Records Management

Organising records

How you should organise your records.

How should I organise my records?

Organise your records into files of information relating to the same issue, responsibility or transaction. For most topics there should be a single lead file. This will be the file of the person or section who has the lead on the topic concerned, for example, a committee secretary’s set of minutes and papers. Other members of staff may also have a file on the same subject that they keep only for so long as is needed for their personal reference, but you should ensure that the lead file gives the complete story of our handling of the issue. If the content of a record is important, it should be added to the file on the subject and stored so that it will always be accessible to all relevant members of staff. Only when there are confidentiality issues involved would it be appropriate to keep a record in a personal drive or a personal e-mail box.

In what format should records be kept?

Records may be kept as paper files, or electronically in shared drives, databases, or document management systems. Sometimes you may keep records on a website, but if so, ensure that they are adequately protected from tampering. If you are keeping important records in an electronic format only, then you should ensure that you are confident that they will be legally admissible. The Records Management Section can provide you with guidance on legal admissibility on request. If you have records with long-term research value held solely in electronic form you should follow the guidance available on digital preservation on the University Library’s website (http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/digpres/). Sometimes files are microfilmed or microfiched, but this is rarely cost effective. The Records Management Section can give further advice on this if necessary. Irrespective of the method chosen to keep the records, a standard set of records management principles and tools can be used to manage them. The more important of these include filing schemes and retention schedules. See the introduction to records management and the more detailed guidance on individual topics for further information about these.

How should I manage my electronic files and folders?

If you create a folder or document on a shared drive, website or on your personal drive, you should take responsibility for managing that folder or document. They should have file titles which are easily understood by all members of staff. Do not name them after yourself, as no-one else will know what they contain. Likewise, only use commonly understood abbreviations. The title should clearly indicate the version status, such as, draft 1, draft 4, final version etc. When placing information on a website, unless there are reasons for restricting the circulation of the document, try to place it on a publicly available part of the website. Making information available in this way is in line with the spirit of freedom of information legislation, and will help to reduce the number of freedom of information requests the University receives, as people will be able to access the information without having to ask for it. If you have personal information in your e-mail or personal drive, please ensure that you save this to a folder called ‘personal’. It may be necessary for other University staff to access your drives; for example, in response to a subject access request. They would only look at those marked 'personal' or in a personal folder in an extreme situation, whereas they may well have to access undifferentiated e-mails to deal with a request for information.