Frequently Asked Questions
Download a copy of the Records Management FAQs.
What is a record?
A record is information created, sent and received in the course of carrying out the business of the University. They can be paper and electronic.
This means that;
- the notes you take at meetings are records
- the notes you take during a telephone conversation is a record
- your diary entries are records
- emails you create and send relating to your work are records
- the information you store on your PC's hard drive or the network share drives relating to your official duty as an employee of the University are also records.
Records provide proof of what happened, when it happened and who made decisions. To decide whether a record should be kept ask these questions;
- Is the record of interest or importance to others outside of your immediate working environment?
- Does the transaction have to be approved by a more senior officer, committee or specialist unit?
- Has a decision been made which needs or may need supporting evidence or a record of the decision-making processes?
- Has a decision been made which will have an impact on another individual, office or the University as a whole and which sets a precedent?
- Will the record document a change to policy, procedure or methodology?
- Are there financial or legal implications which may come under scrutiny to ensure accountability, (by the NSW Auditor-General or the NSW Ombudsman, for example)?
- Do you require the record so as to be able to report to internal or external bodies?
- Is there a statutory requirement to make or keep particular records?
- Does the transaction fall within the Recordkeeping guidelines of the State Records Authority?
Do I need to keep all records I create?
Not all records are of equal importance or need to be kept. Records that relate to high-risk areas of your business require most attention as they need to be kept to provide evidence, to support your actions and to ensure accountability. You should keep the records that support your business decisions and you should manage them appropriately. Their minimum retention periods are determined by the State Records Authority (not by the University).
How long do I need to keep records?
The retention of records is determined by the activity to which the record relates. There are minimum retention periods for all sorts of records and we are not permitted to destroy records before this minimum time requirement, regardless of format (this includes emails). Some need to be kept for a relatively short time (hours or days) whilst others may need to be retained for much longer periods. The University is required to retain some records permanently (ie never to be destroyed). These are called State Archives.
What is not considered a record?
Any informational such as extra copies of documents kept only for convenience of reference, publications and documents intended solely for reference and not meeting the definition of a record. Examples of non-records:
- A letter received by an employee concerning his/her personal business.
- Information copies of correspondence, directives, forms, and other documents on which no administrative action is recorded or action taken.
- Catalogues, trade journals, and other publications that are received from other Government agencies, commercial firms, or private institutions and that require no action and are not part of a case on which action is taken.
- Duplicate copies of documents.
- Publications received from external sources unless they were used to make a decision.
- Magazines or publications you subscribe to as a member of an organization.
- Email to co-workers (or external parties) about things such as lunch plans if no business is conducted at lunch.
- Emails relating to setting meeting times or locations.
- Drafts used to produce a final product (i.e. proposals, reports, etc) except for draft legal agreements policies and procedures or drafts that contain significant or substantial changes or annotations, such a selection committee report circulated for comment and annotation amongst the members of the committee.
- Flyers that are not related to conduct of business.
What are my responsibilities with records and documents?
You must make records of what you do, ensure that records are full and accurate, put records into recordkeeping systems and protect records. You must also ensure that records are not destroyed without authority.
What are digital records?
Digital records are records created, communicated and maintained by means of computer technology. They can be 'born digital' (created using computer technology) or they may have been converted into digital form from their original format (eg scans of paper documents). The University creates and store digital records in a variety of ways. Common types of digital records include word-processed documents, spreadsheets, multimedia presentations, email, websites, online transactions and databases.
Are emails considered records?
Yes. Think of email only as a method of communication. A true record is based on the content of that email and should be categorised as such (i.e. if the email relates to budgets, then it should be filed and retained for the same length of time as budgets. If the email does not relate to business, then it can be disposed of).
Think of an email no differently than you would a paper record. In that context, if the information you receive in an email would be something you would retain if you had received it in paper copy, then treat it the same way you would treat a paper copy.
The content of the email message is the determining factor!!
How long should I keep emails?
Emails are classed as records however, not all emails need to be kept. The content of an email needs to be categorised, i.e. if the email relates to budgets, then it must be filed and retained for the same length of time as budgets. If the email relates to a contract it must be filed and retained for the same length of time as a contract. To decide whether an email should be kept ask these questions;
- Does it approve or authorise actions?
- Is it a formal communication between staff relating to work?
- Does it signify a policy change or development?
- Does it commit my organisation to an arrangement or to a business deal?
- Does it contain advice, provide guidance or constitute formal communications with people inside or outside the University?
- Am I required to act upon it?
- Is it external correspondence I have received relating to work?
- Is it something that I have sent for a business purpose?
- Is it something I have used at work to make a decision?
- If I left this job tomorrow, would my successor need the information in this message to continue with this matter?
- Is the matter to which the message relates one which may be reviewed or audited later?
Can my records (and emails) be used for legal litigation purposes?
Yes, all records can be used in a court of law and/or released under Government Information Public Access Act. It is therefore important to ensure;
- a professional approach is adopted by all staff when writing emails,
- records are complete and accurate,
- the location of records is known,
- records that have passed the legal retention requirements are disposed of in a timely and appropriate manner and with proper authorisation.
Do records I create belong to me?
No. Records belong to the University and must be stored in an official University file.
What should I do with the records I have?
Records should be put into a recordkeeping system. This means that they should be stored in TRIM or printed and places into a record. This is particularly important if the record (or the business to which it relates) has or may potentially have an impact beyond you or your office. Consider the following about your record:
- Does it need to be available and accessible to other staff, either within or outside your unit?
- Does it relate to a decision that may have an impact outside your work unit?
- Does this decision need supporting evidence or a record of the decision-making process?
Can I destroy records?
Records must be destroyed in a way that is accountable using the General Retention and Disposal Authorities or under Normal Administrative Practice. Visit our disposing of records page or contact the Records Management Office to receive information on the proper disposal procedures prior to destroying any record.
What is a General Retention and Disposal Authority?
General Retention and Disposal Authorities provide minimum retention periods for records retained by the University. They are published by the NSW Government - State Records.
How do I dispose of records that no longer need to be retained?
If you have been granted approval by the Records Management Office to dispose records they can be places in a security bin. The University contracts with a number of licensed document destruction services. Departments can receive the service and have secured collection bins placed in their offices. For more information about security bins contact Commercial Services. Other proper methods of destruction include crosscut shredding and incineration. However, before any disposal is done, individual departments must contact the Records Management Office to receive information on the proper disposal procedures.
Do you need approval to destroy records?
Individual departments must get approval from the appropriate head of department and Director of Corporate Services prior to destroying records. Contact the Records Management Office to receive information on the proper disposal procedures.
Are there penalties for inappropriately destroying information?
Failing to maintain records for the length of time they are needed puts you and the University at risk of being unable to account for what has happened or has been decided. This can result in problems for the University's customers, (for example loss of entitlements) monetary losses from penalties or litigation, embarrassment for the University or the Government, or even disciplinary action for you and/or your colleagues.
Can I keep records longer than the retention period?
No, the purpose of retention schedules is to minimize the quantity of records in any office. Once a record has met its retention period all copies should be disposed of according to the record retention guidelines. The only exception is where a record is classed as being of 'Cultural Significance' or if there is a litigation case and the record may be required for legal purposes.
Who is responsible for records management?
Everyone is. Each employee at the University has a role in protecting the integrity and the future of the University by creating, using, retrieving, and disposing of records in accordance with UoN Policy as well as, state legislation.
What is TRIM?
TRIM is the Universities digitally compliant Electronic Document and Record Management System (EDRMS) in which records are collected, organised, securely stored and categorised to facilitate their preservation, retrieval and use. TRIM is specifically designed to provide recordkeeping functionality to store documents, scanned images, photographs, TIFF files, JPEG, PDF's, emails and metadata needed to manage records. NOTE: Records on computer applications -- such as GroupWise e-mails, network and hard drives do not meet the requirements of a recordkeeping systems and are not appropriate for maintaining records. If you don't have access to TRIM to store your information then you must maintain paper records.
How do I get access to TRIM?
Individual business units can purchase TRIM licenses as we currently do not have an organisation-wide license agreement with the TRIM Vendor. The Records Management Office (RMO) is responsible for co-ordinating the acquisition of TRIM licenses, deployment, training and configuration of TRIM. For more details contact the RMO.
Are there any limitations on what can be sent to the off-site records storage facility?
Yes. Inactive records stored temporarily are those that have been determined to be of short term value only and have been assigned a destruction date. Records management storage is not a proper storage location for personal effects, office equipment, supplies, or publications.
What are the benefits of records management?
Records enable and support the University to fulfil its mission. Because records contain information, they are a valuable asset and as such it is essential to manage records appropriately. Records management:
- Contributes to the smooth operation of the University by making information readily available when it is needed for decision-making and operational activities;
- Provides precedent, background information and analytical material for staff or colleagues working on similar projects;
- Facilitates effective performance of activities throughout the University
- Protects the rights of the University, its employees, and its customers
- Provides continuity in the event of a disaster
- Meets statutory and regulatory requirements including archival and audit activities
- Provides protection and support in litigation
- Improves efficiency and productivity
- Supports and documents historical and other research
- Creates a complete record of official actions that will remain with the University for future use and may later be transferred to the University Archives as a historical record;
- Ensures accountability;
- Protects records from inappropriate and unauthorised access.
What do I do with my records if I am leaving my position?
Discuss the record keeping requirements with your supervisor or contact the Record Management Office for further assistance on how to assess your records. If your records are duplicates, facilitative records, drafts or working papers you may be able to destroy them under Normal administrative Practices (NAP).
Don't hoard your collections of unwanted records and files in the store room or under the stairs! A simple records disposal procedure exists at the University: simply submit a Request to Destroy Records Form and the Records Management Office will assess your request. If in doubt, please refer to our guidelines on recordkeeping or contact the Record Management Office.
What do I do if I find abandoned records?
Contact the Records Management Office.
How should I title records?
Make sure you provide enough description in the title to ensure the record can be retrieved at a later date by you and/or by somebody else in or outside your department.
Document titles must contain the following detail in the title:
- A (meaningful) subject line of the document;
- Version number (except for emails and File notes);
- Type of document;
- Minutes of the Records Management Office (RMO) TRIM focus Group Meeting - 24 November 2011 version 1.0.
- Draft Desktop Management Guidelines - 25 December 2009
Avoid acronyms and abbreviation as they may be meaningless to others now and in the future - entering the information in full as well as the acronym will ensure that records with acronyms can be retrieved and accessed for many years to come.
Also, enter the month and year in full i.e. 12 May 2004.
What is a Business Classification Scheme?
A Business Classification Scheme (BCS) is the process that allows the University to consistently capture, describe, organise and control its information. Without doing this, different people will use different terms to organise and title documents which mean the same thing. A BCS also assists in applying disposal, security and access to records. A classification groups "like" things together. The University uses a classification system based on the Business Functions/Activities.
Are spreadsheets, databases and information systems University records?
Yes. These are all University records as they meet the criteria outlined in our 'What is a Record?' page
Are the documents in my office or on my computer records?
Yes. If they document some activity you have undertaken as a University employee, they are records. What you might have is copies of other records that you use for reference purposes. You can dispose of these copies when they cease to be of reference use.
Where can I store my records and archives?
Each unit is responsible for ensuring that it has facilities to manage its records. Wherever you store records, you must ensure that they are appropriately secure and safe from corruption or damage. To avoid creating a monstrous heap of "stuff", you should ensure that stored records are clearly labelled to show when they may be lawfully destroyed.
Have a question that is not here?
Email the Records Management Office at email@example.com