1.4 THE RECORDS LIFE CYCLE
Records do not just appear from nowhere and put themselves on desks in file cabinets or in computer memories. People create them and put them there.
- Before the mid 20th Century this fact was not as obvious as it is today.
- The fact that records existed because someone had made a conscious effort to capture information in a reproducible form had never really been considered.
- Before this period the approach to records management was basically one of attempting to keep “track of it all”.
- In 1934, the records life-cycle concept was developed in the USA.
- Once this concept was accepted, record managers realized that some form of control could be exercised over these created records. This then led to the concept of the life cycle of the record.
- It dawned on people that if the creation of records could be controlled it would make the use, maintenance and disposition of records much less of a problem.
- The life cycle concept holds that recorded information has a “life” similar to that of a biological organism in that it is born (creation phase) it lives (maintenance and use phase) and it dies (disposition phase).
Within the creation phase there are elements such as forms, reports directives and correspondence. Maintenance and use phase (Active and Semi-current phases) are elements such as files, mail, communications appraisal, active storage, security and vital records.
- Disposition phase includes elements such as scheduling, appraisal, inactive storage in record centers, archival disposition and disposal.
- In order to achieve the objectives of record management, the records manager must ensure the correct application of the concept of the life cycle to all records in the organisation.
- The management of records through their life cycle ensures that vast quantities of inactive records do not clog up expensive office space and also provide for fast and efficient retrieval of information.
- The management of the life cycle of the record is the basic principle of records management.
1.4.1 PHASES OF LIFE CYCLE
(a) CREATION PHASE
This is the point at which information is collected and captured. Various ways may be used to create a record e.g writing a letter or memorandum, filling in a form, duplicating an existing record, taking a photograph, videotaping e.t.c. Different levels of effort are involved in creating these records. Thus before a record is created some thought should be given to the necessity of its existence. If it is unnecessary, it should not be created . 75% of the cost of information is consumed at this phase yet superfluous records are created unnecessarily in almost all organizations on daily basis.
- Why write a letter when a phone call can suffice
- Why complete a form in triplicate while only two copies are used.
- Reports are required even when the response is negative.
Little consideration is given to the most fundamental question:
IS IT NECESSARY TO CAPTURE THE INFORMATION IN REPRODUCIBLE FORM?
Records managers must therefore understand and guide the organization in determining what information must be captured and in what form. In some instances, the capture is not only desirable but absolutely imperative. For example, conclusion of treaties, contracts and mergers require adequate documentation. During this phase, the records are said to be active, are distributed to the action officers used, stored and maintained.
(b) SEMI-CURRENT PHASE
A records is said to be semi-current when its rate of reference dwindles. Appraisal is usually done and if the record is found to still have value to the creators or others is transferred to inactive storage – record centers. These transferred are referred to occasionally. Such records may be retained because they may possess valuable information for historical purposes. These are the records that are too old for the registries to keep and yet too young for the archives to take in.
Storing records in a well-run, low cost records center results in substantive monetary savings to an organisation through economical use of both equipment and space. In addition transferring inactive records to a records centre frees up valuable office floor space, which can be used more effectively than storing outdated records.
(c ) DISPOSITION PHASE
The final stage of a records life cycle concludes with either disposal or permanent storage. This is the stage when a record has become non current and no longer required for the conduct of current business. The disposition made of an inactive record will depend on the value of the information that it contains. Records found to possess enduring value (Archives) will be transferred to an archive for preservation, storage and making them available for research use. Those with no value will be disposed of using the acceptable disposal methods.
- A record can be disposed of at any point during its life cycle.
- Not all records will complete the “birth to death” cycle in the same order.
- Appraisal and disposition are records and archives management functions that must be carried out at all stages of a records life cycle.