Records Management

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Advancements in technology and the reproduction of electronic documents have caused organizations to change the way they think about records management. The Emerging Technology Advisory Group of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) identified the top-five emerging technologies entering into the twenty-first century. These technologies have become management concerns and, therefore, concerns of records managers:

  1. Electronic-mail (e-mail) management
  2. E-mail
  3. Knowledge management
  4. Records migration
  5. Customer relationship management


Procedures for maintaining data in some form have been essential for centuries. Records serve important functions, particularly in efforts to minimize risks. Some of these risks include litigation, regulatory noncompliance, natural disasters, criminal activities, and pirating of resources.

Characteristics of an ideal information system
  • The system minimizes elapsed time between a user's query and the response from the system
  • The more complete the information stored, the more useful the data can be to the end user
  • The more completely an information system can prevent "lost" files, the more generally useful the system is to users
  • An information system should provide access to the same document or file by more than one user at one time
  • The more a retrieval system maximizes pertinence while minimizing redundancy, the more the system services the needs of the user
  • Retrieval queries should be possible in the official language(s)
  • The information system should make provision for selective security
  • The simpler a retrieval system is and the less training required to use it, the more acceptable it is to the user
  • Additions, deletions, and updating of files should be as efficient as possible
  • Since work hours, particularly of managers, extend beyond prime shift hours, the ideal system should be able to operate in non-regular hours at reasonable cost

Unethical practices as well as new regulations demand accountability for actions taken in business and industry. As a result of the risks faced by organizations, Theodore Vander Noot (1998) suggested ten characteristics of an "ideal information system" that should apply whether the system is a computerized database or a file system or library (see Table 1).

There are two basic reasons for the increase in information over the years. The first, modernity, has seen the decline in small businesses as larger and more complex businesses begin to dominate. A more modern democratic government is seen as the second reason for the growth in information. Both public and private organizations tend to collect more information than needed regarding their programs when providing the requested records for the government.


Four methods are often used for storing information in business and government:

  1. A person's brain
  2. Paper
  3. Microfilm
  4. Computer

Technological advances in the record-keeping industry have made it easier to store and retrieve records. Accelerating digital technologies are the storage mode of the twenty-first century. Stored digital information is only as permanent and accessible as the hardware and software that give it intelligibility. The transitory nature of digital technology poses serious questions about how to archive digital documents.

Although migrating is not a practical solution, digital obsolescence or loss can be overcome by periodically migrating electronically to more modern systems. Software used to manage archival collections will change every three to five years. One approach to solving the problem of obsolescence and frequent migration is the online electronic records archive that scientists are developing. Although expensive, this procedure will make it possible to keep up with records that must be stored and ultimately converted.

A provider of collaborative intranet, extranet, and electronic business (e-business) reported the release of a Livelink (IRIMS) module. Livelink Enterprise Server is a highly scalable e-business application. The IRIMS module is a fully integrated function accessed through a Web browser. Its featured enterprise services include virtual team collaboration, business automation, enterprise group scheduling, and information retrieval services.

The major developments affecting the micrographic and hybrid imaging systems field include:

  • Consolidation
  • Confusion
  • Accelerated acceptance of hybrid systems
  • Technology substitution, with more applications moving to electronic imaging or the Internet
  • Subsequent losses in business volume

Organizations have traditionally relied on paper filing systems for document storage and retrieval. Paper records are extremely difficult to access because they have to be stored in and retrieved from one place. An electronic document management system solves many of the storage and retrieval problems that arise in paper filing systems when more than one person requires the same document at the same time and retrieval rates are high. Indexing has been found to be of significant value to organizations because it facilitates faster retrieval of documents as well as reduces cost.

Careers in records and information management
Job TitleDuties and Responsibilities
source: Compiled from Ricks, B. R. et al. (1997). Information and Image Management (3rd ed.). Scarborough, ON: ITP Nelson, pp. 2441.
Records & Information SupervisorMaintains uniform records system and procedures throughout the organization. Develops efficient methods, then plans, conducts, and administers them. Selects and supervises staff.
Records & Information ClerkMaintains specialized records systems, conducts systems analysis. Assists in designing and monitoring established schedules.
Senior records & Information ClerkCoordinates with records center, retrieves information for users, and maintains logs and indexes. Oversees transfer of records.
Records & Information ClerkSorts, indexes, and retrieves files and records. Classifies materials and records and maintains charge-out system for records removal.
Records Center SupervisorOperates and maintains the records center. Responsible for vital records protection, storage, and disposition. Selects and supervises staff.
Records Center ClerkAssists in accessing, reference retrieval, and disposal activities of center. Maintains charge-out system for records removed from files.
Micrographics SupervisorPlans and controls micrographics program. Work closely with records and information analyst and others in developing applications. Selects and supervises staff.
Micrographics CoordinatorSets priorities and schedules work. Monitors resources and trains personnel.
Micrographics TechnicianProvides technical advice, operates microfilm equipment. Develops, maintains, and monitors indexing and retrieval aids. Monitors clerks.
Senior Micrographics ClerkReceives and logs documents, prepares and handles special projects. Monitors quality control and conducts routine equipment maintenance.
Micrographic ClerkPrepares documents for microfilming, operates equipment, and prepares indexes. Searches, sorts, and files microforms.
Senior Records AnalystAnalyzes records systems and prepares proposals to change. Designs manual or automated systems, monitors retention program, and directs vital records program.
Records AnalystPrepares or assists in analyzing existing records systems; writes procedures. Provides staff training and assists in vital records protection program.

Indexing can be field-based, full-text based, or a combination of the two. Indexing fields make unique identification of documents possible and retrieval easier. They may identify documents by their creation date, time, and creator, as well as by fields involving a controlled vocabulary. A full-text document index is important for retrieving specific, accurate files but can be more time consuming.

Offsite storage of inactive records is the most common type of records outsourcing. Records management outsourcing often depends on the quality and cost of the outsourcer. Decision making involves whether to store inactive records offsite or bring in an outsourcing firm to run the entire records management operation.


Careers in records and information management have often been created or motivated by top-level management personnel who recognize a need for specialization to improve productivity. Many employees hired at the entry level have moved to higher positions partly because of onthe-job-training programs. These programs have helped meet the need for improvement in skills due to new technologies or expansion of the organization.

A successful employee-training program should not be limited to specific functional operations. It should cover all aspects of the organizational system. Fundamentals must be presented in such a manner that employers see themselves as important participants in a highly essential undertaking.

The Institute of Certified Records Managers has determined that a professional records and information manager must have acceptable work experience in three or more of the following categories:

  • Management of records program
  • Records creation and use
  • Active records systems
  • Inactive records systems
  • Records appraisal
  • Retention
  • Disposition
  • Records protection
  • Records and information management technology

The Education Department Committee of ARMA International (formerly the Association of Records Managers and Administrators) created a framework for competency requirements for records and information managers. These basic requirements provide guidance for demonstration and measurement of technical, administrative, managerial, and personal competencies throughout the range of levels of professional development. The following job titles or careers have been identified in records and information management:

  • Director
  • Manager
  • Specialist
  • Coordinator
  • Analyst/technologist
  • Technician
  • Senior assistant
  • Junior assistant

A need for more specialization in records and information management careers has been initiated by the rapid expansion of information in many fields. Table 2 identifies some of those specialties.

see also Document Processing ; Information Processing ; Office Technology


ARMA International. (2000). RIM industry competency requirements. Prairie Village, KS: Association of Records Managers and Administrators.

Ashe, Carolyn, and Nealy, Chynette (2004). Records management: Effective information systems. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

The case of hybrid imaging. (2001, March). Micrographics and Hybrid Imaging Systems Newsletter, 33 (3), 11.

Cisco, Susan, and Wertzberger, Janelle (1997). Indexing digital documents: It's not an optionPlay now or pay (more) later. Inform, 11 (2), 1220.

Hutchens, Philip H. (1998, October). Information management and the decisionmaker. Records Management Quarterly 32 (4), 2830.

Institution of Certified Records Management. (1997). Information sheet no. 1: Introduction to certification. An interactive workshop. Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference of ARMA International, (p. 469). Chicago.

Perry, A. (2000). Open text releases Livelink IRIMS. Business wire. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Business Wire.

Ricks, Betty, Swafford, Ann, Gow, Kay, and Flemming, Glen (1997). Information and image management (3rd ed.). Scarborough, Ontario, Canada: Nelson.

Sletten, L. (1998). Management in Australia: Exploring the information universe. Paper presented at the meeting of ARMA, Houston, TX.

Vander Noot, Theodore J. (1998, October). Libraries, records management data processing: An information handling field. Records Management Quarterly, 32 (4), 2226.

Carolyn H. Ashe