If you have ever spent hours combing through a file cabinet for a missing document, Records Manager Kathy Thornhill feels your pain.
Thornhill describes records management as a university-wide effort that has a direct impact on individuals as well as the institution as a whole. “When everyone at the U of L is filing records in the same way, staff and faculty are able to locate files more efficiently within their own departments,” says Thornhill.
Institutionally, the U of L must ensure that its records management program complies with Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act and other applicable provincial and federal legislation.
Since Thornhill began her position at the U of L in September, she has been working to implement the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) records management program. The standard provides guidelines for implementing a records management program based on information life-cycle management and business functions.
The standard is being used worldwide as a guideline for implementing both paper-based records management programs and electronic records management. While the standard is not mandatory yet, it is industry best practice.
Records Management is running numerous workshops for staff and faculty to help ensure a smooth transition. “We want to let people know more about records management and the new processes we are asking them to follow,” says Thornhill.
One of the topics covered in the workshops is the importance of transferring inactive records to Records Management’s Records Centre on a regular basis.
“When you’re cooking, it only takes a few minutes to clean up the kitchen as you go so you don’t have a big mess at the end. If you’re regularly moving files out, there will never be an overwhelming mess to clean up,” says Thornhill.
When a unit is ready to convert to the new records management system, they can call Records Management and receive one-on-one assistance from Active Records Technician Judy Jones or Records Centre Technician Marni Morton.
One of the immediate benefits of converting to the new system is the additional free space created when inactive files are sent to the Records Centre. The ISO standard’s filing classification system, which is based on business processes, is also much more reliable than alphabetical filing systems with inconsistent file names.
Thornhill emphasizes that university units can trust that the files in the Records Centre are still accessible to them.
“If we receive transfer requests for files in storage by 11 a.m., we respond by 3 p.m. the same day. Requests received by 3 p.m. are met by 11 a.m. the next day. If we have to walk to your office and deliver files directly, we will,” says Thornhill.
When files’ retention schedules call for their disposition, Records Management will ask the department that “owns” the files to sign off on them before they are destroyed or sent to the University Archives.
“When university units allow Records Management to do what it does best and become the custodians of their records, they will have more time and space to accomplish the work that they do best,” says Thornhill.
To find out about upcoming workshops or take a closer look at the new Business Classification System, visit the Records Management site at www.uleth.ca/lib/archives/records_management.
U of L Communications and Public Relations Contact:
Communications and PR Officer (403) 382-7173