Records Management in UCD
Increasing public accountability, most markedly the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003, under which the university is a prescribed body, is driving a more formal approach to the management of records than has existed heretofore.
To ensure continued compliance in this emerging environment, the Corporate and Legal Affairs Office has established a Records Management Unit to develop and administer a programme for the management of university records from origination through to maintenance and disposal.
What are Records?
Records are documents created, used and maintained for business reasons. They provide proof, or evidence of business activities; they illustrate policies, decisions and precedents and the context in which they were made; and they document compliance with statutory obligations. The format or method of storage has no bearing on their standing as records. The new international records management standard defines records as:
"information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business". (ISO 15489, clause 3.15, 2001)
The Freedom of Information Act,1997, provides a very broad definition of what may constitute a ‘record’. The definition covers all document types and does not distinguish formats, being equally applicable to documents created, maintained and stored manually and/or electronically. It includes:
'...any memorandum, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work or other document, any photograph, film or recording (whether of sound or images or both), any form in which data (within the meaning of the Data Protection Act, 1988) are held, any other form (including machine-readable form) or thing in which information is held or stored manually, mechanically or electronically and anything that is part or a copy, in any form, of any of the foregoing or is a combination of two or more of the foregoing...'
The documents created, received and used by the university in carrying out its functions therefore constitute its official records because their content serves as evidence of those functions and because they testify as to how and why decisions were taken. The university regards all recorded information, regardless of format, created and received during the performance of official duties as part of its official record holdings.
What is records management?
Records management is the organisational function of managing records to meet operational business needs and accountability requirements. It tracks and controls documents from creation to disposal so that they can be moved as efficiently and speedily as possible through administration. It also serves to identify vital records, those that are necessary to the organisation's ability to continue its business and to protect its financial and legal interests. The identification and protection of such records is therefore of critical importance.
When the business function to which the records relate declines or ceases and they need no longer be readily available, they are transferred to an inactive, or non-current, storage facility for retention for a pre-determined period. When this retention period has ended, the records are destroyed according to agreed and documented procedures. A small proportion is preserved permanently because of ongoing administrative or historical value.