When it comes to institutional records management, some employees approach the task like they’re preparing to be featured on a future episode of Hoarders, while others take a Marie Kondo approach. If it doesn’t spark joy, they press delete.
The correct approach is somewhere in between, and UFV Records Management is here to help you learn what you need to keep and what you should get rid of.
Records management is a UFV-wide program that started in a formal way in September 2019 when Jennifer MacDonald was hired as the first records manager. The records management function is part of the UFV Secretariat.
“I’m thrilled with Jenn’s efforts to lead UFV’s pursuit of better practices in records management and compliance with our legislated responsibilities,” says Al Wiseman, University Secretary. “I also appreciate the many people across UFV who are working together with her in pursuing these goals. We are committed to educating and assisting employees, and are glad to have your feedback, inquiries, and requests for assistance.”
UFV completed an internal scan and review of corporate records and information management practices (RIM) in 2018, with a goal of assessing organizational readiness, compliance, and best practices in accordance with provincial standards.
“Many people find records management challenging,” notes MacDonald. “But it’s very important. Our goal is to create policies, procedures, and a system that will help UFV employees to build new habits that aid in effectively retrieving information while feeling confident when disposing records. Since we started developing the program, I’ve learned that while employees may not be sure of how to deal with records, many are interested in handling them correctly.”
MacDonald has been working with departmental representatives for more than a year to learn about their current practices and advise on protocols for proper storage, categorization, and retention of records.
UFV defines records as recorded information, regardless of medium or characteristics, which the university creates, receives or maintains in connection with the conduct of the university’s affairs.
“Records at UFV are subject to information management regardless of their format,” says MacDonald. “Records can be, for example, emails, photographs, texts, meeting minutes, chat, student files, employee records, contracts, electronic documents, and even some website content.”
Records management is more than having an organized filing system.
“When deciding what to do with a record, how to label and store it, and how long to keep it for, we need to consider governing legislation, operational needs, privacy regulations and risk management,” MacDonald notes.
MacDonald is currently working with departments to help them plan retention schedules for records that they are responsible for.
She is also encouraging departments to plan records clean-up days for transitory records. (In the case of physical documents, this may have to wait until the post-pandemic return to campus. For electronic records, some of this can be done remotely.)
“Think of it as decluttering for your departmental hard drives,” she says. “It can be good to purge, as long as you are aware of what you have to preserve. We don’t need to keep everything.”
Something else to remember is that although you might feel closely connected to the documents you create, handle, store, and manage, they are not your personal property.
“Remember that when we are handling information for our employer, none of it is ‘our’ information. It ultimately belongs to UFV, and we need to manage it in a way that complies with university guidelines and protocols.”
UFV has a considerable inventory of stored records, comprising more than 1,600 boxes that require storage. UFV also holds approximately 10 million files for a total of 26,529.67 GBs. Not all of this information is vital data that needs to be kept.
“Taking a rational, planned approach to records management will help reduce the volume of records that require management, and make the ones that we do need to keep easier to manage and track,” says MacDonald.
Working remotely for the past 11 months has created new challenges for records management.