What are Records and Records Management?

Learn what records are and the principles behind how they are best managed.

What are records?

Records are the means by which information is transmitted from one person to another. Records capture interactions between people and entities, and include but are not limited to books, periodicals, correspondence, minutes, files, audiovisual items, maps, diagrams, and computerized data, whether published or unpublished. (Adapted from definitions appearing in Maedke, etc., Information and Records Management, 2d ed., p. 4.)

Digital records, also known as electronic records, are data or information that has been captured and fixed for storage and manipulation in an automated system and that requires the use of the system to render it intelligible by a person. (This definition comes from the Society of American Archivists' A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology.)

What is records management?

Records Management includes:

  1. Records Creation: Records are continually created in all active offices. A records management program can help in effectively managing those administrative and office functions that bring records into existence.
  2. Records Maintenance: Records maintenance means effectively controlling the collection, analysis, classification, arrangement and retrieval of active information and the protection of irreplaceable, mission critical (vital) records. It helps to avoid unnecessarily saving certain kinds of low-value or duplicate records; it encourages the optimum use of filing equipment.
  3. Records Disposition: Records disposition involves proper temporary storage of records that are not frequently needed for reference; the eventual destruction of records that have no lasting historical, administrative, legal, or fiscal value; and the permanent preservation of records that have fulfilled the purpose for which they were created but continue to have significant legal or historical importance.