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Records Management at Brown University


Brown employees create and maintain records in the course of their employment. These records may be correspondence, project files, or any number of tools created to perform a specific job. The university defines a record as:

“A record is any information regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the department.”

These records may include different formats such as paper files, electronic documents, photographs, videos, datasets, databases or e-mail. If a record is created or produced as a result of your employment at Brown then it is a Brown record.

It doesn’t matter how an employee separates: whether they transfer to another department, resign, retire, or terminated. Any records under the employee’s control should remain with the property of the department.                    

Paper records continue to physically reside wherever they are left upon an employee's departure, electronic records can easily be lost. When an employee leaves employment their computer network drive is deactivated and their directory on the shared network and Google account is deleted including Gmail and Drive. Specific action is required to assure that records are not lost in a transition.

Be Prepared

Employees should maintain their records in an organized manner. This not only makes locating records on a daily basis more efficient but makes transitioning much simpler. All employees should:

  • Keep their records organized.
    • Keep current on filing.
    • Purge records of unneeded reference copies and expired materials regularly.
    • Organize electronic files and e-mails, too.
    • Use meaningful file names. Do not hesitate to use creation date or version as part of the file name.
    • Follow accepted university retention schedules for records, keeping only those records required by your specific business needs.
  • Use a filing system that can be easily deciphered if the employee is not available.
    • Follow all departmental specific filing protocols and records management policies.
    • Your record keeping system should account for retention periods. This may include separating records by type, specific project, calendar or fiscal year.
  • Personal records or communications should be clearly identified as such, segregated from work related records, and kept to a minimum.
  • Regularly document the destruction of any original records.

Create a Plan

An orderly transition takes time and planning. Supervisor and employees should discuss how to handle records and formulate a plan once it is known an employee is going to be separating. Some questions to ask:

  • Will the position be filled immediately, left vacant for a time, or eliminated?
  • Will someone fill in on an interim basis?
  • Will one person be taking over all of the position’s responsibilities or will they be spread among multiple staff?
  • Will some projects or responsibilities be terminated?

Get Started

Whether the separation situation is simple such as retirement or complex such as an unplanned departure, the following steps can provide a solid starting point:

  • Employees shouldn’t leave records for someone else to sort through. Purge all outdated and unnecessary information including drafts, working files, unneeded reference materials, and any records that have met or exceeded their retention requirements.
  • It is recommended that anytime a major cleanup is conducted destroyed records be documented. This record documents the time and scope of the purge and provides liability protection for the department and the university.
  • Be sure that physical files are clearly labeled (including cabinets, drawers and storage systems) and filed in their correct locations.
  • Electronic files and e-mails are stored in an departmental or shared drive
  • Create a directory (or directories) on a departmental shared drive for electronic files to  be accessed by coworkers and supervisor.
    • Organize records according to project or area of responsibility.
    • Coordinate with supervisor regarding location and naming conventions of files so they can be found by staff who will be filling in and/or taking over select responsibilities.
    • Take reasonable security precautions. Do not place any sensitive information on unencrypted shared drives. Consult a supervisor for procedure in this case.
  • Sort through and organize e-mail. It is important to organize the inbox and sent box messages. Disposition options include:
    • Print and file records with hardcopy records
    • Move to departmental ECM system (if available)
    • Save individual messages or entire folders to a network shared drive to so a successor can have access
    • Forward messages to a supervisor or their designee.