Record Keeping Basics

On this page we discuss some of the basic principles of record keeping that you should keep in mind. Even if your department is not in the practice of using the service provided by the records centre, you should keep these principles in mind.

Give everything a date.

Make sure all your files are dated. You can't implement a retention schedule, or dispose of obsolete records in a timely manner, if items are not dated.

Destroy transitory records.

Transitory records are draft records that are used to create other records. When the final version of a record is created the transitory records should be destroyed. For example, notes taken by a secretary during a meeting should be disposed of when the official minutes (based on those notes) are created.

Email is an official record, and must be kept in a consistent manner.

All e-mail records created using University computers or e-mail system are University records . There are no separate retention schedules for e-mail and other records; they are considered to be the same as paper records. Whether you print off all emails or store them in an electronic directory, you must be consistent about how you handle them. You should approach deleting an e-mail document with the same care you would shredding a paper document, and apply a retention schedule in the same way.

Make sure you understand any Freedom of Information/Protection of Privacy implications.

Nova Scotia's Freedom of Information/Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) legislation has significant implications when it comes to storing, disposing, and releasing university records. The use, storage, and release of student information, confidential records, and email are just some of the issues that are effected by FOIPOP legislation. A summary of FOIPOP implications for Saint Mary's has been created and can be found here.

Department-created newsletters, guidebooks, and other printed material should be sent to the Archives as soon as they are created.

Whenever you create any printed material for use by students, the university community, or others, you should immediately send a copy to the University Archives. We store current and back issues of university publications. Please put us on the mailing list of any such documents.

Use retention schedules to determine the life-cycle of your documents.

It is important to have guidelines in place when it comes to creating, using, storing, and disposing of any records. A retention period will give you a framework to help you organize your material. When it comes time to destroy or otherwise dispose of records, being able to point to a proper retention schedule will help you if there are any questions about why a document was destroyed. The Records Centre provides sample retention schedules that can be used.

Keep backup copies of vital records.

Vital records are any records that are required for the essential operation of your department. They are records that cannot be replaced if destroyed. Electronic records should be backed up in a remote location, and paper records should be sent to a remote storage location such as the records centre. In the event of an emergency (fire, flood, etc.) the copies of the vital records can be recovered.