Managing Records

What are records

Your records show how you conduct business, make decisions, and carry out your work. Records may be paper, electronic, photographic, or any other format. They are evidence of decisions and actions; they can be used in court to defend and to prosecute. Historical records are those records that have permanent value for historical and other research. These records have continuing legal or financial value, or document a significant person, event, or decision. Because historical records have permanent value, they require special attention to ensure their preservation and continued use.


It's always good to have one person - an archivist, records manager, or someone else who appreciates the value of records, who will take the lead in providing consistent care for records, working with researchers and other organizations, and seeking sources of funding. All state agencies are required by law to have a Records Management Officer (RMO) to coordinate a comprehensive records program.

Where to begin

To understand the various aspects of a records program, see Publication #61, Seven Attributes of an Effective Records Management Program or attend our records management workshops.


The best way to start a program is to conduct an inventory that will tell you what records you have and where they are. For a step-by-step guide on how to conduct a records inventory, attend one of our records management workshops.

If you are from a repository that collects historical records, an inventory is a good way to gain control over a disordered collection. If you are just getting started, first develop a collecting policy that will determine the scope of what records you will actively seek to acquire or accept from donors.

After the inventory

A records inventory involves collecting data about all records in all formats, including electronic records, but it shouldn't end there. Use the inventory data to prepare a needs assessment and records management plan to guide your program.

A needs assessment can identify whether you need to:

  • plan more storage space to accommodate a growing volume of records
  • purchase software to help you manage your records
  • microfilm records either to preserve them or save space
  • scan some records to make them more accessible
  • index some records
  • provide special care for valuable historical records
  • protect records that are vulnerable to disaster

Moving to electronic records

Before implementing a new electronic records system, do the necessary research. It would be beneficial to conduct a business process analysis (BPA) to determine where an electronic system would function and how it will change the way you create and use records.