are the functions of each division or section?
    • What are the department-wide committees?
    • Does the department sponsor any student organizations?
    • Has a departmental history or overview ever been written?
    • What is unusual or unique about the department?
    • What is most important to document about the department? What records series will document this?
    • What electronic systems are used in the department?
    • Are active or inactive departmental records stored in places other than the office filing areas? If so, where?
    • Does the department create or receive:
      • Departmental organizational charts?
      • Booklets, books, brochures, bulletins, catalogs, flyers, handbooks, manuals, newsletters, newspapers, pamphlets, postcards, promotional literature, or related publications?
      • Meeting minutes?
      • Reports or self-studies?
      • Photographs or other audiovisual materials?
      • Application materials, personnel records, or student personnel records?
      • Records of teaching activities?
      • Student records other than official student records, such as grade books, faculty copies of grade sheets, notes, or other documentation supporting student grades?
  2. With assistance from the Head of the Department or, by delegation, the Department Records Coordinator, the Director of Records Management and Archives completes a Records Inventory form for each records series in the department. This involves examining and describing the records, determining their status as vital or non-vital, and discussing legal and professional regulations or recommendations that govern the records’ retention and disposition.
  3. The Head of the Department provides the Director of Records Management and Archives with copies of any legal or professional regulations or recommendations related to the records.