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Records Management Policies and Procedures

Records management entails consistent systems throughout campus guiding how and when records are created, accessed, stored, and/or discarded. This guide includes advice on working with the University Archives, identifying records and their sources, develo

9.8.1 Paper-Based Records

Paper remains one of the most stable record keeping formats available. Minimal effort can enable effective management of paper-based records.

File Folders, Filing Cabinets, and Storage Boxes

Full-tab file folders can facilitate giving files complete and unabbreviated names. Store an appropriate number of sheets of paper in each folder such that they are not too full but also use space efficiently. Similarly, ensure folders fit snugly into filing cabinets or storage boxes. Overstuffed storage containers can increase wear on documents over time. Containers that are less than full are an inefficient use of space, and can also cause documents to bow or bend. The University Archives will transfer paper-based materials to acid-free folders and boxes when processing archival records.

Filing

Determine a filing plan as described at 9.7, and ensure that everyone is trained in and held accountable for following it. When arranging documents chronologically, be consistent about whether new additions go in the front (reverse chronology) or in the back of the folder. Be judicious about when and for what purposes multiple copies of a document are retained.

Environment

When possible, store paper away from potential sources of water hazards such as pipes, and away from potential sources of extreme temperatures such as sunny windows or heating/cooling vents. Pests such as rodents and silverfish love to make their homes in boxes of paper and can be highly destructive to materials. Monitor storage areas for signs of infestation.

Adhesives

Many adhesives slowly deteriorate overtime. Labeling a file or box with an adhesive label risks the label being lost. It is preferable to label a file or box by writing directly on it. Additionally, adhesives applied to documents, such as post-it notes or scotch tape, can threaten the long term preservation of such documents and should be avoided or removed before any long term storage. The University Archives will sometimes remove adhesives when processing archival records.

Metal Fasteners

Staples, paperclips, and other similar fasteners add bulk to files. They can also rust over time and/or create puncture hazards for people handling the records. Fasteners are sometimes necessary, but should be used with discretion. The University Archives will sometimes remove metal fasteners when processing archival records.

9.8.2 Audio/Visual Material

Audio/visual material can include photographs, photographic negatives, slides, cassette tapes, VHS tapes, reel-to-reels, microfilm, DVDs, CDs, etc. Depending on the format, each of these may require different processes for effective management. The University Archivist can provide guidance.

Storage

The best storage container for audio/visual material will often be the container provided when the media is purchased, e.g. the cassette tape cover or reel-to-reel canister.

Labeling

Label both the material itself and its container using a consistent naming scheme, keeping in mind that sometimes containers and the items in them become separated. When labeling photographic prints, recommended methods include using an indelible felt tip pen (such as micron pens), using a soft pencil (3B or softer to avoid marring the image side of the print), or sleeving prints and labeling the sleeves.

Environment

Audio/visual materials are best preserved in cool environments. When storing such material in offices, ensure it is away from potential sources of water hazards such as pipes, and away from potential sources of extreme temperatures such as sunny windows or heating/cooling vents. SJSU Special Collections & Archives preserves audio/visual materials in a vault with temperature and humidity maintained at recommended levels for these materials.

Adhesives

Avoid applying adhesives directly to audio/visual material. This is most often an issue with photographic prints. If it is necessary to attach a photographic print to something else, consider using photo corners that avoid applying adhesive directly to the print. Adhesives applied to audio/visual material can deteriorate over time and cause damage to the material.

Deterioration

Some audio/visual material will begin to emit the smell of vinegar when it is deteriorating. This is known as “vinegar syndrome.” If you detect a smell of vinegar coming from your audio visual materials, contact the University Archivist for guidance as soon as possible.

9.8.3 3D Objects/Artifacts and Textiles

Archivists usually refer to 3D objects as artifacts. Textiles can include banners, commemorative t-shirts, or any other fabric-based item. Artifacts and textiles may be considered records depending on their ability to convey information about or provide evidence of the activities of an individual or organization. To preserve contextual information about artifacts and textiles, a labeled tag can be tied to it with a string, or the item can be placed inside a labeled container. Avoid any labeling or that will permanently mark the object, especially adhesives and metal fasteners. Labels should follow established file naming schemes described above.

Artifacts and textiles can be made from a variety of materials including wood, ceramic, upholstery, metal, wool, cotton, silk, polyester, etc. Many are also made from more than one material. While each type of material may benefit from specific processes, generally keeping them protected from excessively high or low temperatures, moisture, light, and pests will be sufficient for short term preservation. Pests are especially a consideration for certain natural materials such as wood and wool.

For any concerns about preserving or labeling a specific artifact or textile, please contact the University Archivist.

9.8.4 Born Digital Material

The term born digital refers to items created as digital media from their inception, as differentiated from analog materials that have been digitized. Born digital materials can include documents, audio/visual material, and other digital objects.

Preferred File Formats

With technology rapidly changing and advancing, many file formats become obsolete every few years. Records saved in file formats that become obsolete can become inaccessible. To mitigate this danger, the following are the preferred file formats for long term preservation of common digital materials:

Type of Media

Preferred Format(s)

Text, or Text with Image

PDF

Image

JPG or TIFF

Audio

MP3

Video

MP4

For born digital material beyond these formats, please contact the University Archivist.

Tips for Naming Electronic Files

  • When naming electronic files, ensure the entire department or office is using a consistent format, including the symbols used to create spaces in file names.
  • When using symbols in file names, avoid those that are used in coding and can create errors when files are migrated. Dashes between words are the safest approach at the time of this writing.

  • Recording dates in file names in YYYYMMDD format makes it possible to quickly arrange files chronologically, which can be useful for many files.

  • Using title case promotes readability, e.g. “Records-Management” instead of “records-management.”

  • Choose a consistent method for differentiating versions of the same record, such as inserting “v01” or “version01” at the end of a file name.

  • When numbering, using zeros to fill numerical spaces can aid in future sorting efforts, e.g. “v01” instead of “v1.” The necessity of this will depend upon how many numbers you anticipate needing in subsequent file names.

  • Using words such as “Final” in a file name is only effective if used on a draft that truly will not change in the future. In most cases, having a date on the version is more effective. That way people can look for the most recent draft instead of sorting through different drafts labeled “Final” or “Final-FINAL.”

(Adapted from Ohio State University Library, File Naming Conventions)

Destroying Electronic Records

Deleting a digital record is not sufficient to make the records inaccessible. This would be similar to throwing a piece of paper in the recycling bin. It can be retrieved. Every SJSU computer should have a program installed that allows a user to right click on a document and digitally shred it. At the time of this writing, that program is Spirion. The same program can also be used to identify records with private information such as social security numbers. For more information about Spirion and how to use it, visit the IT page on Data Loss Prevention.

9.8.5 Web Based Content

Web-based or online content poses unique challenges when it comes to records management. On the one hand, anything posted online is theoretically available in perpetuity, for as long as the internet continues to exist. On the other hand, without knowledge of how to do so, it can be difficult to retrieve information that has been overwritten with updates, or uploaded through proprietary services.

Websites

When seeking to preserve websites, consider whether you want to preserve the content only, or the look, feel, and functionality of the site as well. Different approaches will be appropriate for different needs. Depending on the platform you use to create your website, there may be different preservation options available. Contact the University Archivist or SJSU IT for more information.

The simplest approach to preserving the content of your website is to maintain a folder with any text and image files that are to be uploaded to the site. When content is revised or updated, move retired content to a separate folder. Make sure files are named and dated according to your file naming scheme.

At the time of this writing, SJSU uses OU Campus as the platform for all SJSU web content. This platform saves previous versions of all webpages as they are updated. Therefore, if you ever need to access an earlier version of a page, campus IT may be able to help.

Social Media

Social media posts are especially prone to loss and difficult to preserve due to the speed with which they proliferate as well as the proprietary nature of social media platforms. Documenting the Now offers useful advice and tools for preserving social media content.