What does it take to be a Records Management Officer?

boss-1020725_960_720Being a Records Management Officer (RMO) can seem like a huge undertaking. Being in charge of all of your organization’s records? Making sure your organization is abiding by records management laws? Protecting your organization from an audit? As RMO, you do have a great deal of power and responsibility.

What are the main functions of a Records Management Officer? The Statutory Requirements for a state agency RMO are that they must:

  • Administer the records management program within the agency
  • Conduct or oversee the inventory of all agency records
  • Conduct or oversee the preparation and maintenance of the agency records retention schedule
  • Protect confidential and vital records.
  • Manage records within the agency during active use
  • Approve all documentation for transfer of records to the State Records Center
  • Approve all requests to dispose of state records
  • Attend training and information classes offered by the State and Local Records Management Division and coordinate records management training for agency staff, as needed

Though this is a list of requirement for state agency RMOs, the responsibilities are comparable for local governments. This list is a great starting point, but many of these rules are so general that it’s hard to visualize their daily applications. Let’s break down some of the major responsibilities of RMOs.

Program Administration

“Administer the records management program” seems to be a nebulous mandate. It really means that RMOs need to make sure an agency or government complies with the State Records Management Laws or the Local Government Records Act. To do this, RMOs must:

  1. Document the records management procedures of their organizations
  2. Carry out the policies of the State and Local Records Management Division (such as compliance paperwork and records retention and disposition) – we can help you with this one if you have questions!

Records Inventory

The Texas Government Code §441.185 defines the records inventory as “a listing of all records series created and maintained by an agency and . . . conducted prior to the development of the retention schedule. The inventory includes data such as records series titles, descriptions of contents, record medium, arrangement, volume, vital record status, retention period, etc.”

The records inventory isn’t as scary as it sounds. It can be overwhelming to look at your agency or government’s records as a whole, but it’s important to remember that RMOs can create an inventory by methodically surveying your files location by location, either physically or digitally. Also, they don’t have to do it alone! We provide a Records Inventory and Analysis Form for local governments and a Records Inventory Worksheet for state agencies. Additionally, enlisting the help of other agency or government employees is a great opportunity to share records management knowledge and to get organization-wide involvement.

An important part of the inventory process is identifying confidential and vital records in order to protect them, and in the case of confidential records, dispose of them properly. Confidential records are those restricted from the public and vital records are those that are absolutely necessary to resume government business after a disaster. These include important legal and financial documents as well as those that protect employees and members of the public.

Retention Schedule

RMOs must adopt or create records retention schedules, which list the retention period for each record before it can be disposed. Many local governments choose to adopt TSLAC’s records schedules, which can account for the vast majority of government records (with the option of adding amendments for the records that don’t fall into any record series). Local governments that opt to create their own retention schedule and state agencies must submit a Records Control Schedule and Records Control Schedule Certification and Acceptance form. State agencies must submit a Records Retention Schedule and Records Retention Schedule Certification.

The records retention schedule should be fairly easy to create once you have your inventory. As a RMO, you are responsible for its creation and submission to TSLAC, but you’re also responsible for making the information available to your organization. Records management policy is far less effective if it’s not being shared with those who create and maintain records!

Records Storage

The RMO is in charge of the records storage process, from assessing risks to managing storage decisions. It is the RMO’s responsibility to address dangers to records such as sunlight, flooding, pests, and security risks. For more information on risk management and records protection, watch our webinar and read the Local Government Records Storage Standards.

An important step to making storage decisions is to decide which records are active and inactive. RMOs may decide that off-site storage is a safe and cost-effective decision for records that are not current or are used infrequently. TSLAC offers an affordable option for off-site storage available to all local governments and state agencies! The State Records Center (SRC) provides controlled access to hard copy records that are stored in a high-density, low-cost facilities. The SRC also stores electronic media in environmentally-controlled vaults. Records are available through pick-up or delivery.

The RMO coordinates the transfer of records to the State Records Center (SRC) using TexLinx, a cloud-based software.

TexLinx is used:

  • to designate items (boxes, files, microfilm, microfiche, and disaster recovery) to be stored at the SRC
  • to transfer items to and from the SRC
  • to create imaging jobs for the Imaging Department at the SRC

Records Disposition

The RMO must follow the Records Retention Schedule in order to know when it is legal to dispose of or transfer records. Organizing and labeling records by their retention period makes this process easy!

We recommend using a records disposition log to keep track of what records are disposed of or transferred to the archives. This acts as a paper trail in case of an audit. For records not up for archival review, the proper disposition methods are burning, shredding, or pulping for confidential records or recycling and landfill disposal for open records. If a record that is not up for disposition needs to be destroyed, you must submit a form RMD 102 for State Agencies or a form SLR 501 for local governments before the records can be disposed.

RMOs are also responsible for developing and implementing disposition procedures for staff members. To learn more about disposition and to help develop training for staff, we have webinars for both state agencies and local governments on this subject.

Conclusion

The major jobs of a RMO span everything from physical storage of records to legal responsibility, but RMOs aren’t the only people helping with records management. In the following blog posts, we’ll talk about the responsibilities of records management liaisons and records custodians.

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