Records Management at the University of Toronto

Effective management of University records consists of controlling records from their creation through to their final disposition. This movement from creation to final disposition is known as the records’ lifecycle and it consists of three stages: active, semi-active and inactive. Each stage has associated activities.

Active Records

The active stage of the records’ life cycle includes activities such as creation, distribution, and use. Generally, active records are those that are referred to more than once per month per linear foot. Active paper records are typically located in nearby filing cabinets or in desks. Active electronic records are typically saved locally on c: drives or on shared networks.

Easy and reliable retrieval is a key goal in the management of active records. Often, retrieval problems can be alleviated by applying a file classification scheme to both paper and electronic records. University offices are free to develop their own classification schemes, or they may choose to implement The University of Toronto File Plan. Developed by UTARMS, the File Plan currently covers University, administrative records and includes retention and disposition schedules.

University offices also need reliable retrieval of their operational records. Where no operational file plan is in place, University offices should consider conducting an inventory of their records to develop a file classification scheme specific to their mandate and functions.

Issues relating to access to University records and protection of personal privacy also arise in the management of active records. As of June 10, 2006 university records became subject to review under the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).  University policies also affect access to university records such as Statement regarding Access to Information and Protection of Privacy, and Student Academic Records: Guidelines concerning access to official student academic records.


Semi-Active Records

The management of semi-active records typically involves issues of space and a preliminary evaluation of value and use. Generally, semi-active records are records that are not frequently required and are referred to less than once per linear foot per month. With paper records, management of semi-active records may become an issue when there is no longer space in office filing cabinets. Sometimes, semi-active files have been boxed and stored in other office areas, such as under desks or on top of filing cabinets. Often, boxed files have not been listed, making retrieval difficult. At this stage, offices may want to consider whether to maintain these records in on-site storage or off-site storage. Imaging may also be a cost-effective option.

Regardless of how University offices decide to handle these records, offices should compile a file list. By conducting inventories of their records, offices will have a list that will facilitate retrieval of records and later evaluations of what can be destroyed and what should be sent to UTARMS.

With electronic records, management of semi-active records may become an issue when networks and local drives become overloaded with folders and documents that are rarely accessed. As the volume of files on networks and local drives increases, it often becomes increasingly difficult to locate specific documents. If the office determines that some of their electronic files are mere duplicates of paper copies, or non-record material (such as personal notes, drafts and working papers) then these can be deleted. However, if the electronic file is determined to be the official University record, then it must be maintained. If space continues to be an issue, then other options should be considered, such as moving the electronic records to new storage media or invoking imaging solutions.

Managing electronic records tends to be more complex than managing paper records. UTARMS recommends that University faculty and staff review our information on managing electronic records and contact us with any questions in advance of undertaking any electronic records management activities.

Inactive Records

All University offices are responsible for disposing of inactive records in accordance with University policy. Generally, inactive records are records that are no longer required to carry out the administrative or operational functions for which they were created and which are referred to less than once per year per five linear feet.

The first step in disposing of records is to determine whether a records retention and disposition schedule applies to the records. All University administrative records are covered by the retention and disposition listed in the University File Plan. Some records retention and disposition schedules have been developed for operational records, including student records. The records retention and disposition schedules state how long records must be maintained and whether they should be destroyed or transferred to the University Archives. When retention and disposition schedules are applied, procedures should be followed for transferring hard copy records to the University Archives and for destroying records.

Where no records schedules exist, it is the responsibility of University offices to obtain the approval of the University Archivist before disposing of records or before transferring records to the University Archives. See disposing of records for more details on evaluating and disposing of scheduled and unscheduled records.