The following information is based on my experience per my assigned roles on an internship project that consisted of following a Record Management Officer’s (RMO) procedures to convert physical records to electronic, implement consistent and clear file naming systems, and properly dispose of confidential records. I worked coincide with other team members. My term was during the middle stages of the imaging project, so there were things the RMO and team did prior to my term that I am not aware of. The RMO took responsibility of reviewing and properly handing the physical records after the records had been scanned.
The goal of the imaging project was to make records easily accessible to the records custodians (aka the subject matter experts) and minimize the amount of physical storage space needed. We were dealing with confidential records, so if it became necessary to buy more storage, then it would also be necessary to buy more security systems to prevent security breaches.
This is an outline of the stages the records went through and the associated task.
1. Log the record’s existence.
Since we were dealing with confidential records, I was one of a few within the office with permitted access to the physical storage area. I brought a laptop to the storage room and used a spreadsheet, that was accessible from other authorized users’ desktops, to log the existence of each individual file. The RMO instructed me to log the year of the record, identifiable information about the file (in this case, the name of the person that the file was associated to), and the boxes’ identifiable number that I found the record within (each box had been assigned a number and classified by case: CPS, Felony, Misdemeanor, Juvenile).
To follow the process, here is an example of what this could look like:
|2022||John Doe||Felony 1|
|2014||Jane Smith||Felony 1|
After I completed logging a box, the box was transferred to the imaging team’s workstation to begin working on the steps below. Team members followed protocols to transfer the confidential records to our workstation.
2. Determine the record’s retention period.
After a box was logged, each individual file within the box was reviewed by a subject matter expert to determine the content of the record. This is an important and necessary step because it allowed us to identify what record series the record falls into. In our case, the subject matter experts included a person fluent in determining case judgements and myself because I was trained by a subject matter expert.
We reviewed the records to determine the final judgement of the record, which would help us identify the applicable retention period. Our boss, the RMO, created a cheat sheet of retention periods most likely to appear in the boxes to avoid us from searching the entire schedule to find the applicable retention period. This saved those of us less familiar with determining retention periods time that went back into other tasks of the imaging project.
As a RMO, if you assign team members to this task and they are not sure what record series the record falls into then ensure they understand to contact you for clarity. If the RMO is not sure, the RMO can contact TSLAC for advice. Properly identifying the retention period is important because it mitigates the risk of the record being destroyed prior to the record’s retention period.
We, the subject matter experts, then added the retention period to a column in the log sheet.
DISCLAIMER: These retention periods are for demonstration purposes and should not be relied upon for felony and misdemeanor retention periods.
|Year:||Name:||Box:||Final Judgement:||Retention Period|
|2022||John Doe||Felony 1||Felony >20 years||+ 25 years|
|2014||Jane Smith||Felony 1||Misdemeanor||+ 5 years|
If a record was eligible to be destroyed, we put the record into a ‘SHRED’ box. We labeled the ‘SHRED’ box with a red color paper that had the word ‘SHRED’ printed on it and taped on each side of the box and the box’s lid. The shred box did not have any identifiable information on it, such as case numbers, years, department, etc. If it did, we removed it, either by physically removing the information or marking it out with a permanent marker. This is because we were handling confidential information.
We kept all the files that were not eligible for destruction in their existing box. Throughout this process, we would condense records from their original box if needed, so that we did not have a high volume of almost empty boxes.
3. Prep the records for scanning.
After a box was completely full of records that needed to be preserved because they had not yet met retention, the box was given to “preppers.” Preppers were the people who prepared the box for scanning. We preppers removed paper clips and threw them in the trash, so have a trash can near by for each prepper. We removed staples with staple removers. Kudos to my boss for this tip: we recommend having multiple types of staple removers on hand because they are not one size fits all with a user. Some preppers will destroy the top edges of the paper if given a staple remover that does not feel right to them. Damage to the record is not ideal when you are making every effort to preserve the record.
We straightened any pages to remove creases, which would show up once scanned. Depending on how big the crease is or where it exists, a crease can result in some of the record’s content not being readable which would lead to not meeting the access goals. On this project, we did strive for zero creases because we were dealing with very important content that needed to be readable and complete.
If there were sticky notes with government information attached to documents, we taped them to a blank sheet of paper and kept them in sequence with the file’s pages.
See Incentivizing an Imaging Project for how to incentivize this step and make it a little less disgusting and mundane.
4. Scan the records.
After the record was prepped, it moved on to the “scanners.” The scanners would pull a file within the box and scan the record. We each had our own scanner, which made it really simple because we could see the scan immediately on our computer and rescan if we saw any errors. Our boss advised us to count and scan ten pages of the folder at a time. This approach helped us catch issues with the scan, including a dirty scanner (which shows up as black specks or lines or a shadow on the scan), page folds (that obstructed the view of the content or created shadows on the record), any pages that were stuck together (so they were scanned together rather than individually), any missed sticky notes (which covered the record’s content), missed pages, and any other weird scan results.
After we scanned the record, we saved the file to the proper folder based on the RMO’s instructions. The RMO created a folder system that had broader folders, such as Felony, Misdemeanor, CPS, Juvenile. The RMO included the retention period in the folder’s name, such as: ‘Felony + 25.’ Then there were subfolders within the folders to organize by years. For e.g. For John Doe’s I would have filed it in the ‘2022’ subfolder within the ‘Felony + 25’ folder. This helps subject matter experts find records and makes the records easy to identify when it is time for disposition.
We named the electronic file based on the file naming convention that our boss provided. The RMO made it really simple for us by putting the file naming convention in our team’s procedures, so we could always refer to it. Checkout our article, Filing Crash Course: Classification Schemes for further guidance on creating an effective file name setup.
5. Quality check the scans.
After the file was scanned and saved properly, we had “quality checkers” review the scan for any mishaps. We quality checkers checked for the same issues the scanners checked for, but we also checked to ensure the electronic file matched the physical file, meaning the records were properly filed and named. We also rotated pages to make sure they were in the right orientation and deleted any blank/bleeding pages. Blank pages have no information on them whatsoever. Bleeding pages are when the actual page has bled onto the back of a blank page. Generally this is from a stamp or an intense pen. Bleeding pages have no government information on them and, if left, would increase the amount of electronic storage being used.
If we ended up needing to scan all records within a folder again, we would pull that folder and put the folder in a scanner’s box, so it could be quality checked again by someone else. Pro tip: We didn’t quality check our own boxes, so that our eyes would catch things that someone else’s might not have.
If we were at a stopping place for the day, we left a place holder within our box so that anyone could pick up the box and know where we left off.
If you are a local government, do be aware that the Electronic Records Standards and Procedures (aka Bulletin B) requires you to quality check at least 10% of your scans for records that have a retention period of 10 years or more. Local governments are encouraged to quality check at least 10% of all scans, regardless of the record’s retention period. State agencies are strongly advised to follow the same guidance. Again, we were dealing with critical information, so we quality checked 100% of the scans.
Once a box was done being quality checked, we then labeled the box with a green sheet of paper that had “SHRED” printed on it so the RMO could properly handle the records.
6. Shred the scans and celebrate.
Our boss scheduled a shred day for all the boxes that were approved to be destroyed. We loaded the boxes onto a cart and brought them to the shred truck. This step was by far the quickest and easiest part of the project.
We walked back ecstatic that the physical storage area now had room to grow for future storage and that the electronic record setup made it easy for the subject matter experts to view and use the records. The electronic record setup also made it easy for future scanners to add additional cases to and continue to build off the setup based on the effective file naming conventions.
Whether your imaging team is heavily populated or a solo crew, creating procedures that are consistent and clear ensures that the project is easy to dive back into regardless of how much time has passed, that the records are being properly handled throughout their entire lifecycle, and that records are easily accessible for subject matters to utilize when performing their normal duties.
- For those of you who asked “can I destroy a paper original after scanning?” We’re glad that you asked!
- For further guidance on an imaging project, checkout our webinar, The 5 Ws of an Imaging Project.
- To ensure electronic records are safe and sound, check out our two-part webinar, Strategies for Preserving Electronic Records.