Records Management - Developing the Records Register

1. What is a records register?
2. Why is a register needed?
3. Where does responsibility lie for the creation and maintenance of the register?
4. How should the register be structured?
5. What format should the register be in?
6. What information needs to be included in the register?
7. How to assemble the register
8. How to maintain the register
9. What other help is available
1. What is a records register?

1.1. A register of records is a list, catalogue or inventory of all records held by a school or other business area, regardless of the format in which they are maintained or the medium upon which they are held.

2. Why is a register needed?

2.1. A register is needed in order to track records, so that records can be located and managed effectively, and also to realize an efficient response to any request made to the University under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

2.2. The records register will hold metadata that links school or sectional records to their business functions and hence will aid the process of business planning.

2.3. The records register informs the development of the retention schedule.

3. Where does responsibility lie for the creation and maintenance of the register?

3.1. The University Records Manager will develop and maintain appropriate mechanisms by which schools and other business areas are able to register the records they are holding. Guidance in respect of this requirement, of which this document is part, will be developed by the Records Manager.

3.2. It will be the responsibility of each school or business area to create and manage a register for the records it holds. This can be undertaken by those responsible for carrying out the functions and activities covered by the information map - or by Local Records Officers charged with responsibility for records management in particular schools or business areas.

4. How should the register be structured?

4.1. The register should reflect the logical structure of the records series according to business function and in line with the hierarchy provided by the filing scheme. The metadata file within the filing scheme will draw upon the records register.

4.2. The register should NOT be structured according to the physical location of the records.

4.3. A lot of the information on the register will apply to all the records grouped under a particular heading in the filing scheme. It is best practice therefore to collect and store register information at the highest level in the hierarchy as is possible, it is a waste of effort to duplicate register information if it is not absolutely required.

5. What format should the register be in?

5.1. The information gathered for the register needs to be held in a way that can be simply interrogated and which can allow for the addition of further information at a later day. For example, it may well be that you will have to add new records series, or new functions or activities to the filing scheme. This all implies that a relational database is going to be the most appropriate choice of format to maintain the register on.

5.2. The main thing to bear in mind is that the format should be scalable and easy to use.

5.3. No attempt should be made to maintain a records register on paper.

6. What information needs to be included in the register?

6.1. A register of records held by a school or section needs to be comprehensive and cover all records irrespective of the media upon which they are held.

6.2. The register should list the following categories for each record series or other collection of information:

    • title and location

    • provenance and user/owner information

    • relationship to other records

    • decisions in respect of retention and disposition

    • access restrictions

    • physical characteristics (eg software, hardware, type of media)

The table below gives a more detailed listing of the types of information that need to be held in the register, (Derived from - National Archives document - "Guidelines for Management, Appraisal and Preservation of Electronic Records"

Information to be included in the Register
Field name Content Purpose
Title and location
The title of the file or record Required to provide information about the subject of the records
Alternative Title
Any other title by which the record is known Helps resolve problems in locating the file
Part number
  Identifies different parts of the same file
Hierarchical Position
The headings and sub-headings from the filing scheme that apply to the file (eg Teaching, Teaching Quality & Standards) Helps to show where the record is located within the filing scheme
Reference Code
A short code that locates the file or record within the wider filing structure (eg A.1.1.) Identifies the file within the filing scheme and aids retrieval. Also assists with the mapping of the file onto the filing scheme and shows its hierarchical relationship to other records series
Alternative reference
Any other reference by which the record is known Helps resolve problems in locating the file
Unique identifier
A unique number that is used to identify the record Establishes a unique identification for the record. This is usually generated within a database for systems administration purposes and is not to be confused with a reference code that may be composed of more than one part
The actual physical location of the record collection, e. g. computer system, room, store Helps resolve problems in locating the file
Provenance and user/owner information
The work group or section or other user who actually creates the record. The creator of the record - may or may not be the same as the user(s) of the record Assists with the mapping of the record series onto the functional and organizational structure of the University and helps to establish responsibility for records creation and capture
Record owners
The business area responsible for the management of the records Establishes responsibility for the maintenance and preservation of the records. eg Determining the length of time the records need to be retained for evidential, legal or operational reasons. 
Other record users
Secondary business functions, that also make use of the records. Required in order to identify which other units need to be consulted when considering changes to retention periods for the records in question
Date opened
The date that the file or folder was set up Assists in calculating retention periods. 
Date of earliest record
The date of the oldest record in the series Assists in records location and in calculating retention periods
Date of last record
The date of the most recent record in the series Assists in records location and in calculating retention periods
Date closed
The date the file is closed and no further information is added to it Assists in records location and in calculating retention periods
Audit trail/version history
A record of the changes made to the document, when they were made, and who made them. eg versions of Minutes of Committees Assists with the legal admissibility of the record, and is particularly important for electronic records.
Relationship to other records
Links to related records
Identifies other records that are connected to the records and used either in conjunction with them or by them eg an index Assists in calculating the overall retention requirement
Links to duplicate information
Identifies other records from which this record is either copied or is a subset Enables the identification of duplicated material and also missing material
Decisions in respect of retention and disposition
Retention periods
How long the records should be kept for Required in order to implement the retention schedule
Disposal action
Specifies what should be done with the records when there is no longer any business reason to maintain them Enables the systematic disposition of the records - usually this will either be destroy or transfer to University Archive.
Access restrictions
Specifies security information in relation to the access permissions of individuals and workgroups Establishes an important element of records security
Physical characteristics of the records
Physical format
The physical format of the records concerned, eg CD, Paper, floppy disc. When registering electronic records the description needs to include details of the software application on which the records were created. Assists in the overall management of the school or business area's information assets
Needed in order to include any necessary information about the records which has not been specified elsewhere in the register


7. How to assemble the register

7.1. For new records, the information map and filing scheme will provide the framework for structuring your register. When new files or records are created, they will need to be added to the appropriate part of the register.

7.2. To add existing records to the register, it will be necessary to conduct a records survey, and the findings from the survey added to the register. For active records, or where there is a business need to locate records quickly, the register should contain an entry for each individual file. For rarely used records, it is better to add information to the register at the series level only, provided you are assured that the records can be grouped into meaningful records series, where each record in the series has the same retention requirement.

8. How to maintain the register

8.1. It is essential that the register is kept up to date and maintained as a matter of routine.  Procedures will need to be set up to ensure that new records are added to the register as they are created.

8.2. To meet Freedom of Information requirements, the register will also need to contain information about records that have been destroyed as well as the records that are held.  On a database this can be achieved via the use of relatively simple mechanisms. (eg checkbox and date of destruction field)

9. What other help is available?

9.1. Further advice and guidance in respect of records management, data protection and freedom of information can be obtained by emailing or telephoning ext. 8209