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Records Management Overview

Why do we care about our retaining and managing our records?

Because they are our organization’s institutional memory that...

  • Document our management decisions
  • Provide historical references of transactions and events
  • Enhance our organization’s operational efficiencies
  • Demonstrate regulatory compliance
  • Provide litigation support

What is a Record?

A record is a document, data, or set of data that is created or received in the course of an organization's business.

  • has Content, that is the text, data, metadata, symbols, numerals, images, and/or sounds that make up the substance of the record
  • has Structure, that is the physicality and internal organization of the Content
  • has Fixity, that is the quality of the Content being stable and resisting change
  • has Context, that is the organizational, functional, and operational circumstances surrounding a record’s creation, receipt, storage, or use, and
  • is maintained as Evidence of an organization’s activity(s). Click here for more Information.

Transient Records

Transient or transitory records have a very short lived administrative, legal or fiscal value and should be disposed in an appropriate manner once that administrative, legal or fiscal use has expired. Typically the retention is not a fixed period of time and is event driven; it maybe a short as a few hours and could be as long as several days or weeks. Transient/transitory records may include, but are not limited to:

  • preliminary drafts (when superceded)
  • memoranda (paper-based or email) pertaining to scheduling an event
  • documents designated as superceded or as-updated
  • user copies (not original document)
  • routing slips
  • voice-mail

Non-Records

If a “record” is “…any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received…which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office…”

Then a “non-record” is any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received that DOES NOT serve to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office. Non-records may include, but are not limited to:

  • personal correspondence
  • non-OSU publications
  • Listserv® materials
  • junk mail/spam
  • catalogs
  • journals, books, other library materials
  • faculty papers (Faculty papers are the property of the faculty member, not the university and as such are not university records; however, in some cases the University Archives is interested in collecting faculty papers. For more information on our collecting policy, please visit our Disposition page...)

If one needs advice as to whether the document is transient, non-record or not, please contact OSU Legal Affairs.

7 Elements of an Effective Records Management Program


Records Lifecycle:

All records have a lifecycle, albeit some longer than others. Records are created, used, kept for valid legal, fiscal, or administrative reasons, and more likely than not destroyed at the end of their lives, although some with enduring historical value will be maintained in an archives.



Beware of the Pac-Man® Effect

A significant amount of documents that we handle on a daily basis have a very short retention span (Transient/Transitory) or no retention requirements (Non-records) at all. When we routinely and appropriately dispose of these records, we can more effectively expend our energies on managing those records of intermediate, long term, and indefinite retention that require our attention. As demonstrated in the illustration below, if we do not perform these routine disposals of records with extremely short retention periods, we run the risk of generating such large volumes of these documents, that we will overwhelm our ability to effectively manage our records of consequence.

In handling of these documents one needs to consider how they handle their "snail mail" at work and home:

  • Review the documents content; this may mean thoroughly reading the document, but more often than not one is able to judge just by the look of the document or a subject line: If it is a non-record, then toss it into the garbage or recycle bin (analog or digital) immediately;
  • If it is a transient/transitory record, then place it in a file or sub-file (analog or digital) that is designated for periodic review and dispose of as soon as allowable.

If one needs advice as to whether the document is transient, non-record or not, please contact OSU Legal Affairs.