First Steps for Records Management

You open a door to discover a room full of records that you didn’t even know you had. How do you begin to manage these records?

UAHC has listed a few basic steps for moving forward with records management in your office.

Step One: Identify What You Have

Examine the records and use the university's retention schedules to help you identify the university records that you may have in your office. The university’s retention schedules are available here.

Important questions to be considered:

  • Are these documents related to financial transactions, human resources/personnel, general administration of a department, or the education of students?
  • How often do you use these records?
  • Are these records inactive or active?
  • Are these records permanent or temporary?
  • Have your records been scanned into KFS/EBS?
  • Are your records related to grant or sponsored program accounts?
  • Are your records copies of materials stored in other locations?

Answering these questions will allow you to develop a baseline for records management. For additional guidance, contact University Archives at archives@msu.edu or 355-2330. Remember, the University Records Management is available for free in-office records management consults.

Step Two: Transfer Materials to Archives as Needed

University Archives will accept transfer of permanent records in all formats. This includes paper, film, video, photographs, and electronic media.

University Archives will also accept transfer of temporary records in paper format. Unfortunately, the University Archives cannot accept and store temporary electronic records at this time.

Information on transferring records can be found here.

Some records in your office may be eligible for destruction. If you have those records, please complete the In-Office Records Destruction form and send it to Archives before proceeding with records destruction. This will ensure that your records destruction has been approved. Additional information on the In-Office Records Destruction process may be found here.

Step Three: Manage Your Electronic Records in a Shared Drive

Since University Archives cannot accept transfer of temporary electronic materials, you will need to maintain these materials in your office/department.

University Archives recommends using a shared drive to organize your files.

Tips on organizing a shared drive:

  • Think about your specific office. While all offices share some primary functions, such as fiscal and human resources, determine what functions are specific to your office. Do you advise students? Do you conduct training or outreach programs? Identifying these functions, and then grouping records together by function is a good place to start when building a shared drive structure.
  • Try to limit the number and level of folders. In general, using 3-4 clicks to find documents is the most people can handle. Anything after 4 clicks will start getting messy and confusing for users.
  • Use a standardized naming convention to help identify and locate documents. Examples of naming conventions can be found here.
Hopefully these steps will provide you with a starting point for managing the records in your office. Remember, for additional guidance, contact the University Archives at archives@msu.edu or 355-2330.

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