Identifying Records


Records are information your organization creates and maintains in the course of doing business. Records can be in any media, including paper, magnetic tape, and optical disks. Work-related records, including email, that employees produce in their homes and on their personal home computers are still the property of your organization. Your records are unique to your organization and are evidence of who you are and what you do.

The most effective way to know what records you have is to conduct a comprehensive inventory, making sure to include records in electronic systems and in all locations. An inventory is the first step in developing a formal records management program.


Records which pertain to the origin, development, activities, and accomplishments of the agency. These generally fall into two categories: policy records and operational records.

Policy Records:

Records that relate to the organization such as plans, methods, techniques, or rules which the agency has adopted to carry out its responsibilities and functions. These include three basic categories.

  • Organizational Documents: budgets and budget planning records, fiscal records, organizational and functional charts.
  • Governing Documents: manuals, directives, orders, and interpretations issued from top authority levels, correspondence files of high-level officials, regulations, circulars, instructions, memoranda or regular issuances that establish a course of action, and staff studies or special reports relating to methods of workloads and performances.
  • Reporting Documents: annual reports, periodic progress or summary reports, special reports or accomplishment, transcripts of hearings, minutes of meetings and conferences, and agency histories.

Operational Records:

Records necessary to implement administrative policies, procedures, and operations. The operational value is the usefulness of a record in the conduct of an organization's business. Examples include mandates, procedural records, or records that give direction.


  • Records of legal value include those with evidence of legally enforceable rights or obligations of the State. These may include:
    • Records relating to property rights: land, probate, contracts, agreements, leases, licenses.
    • Records relating to citizenship rights: vital statistics, such as birth, death, marriage, some legal proceedings, and criminal cases.
    • Records relating to employment: veterans' records involving legal rights attached to employment, basic state personnel records, and, in some cases, payroll records.
    • Records containing information required to protect the State against claims or to enforce statutes: executive orders, rules, regulations, and records to establish or support judicial opinions and interpretations.



Records that have fiscal value relate to an agency's financial transactions. these may be budgets, payrolls, vouchers, and accounting records. After records have served their primary administrative purpose, it may be necessary to preserve them to document the expenditure of public monies and to account for them for audit purposes and requirements.


Records worthy of permanent preservation for reference and research purposes are selected for deposit in the University Archives. These records are retained for many uses. Public officials use archival records to protect the government, to give consistency and continuity to their actions, to prevent duplication of efforts, and to find successful ways for solving recurrent problems. Records are also kept to protect citizens' legal rights and for research in many fields to advance general knowledge and understanding.


Research records are used in scholarly studies and investigations generally for publication. Researchers want to extend human knowledge using basic historical evidence. These records may include important information on individuals, corporate bodies including their problems and conditions, and significant historical events. Researchers may include case files and correspondence of a regulative and quasi-judicial nature, statistical and other data on economic development, population changes, and/or major movements in our society. Many of these records have informational, administrative, and archival value.


An electronic record is information recorded by a computer that is produced or received in the initiation, conduct or completion of an agency or individual activity. Examples of electronic records include: e-mail messages, word- processed documents, electronic spreadsheets, digital images, and databases. Electronic messages sent or received in the conduct of public business are public records.