When can I get rid of records?
A key part of good records management is knowing what records you need to keep and for how long, and what records can be thrown away. If you get this part of the records management process wrong, and/or you don’t follow the rules, as outlined in the Retention and Disposal Authority, you could find yourself in breach of some of the relevant legislative requirements that the university needs to abide by. There are also some other areas of concern when it comes to this issue, and if you find yourself fitting the criteria of one of the tongue in cheek ‘profiles’ below, then you may want to familiarise yourself with the university’s Retention and Disposal Authority, as you may find it beneficial.
Types of problems encountered with records and what to keep/what to throw out - do you fit any of these profiles?
- The Records Hoarder
As the name suggests, this particular person does not like to throw things away, just in case they need it later. This can sometimes also manifest itself as 'email hoarding', where the email inbox continues to grow, without anything ever being sorted or deleted, even the 'junk' emails are kept. Keeping things that don't need to be kept has a number of bad side effects. It can make it doubly difficult to find things, which may slow things down, but you may in fact be holding onto things that are in breach of certain legal requirements. For example, holding onto an unsuccessful job applicant's CV long years after the position has been filled, just in case you might want to contact the person later on, is not permitted under the Privacy Act, unless you have the person's permission to retain the CV for this purpose.
- The 'Miscellaneous' Filer
Sometimes people create giant general files - either electronically or in paper. They might call the file 'General' or 'Miscellaneous'. In extreme situations, sometimes these files don't even have a label. They are just added to, mysteriously, over time. No one knows what is in the file, and usually the file's contents cover a range of issues. Locating records stored on 'miscellaneous' files can be both perilous and time consuming. It also makes things difficult when it comes to working out what to keep and what to throw away. Most often, if the files have been properly labelled and managed, they can be reviewed for retention and disposal purposes at a file level. The 'miscellaneous' file makes this process impossible. It can add lots of time and additional resources to any process involving retention and disposal.
- The 'Not a Care in the World' Filer
This particular type of filer is probably at the opposite end of the scale to the Records Hoarder. This particular filer may not be aware that there even are rules for disposal and retention, and may be merrily throwing things away without even realising that there is a process to follow. This is a fairly rare occurrence in a university, as most people seem to be aware that you can't just throw certain things away (as they might be familiar, for example, at a minimum, with their own tax records and know about the 7 year rule for financial records). However, if you are doing a large scale throw out, it is probably a good idea to just check the university's Retention and Disposal Authority and/or contact Records and Archives Services, if in doubt about what to throw out