According to ARMA International, a professional organization dedicated to managing records, the way an organization manages its records is a critical business issue as these records provide evidence of what the organization does. Records can exist in various media such as paper, electronic, audio and visual. It is the job of a record management professional to ensure that these records are accurate, secure, compliant and available to those who need them.
Records Management Positions
Any organization that uses information and generates records must have a process for preserving them. Federal, state and local governments, government agencies, schools, universities, libraries, the United Nations and businesses are all places that have needs for records management and which employ records management personnel.
In particular, government entities with responsibilities to their citizens must have regulations for record management and the personnel to administer them. The federal government's record management regulations are under the charge of the National Archives. Each department of the federal government, in all three branches, has dedicated federal agency records officers to oversee the implementation of records management policies and procedures, develop systems and processes and train personnel to properly manage records.
Identifying and Preserving Records
The first thing the records management position must do is help the organization determine which kinds of information should be preserved as records. The record manager must then address how to control the active records to ensure that the correct version is used and preserved (version control). He must also determine how long, where and in what manner the records should be archived. This will include selecting the type of media used to preserve each kind of record (such as microfiche, digital scanning, etc.). He must take into consideration legal, business, budget, space and regulatory requirements in making this determination.
Categorizing and Organizing Records for Retrieval
It is the responsibility of the records management position to inventory and audit existing records and to design and implement organization and categorization schemes that will enable the efficient retrieval or archived records.
The record management professional stays informed on technological advances, including applications for digitizing, classifying and archiving records. He helps the organization choose and implement technologies that will do these tasks in a cost-effective, user-friendly way and trains those who will use them. The technology chosen must interface with other systems used by the organization and with other organizations that may have to access the records (such as government agencies).
Awareness and Training
Effective records management cannot be achieved without the participation of everyone who has a part in the life cycle of the record. For this reason, part of the role of the record management position is to increase awareness among those who generate and use records. They must know the importance of, understand how to use and commit to using approved processes for generating, preserving and retrieving records.
Disposal of Records
The records management position oversees the entire life cycle of records, including determining the retention schedule and when records should be destroyed. The schedule must comply with regulations, policies, business and legal requirements of the organization. The schedule should specify the procedures for placing a legal hold on documents if they are needed for litigation and the appropriate method for disposing of various types of outdated records. The records manager will consider security, confidentiality and environmental issues in determining disposal methods.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Tim Walker
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