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Records Management

Guide to records management practices and requirements at the University of Maryland, College Park

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Guide to Records Management

This guide is for campus departments to become familiar with records management practices in order to self-assess and implement them, and for the general public to learn about records management requirements at the University of Maryland, College Park.

  • Records management facilitates transparency for public office-holders, including elected representatives and employees of public agencies.
  • It is a legal obligation that serves accountability and supports historical documentation.
  • Records management is also a way to get organized and conduct activities effectively.

Managing Records offers general records management guidance that may be useful to any organization, from student organizations to unions to community groups.

What are records?

Records are any documentation that an organization creates or receives in the course of its operations.

  • Records include documentary material in every form.
  • Exceptions include physical artifacts, transitory material (such as informal notes, extra copies, drafts, reference material), and non-business communication.

University records are records created or received by employees of the University of Maryland in connection with the transaction of its business.

The University of Maryland is a public institution, so university records are public records.

  • The Annotated Code of Maryland, General Provisions Article, §4–101, defines a public record as “the original or any copy of any documentary material that (i) is made by a unit or an instrumentality of the State or of a political subdivision or received by the unit or instrumentality in connection with the transaction of public business; and (ii) is in any form.”

Active records refer to records in current use for an organization to perform its ongoing, day-to-day operations.

Inactive records are records that are no longer in current use.

Vital or essential records are records that, in the event of disaster:

  • Are necessary for emergency response
  • Are necessary to resume or continue operations
  • Protect the health, safety, property, and rights of constituents
  • Would require massive resources to reconstruct

In the event of extensive disaster or disruption of services, records that document the history of communities and families may also be essential for recovery. (Source: Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records (IPER) Project)

Archival records are records that a repository (such as a library or archives) preserves because an archivist, records manager, or other custodian determines that they have enduring value or offer “evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator.” (Source: Society of American Archivists, Dictionary of Archives Terminology)

  • Examples in a university context include continuing value to the creating organization and value for teaching and learning.

How does records management work?

Records management involves analysis, retention, and disposition of records in order to:

  • Fulfill legal responsibilities of the university
  • Help campus units work effectively and for the benefit of the campus community
  • Document university programs, activities, impact, and historical legacy

Records analysis is how campus units, records managers, and archivists identify important functions of the university and its constituent units. Understanding how the university works tells us which records document those activities. For more about records analysis, see Records self-assessment.

The office of record is the unit responsible for retaining and disposing of specific types of university records.

Records retention is the period of time that an office of record must maintain a type of record before disposing of it. Retention lasts from the time a record is created until a specific condition or milestone has been met, for example:

  • a predetermined period of time has passed
  • a project is complete
  • a contract expires
  • department no longer refers to a record regularly
  • an employee or student leaves the department

Rarely, a group of records is designated for permanent retention. The University of Maryland Records Schedule specifies retention periods and conditions for campus records.

Records disposition is the set of actions a unit must take when the retention period has expired for a set of records (i.e. the specific condition has been met). Common types of disposition include:

University records schedules specify the disposition of different types of university records. Campus units disposing of records must submit a Certificate of Records Disposal.

The Maryland State Archives defines a records retention and disposition schedule as “an official document created by a government agency and approved by the State Archivist. A retention schedule lists every type of record that the agency generates and gives the agency authority to transfer permanent records and destroy non-permanent records at specified times.” (Source: Maryland State Archives, Records Officer Guidance)

Groups of records that share a function and retention requirements are called records series.