Conducting A Records Inventory
Unable to locate information once you receive a records request? What about those Open Records Act requests? Can they be handled expeditiously? Is precious staff time being used trying to locate a file, to no avail? Are those boxes and file cabinets taking up premium space in your office during a time when your program is expanding? Have your vital records been identified in case of disaster? And the list goes on!
Conducting a records inventory, both paper and electronic records, is an effective way to identify permanent (historical) records series as well as any temporary ones.
The records inventory is more than a listing and is not used to identify every piece of paper stored, but is used to identify records series, files that are created, arranged and maintained as a unit because they are related in some apparent way. The records officer is usually in charge of the inventory; however, a consultant is sometimes hired for this task. Development of a clear, concise form used to gather and analyze information is key to the success of an inventory project.
The results from the inventory, once analyzed, will allow you to decide which records to keep and which to discard. Taking the inventory, and using retention schedules issued by the Georgia Archives, will also enable the planning of other records management activities, such as organizing records - and establishing filing systems (all media included, which will facilitate the retrieval process.
Conducting the Inventory
- Determine what information to collect (by doing an informal survey) and design your form.
- Begin with the modern/active office files. Donít forget electronic files on PCís and CDís. (This step will facilitate identifying and recording information on the files stored off-site.)
- Continue with files in storage areas (in-house or off-site), in attics or basements
- Do not leave any records out because there is pressure to complete the inventory
- Gather information by looking at the files and asking questions of office personnel who work with and are most knowledgeable about use of files
- Seek assistance from your legal counsel to determine legal need for records
The information collected during an inventory varies from agency to agency. However, the basic information captured includes:
- Series Title: The name you assign to each group of records; e.g., Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Payroll
- Description: A brief description of the records in the series. Include such information as the purpose for which the record was created, the information contained in the record, etc.
- Inclusive Dates: The earliest and latest dates of the records series
- Location: The physical location, i.e., building, office, room, where records are maintained
- Volume: Cubic feet, # of books/volumes/binders, # of CDís, etc.
- Format: Paper, microfilm, printouts, videotape, diskettes, magnetic tape, optical disk
- Vital Record: Yes/No (Is the record essential for the continuation of the organizationís daily business activity, in case of disaster?)
- Storage Media: How are records stored? e.g., file cabinet, shelf, box, computer, etc.
- Schedule No.: Schedule numbers are not assigned to the local government schedules by the Georgia Archives. However, you should select the schedules that are appropriate for your local government (from the Georgia Archives website) and assign numbers to them for your in-house identification purposes
- Retention: How long are records to be kept, if scheduled? e.g., permanent, 5 yrs., 7 yrs., retain for useful life
Back-up Media/File Duplication: List all media used to back up records; e.g., tape; list location of duplicates
Following are examples of additional information that can be collected, if desired. The list, however, is not exhaustive:
- Confidential or access-restricted? Yes/No If yes, give legal citation
- Records still created? Yes/No (This information is useful in determining importance of records and projecting future growth and storage needs)
- Value of Records - Administrative, Legal, Fiscal, or Historical
- Condition of Records - Good, Fair, Poor (explain any problems)
- Condition of Storage Area - Good, Fair, Poor (explain any problems)
- File Arrangement
- Reference Activity
- Rate of Accumulation
- Department, Division, Section
Results of an inventory can also show:
- Who creates the records
- Why the records are created
- Who uses them
- How records are stored
- How long they are likely to be needed
- How their management might be improved
A completed records inventory will enable you to:
- respond to Open Records Act requests in three days (because you can quickly locate records)
- destroy eligible records in an efficient and timely manner
- identify key historical records serving as the agencyís memory
- identify records requiring development of new retention schedules