Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Introduction to Records Management

Introduction to Records Management | Wisconsin Historical Society

Records management is a program to achieve control over records from the time of their creation or receipt, through their organization and maintenance, and to their ultimate disposition. It has three goals:

  • To keep fewer and better records in the office.
  • To provide for the orderly disposition of non-current records.
  • To preserve valuable documents by identifying records which have significant administrative, financial, legal or research value.

The records of state agencies and local governments are valuable assets to officers, employees, and citizens. Proper management of governmental records meets the public’s demand for increased efficiency, improved services, and greater accountability. It also makes it easier to meet state and federal reporting requirements.

 However, just keeping records is not enough:

  • Records must be accessible.
    • Record keeping allows state agencies and local units to meet the requirements of Wisconsin’s Public Records Law described in Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31 to 19.39.
    • Record keeping practices must ensure electronic records remain accessible over time. Administrative Rule 12 contains the provisions for ensuring electronic records remain available.
  • Record-keeping must be efficient.
    • Poor record-keeping is expensive in terms of staff time and storage costs. Good records management is a cost-effective program, not an extra.

To achieve these objectives, records must be created, organized, and disposed of systematically. Otherwise, records are a burden to the community as they:

  • Impede efficient business.
  • Occupy valuable office space.
  • Fill expensive storage equipment.
  • Use tax monies for unproductive labor.

Records management is an on-going function, not one which is done once or once in a while. Everyone involved should understand that the implementation of records management can make everyone’s work more efficient.

What are the benefits of records management? 

  • Ensure compliance with legal and regulatory recordkeeping requirements in Wisconsin.
  • Protect records that are essential to mission-critical business operations.
  • Reduce risk in litigations, government investigations, and the legal discovery process.
  • Reduce physical and electronic storage requirements (space, equipment, and supplies) when records are disposed of or transferred per record schedule.
  • Records are easy to locate (because they are well-organized and named,) and accessible to those who need them (but not accessible to anyone not authorized to access them).
  • Records with permanent historical value are identified and protected.
  • Programs and decision making operate smoothly as a result of the availability and findability of information.
  • Services are delivered in a consistent and equitable manner.
  • Provides continuity in the event of a disaster.