Part 4 - File construction

Introduction

4.1.1 It is necessary to put in place measures relative to file construction and design. For the most part, these procedures refer to how, in practical terms, the file classification scheme will be applied to records. File construction refers to two areas: the notional concept of the file and when to create and close files; and how the file is physically constructed, for example, the steps taken such as file numbering or recording identifying information on file covers.

When to create a new file

4.2.1 New files may be created in several different sets of circumstances:

  • With reference to the file classification scheme, specific time periods are allotted to the life-span of files. This is to ensure that files are up to date and contain only active records. New files should be opened in accordance with time periods specified in the scheme.

  • Where records are created and received and are not mentioned in the file classification scheme, files should be opened and records captured in the record-keeping system in the most appropriate manner. Where this occurs, the file classification scheme should be updated. Records with no connection to each other, or only a tenuous connection, should not be filed together. Where inappropriate filing does occur, accurate and complete retrieval of records is made extremely difficult.

  • New files should be created if there is a danger that the addition of records will cause the file contents to no longer reflect file titles. Should this arise, new files should be created in order that records are filed in appropriately titled files. This may result in splitting existing files or simply closing offending files. The latter option is preferable if the records are no longer active. Alternatively, if it is more appropriate the file title should be altered.

  • No file should exceed 3cm in size. If files reach this size, they should be closed. This may result in the creation of a new file or new volume. The distinction between a new file and a new volume is simple. If a matter is incomplete or ongoing it is a new volume that should be created.

  • New files should be created if a member of staff of the organisation requests it, and there are records to support its existence.

  • When mail arrives or other records are tendered for filing, and there is no file onto which they can be placed, new files should be opened.

How to create a new file

4.2.2 One person should be appointed to a position of responsibility for the creation of new files.

4.2.3 Either the staff member responsible for the creation of new files, or other members of staff, may decide that it is appropriate that a new file is opened. A request for a new file should then be created and submitted to the person responsible for the creation of new files.

4.2.4 Requesting staff members to document their need for a new file is useful:

  • It encourages them to think about the filing system and what they need from it.

  • It provides the staff member responsible for opening files with requisite and standardised information, and is a checking mechanism. An example of the latter is that the staff member who requests a new file may have overlooked the existence of a current file that could be used for their purpose.

  • A simple form should be used to record requests for new files. It may be retained as a permanent record of why a file was created. Many organisations retain request forms as the first folio of each file.

4.2.5 A form used to record requests for new files should include the following categories of information:

To be completed by staff member requesting a new file To be completed by staff member responsible for creating a new file

Request for new file or new volume 
Related existing files (names and numbers) 
Description of records to be stored on file 
Suggested file name 
Reason for request 
Requester 
Date

Request granted or denied 
Reason 
Assigned file name 
Assigned file number

A sample request form is supplied as Appendix 2 - Request for New File. It may be photocopied as necessary.

4.2.6 The method described above is recommended. It may be convenient to permit transmission of requests for new files via e-mail. However, some organisations do allow staff members to tender requests for new files verbally.

4.2.7 On receipt of the request for a new file, the staff member responsible for the creation of new files should ascertain if it is warranted. This should be done by checking existing file names and their scopes.

4.2.8 The member of staff responsible for the creation of new files will communicate with those other staff members who may request new files. Where it is decided that a new file is to be created, there should be a level of co-operation in order to ensure that the file name is reflective of suggested file content, and that the retention period assigned to the file is suitable etc.

4.2.10 Creating a new file comprises several steps. The following are some of those tasks that require completion. Most of these tasks are delineated in more detail in the following sections:

  • Assign file number

  • Assign file name

  • Sentence file (that is, decide retention period and final disposition. This should be done by comparing the file to the file classification scheme and records retention schedules and disposal authorities. This will decide the how long the file will remain in an office, in semi-active storage and ultimately, how long it will be retained).

  • Physically construct file

  • Input details in the database which acts as a file register

  • Assign locationd time-consuming activity.

File titling

4.3.1 File titling is the practice of assigning a name to each file in the filing system. File name is the principal and more discernible identifier of individual files. It is crucial that file titling is done well in order that files are easily distinguishable from each other.

4.3.2 There are a number of protocols to be followed when choosing names for files:

  1. As few persons as possible should be involved in the process of naming files in order to promote consistency in the use of vocabulary.

  2. File names should accurately reflect file contents. If file contents begin to move away from the file name, the original file should be split and new more better-defined files should be formed. This may happen both if file contents become too specific or general.

  3. File names should be as concise and contain as few words as possible. The language used in the file name should be chosen in such a way that specific areas are delimited and that there can be no doubt as to what is included or excluded by it.

  4. No files may be opened in the names of main functional or subject areas as delineated in the file classification scheme.

  5. There should be no files which contain the words 'general,' 'miscellaneous' or 'various' in their names, or no files compiled on any of these or similar bases.

  6. There should be as little duplication as possible between the subjects covered by file names. Where duplication is unavoidable, cross-references should be used to alert users to the fact that records may be filed in more than one location.

  7. File names may be duplicated but such files should cover different periods and be assigned different file numbers. Secondly, sub-numbers should be suffixed to the file numbers. The need to duplicate some file names might arise if files exist on a continuous basis. For example, files which contains invoices are constantly required. The first in this series might be named Invoices and be numbered 101, and the second entitled Invoices but be numbered 101(2) and so forth. That each should cover a distinct period to avoid misfiling might mean that one would cover the period 20.09.2002-20.12.2002. The next might contain records relating to the next three calendar months. The entities described here would constitute different volumes of the same series rather than entirely new files.

  8. File names should not contain any abbreviations or acronyms, for example, where the names of persons or organisations are the file names, that is, National University of Ireland should be used rather than NUI.

  9. File names and subjects should be chosen so that important records are not filed with those that are ephemeral or of transient importance. Ephemeral documents should be filed so as to allow maximum advantage from destruction.

File numbering

4.4.1 File numbering is the practice of assigning symbols such as numbers or letters, or a combination of both, to files in a unique sequence in order to distinguish them from other files. File numbers work in conjunction to file names to ascribe a unique identity to each file. Each filing system should incorporate such a mechanism. File numbers should be applied to files at the time of their creation.

4.4.2 Alphabetical filing systems are traditional. However, many organisations now find it more convenient to use numbers rather than letters as reference symbols. There are several reasons for this:

  • Numbers are easily understood symbols.

  • It is easier to keep numbered rather than named files in good order. People use language differently whereas numbers are used more uniformly.

  • As only a number is visible on exterior file covers, files are more secure from unauthorised access.

4.4.3 Various file numbering systems are used. Common examples of such systems are sequential running numbers, annual numbering systems, classified numbering systems and block numbering systems. Some of these systems may combine letters with numbers.

4.4.4 Information on such systems is freely available in information and records management literature. Rather than providing an overview of the various file numbering systems, and their applicability, the system that is recommended for use in an office is discussed in detail here. All of the systems mentioned above were considered, and a sequential running number system was found to be the most appropriate. However, one alternative to this system is proposed.

4.4.5 No one system is ideal for all office environments. The basic requirements of a file numbering system are appropriateness and simplicity.

4.4.6 Choice of a file numbering system depends on many factors, principally, the staff members who operate the filing system and the nature of the records which constitute the filing system. The latter element is particularly important. As the records created and received by an office touch on a wide range of issues, involve multifarious individuals and organisations, and because much falls under the heading of correspondence, the file numbering system chosen must be flexible as well as simple. Those other file numbering systems named above were rejected as they are too prescriptive for use in an office where a wide and unpredictable range of records are created and administered.

Sequential file numbers

4.4.7 The file numbering system recommended for use is one that depends on a sequential running number.

4.4.8 The first number in the system may be 1. Each file merits a new number. To ascribe a number to a new file, the person charged with the creation of new files should ascertain the number of the file opened most recently. The system should only be allowed to grow to a maximum of 10,000 files as the longer the file number becomes, the more likely it is errors will be made in assigning numbers.

4.4.9 Where the quota of 10,000 allowed by the file numbering system has been filled, the numbering of the next new file should revert to 1, but be preceded by 2/. Therefore, the 10,001st file would be denoted 2/1 and so on. If preferred, and to introduce absolute consistency, the first file created could be denoted 1/1.

4.4.10 Where file drawers contain files which begin with 1/, 2/, 3/ etc, to differentiate between different runs, it is strongly recommended that each is labelled with different colour labels, for example, 1/ with red labels, 2/ with green labels etc. Files inserted in the wrong run will quickly be noticed.

4.8.11This file numbering system is extremely convenient as for the most part, new files are simply added to the end, and little inter-sorting of files is necessary. Where running numbers are preceded by 1/, 2/ etc, all files in the 1/ range should be kept together and all files in the 2/ range should be kept together and so forth.

4.8.12 Because the numbering system relies on a straight running number, the sections outlined in the file classification scheme have no influence on the numbers assigned to files. In some filing systems, for example, all files relating to human resources might be preceded by 1/ and all files pertaining to academic records might be preceded by 2/. It is strongly recommended that this convention not be introduced here as such file numbering systems have serious repercussions for the manner in which files are stored.

4.4.13 The statement that all files are assigned a new number is tempered by the fact that if a file must be split so that it comprises more than one volume, the second volume would receive a sub-number rather than an entirely new number. If a file numbered 1000 was split into two volumes, the file which had previously been denoted 1000 would become 1000(1) and the second volume would be 1000(2).

4.8.14 Where a file number is changed, all references to it in the information and records system must be altered. Principally, this refers to the database (both the file number and cross reference field) and the file cover.

4.4.15 Each file must have a unique identifying number. It should be noted that a register of all files is retained on a database. The database will not accept duplicate file numbers.

Annual file numbers

4.4.16 An alternative to the system proposed above would be to have a numbering system which uses the year of creation of a file as part of a reference symbol. For example, all files created in the year 2003 would begin with the reference number 03/. Thus, the 101st file created in 2003 would be 03/101. Likewise the 101st file created in 2013 would be numbered 13/101.

4.4.17 Common problems with this system are the probability of misfiling or allocating incorrect file numbers (as the system changes every year), as numbers may appear extremely similar to each other as is demonstrated above.

4.4.18 However, an advantage of this system is that numbers do not grow all that large, as the sequence reverts to number 1 every year.

4.4.19 Should this system be put into operation a date representing the beginning of the filing year should be chosen and documented. This may coincide with diverse events such as the start of the financial, academic or calendar year.

4.4.20 The sequential numbering system is preferable to using annual file numbers but in some sets of circumstances, and in order to differentiate classes of records from each other, the use of two numbering systems may be useful. For example, meeting files, which are few in number might be numbered with the use of annual file numbers.

Alphabetical file arrangement

4.4.21 Alphabetical file arrangement is only suitable if the filing system to which it is applied is of small size. It is unsuitable for larger filing systems for many reasons, including:

  • It does not permit the flexibility of a system which uses numbers.

  • Language must be very tightly controlled for an alphabetical file arrangement to be successful.

  • The fact that file names are written on file covers is a security risk.

  • Space must be made for new files as they are added so that the system remains in alphabetical order. This is extremely time-consuming.

4.4.22 Despite the disadvantages of alphabetical arrangement of files, it may be useful for ordering smaller filing systems, for example, those comprising the personal papers of members of staff.

Information on file covers

4.5.1 Each file should have two file covers inner and outer, and should bear information that distinguishes it from all other files.

4.5.2 All manila folders or other inner enclosures, next to which the records are stored, should carry the following information:

  • File number - should appear exactly as recorded on the database which comprises a register of files. If the file sub-numbered, this should be documented here.

  • File name - should appear exactly as recorded on the database which comprises a register of files.

  • Opening date - refers to the date of the first document on the file. It should be recorded in the format dd.mm.yyyy, for example, 30.09.2002.

  • Closing date - refers to the date of the final document on the file (not the date the file is closed). It should be recorded in the format dd.mm.yyyy, for example, 31.01.2004. It may not be possible to ascribe a closing date to files at the times they are opened. If not, the closing date should be added to the file cover at the time it is closed.

4.5.3 The classes of information described above should be recorded legibly and in ink. It is more convenient for re-use if sticky labels are attached rather than writing on the file covers.

4.3.4 On outer file covers, such as crystal-files, only the file number should be recorded. This is a security mechanism. Anyone attempting to gain unauthorised access to records will not be able to discern file contents at a glance, as would be possible where file names are recorded on outer file covers.

File attachment

4.6.1 File attachment refers to the practice of how documents are physically attached to files.

4.6.2 File attachment should be the documented responsibility of one member of staff. This is to promote consistency. The standard of file attachment will determine how easy it is to locate desired records.

4.6.3 A general rule is that documents must be attached neatly and in an orderly fashion, and should not protrude from the file cover. This is in order to prevent mechanical damage to documents.

4.6.4 When being prepared for filing, related documents should be fastened together with the use of staples, for example, an incoming letter and the response that was sent out. This step should be taken by those staff members responsible for the creation or receipt of records. This measure is essential to ensure related papers are kept together. These paper fasteners will be removed when documents are filed.

4.6.5 Should related documents be too bulky to allow stapling, they may be enclosed in a plastic folder or manila folder (plastic folders should not be used for archival documents).

4.6.6 Ideally, there should be no loose papers inside the manila folder or other inner enclosure. All records must be fastened to a manila folder with a treasury tag. To facilitate this, a single hole should be punched in the top left-hand corner of each page. NB: When punching holes in documents, staff members should ensure that no information is lost. The treasury should be adequately long so that damage is not caused to records.

4.6.7 It is appropriate to discuss who will file records, when this will occur and how often. As stated above, file attachment should be the documented responsibility of one member of staff. File attachment should occur at least once every three days. This is suggested to ensure that records are not misplaced or disordered. To promote efficiency, each staff member responsible for filing records should have an out-tray from which the staff member responsible for file attachment can take records on a regular basis. No other material should be stored in the out-tray.

Multiple matters in documents for attachment

4.6.8 If a document relates to several matters, and if records relating to these subjects would normally be sited in different files, a procedure should be put in place to ensure that records are captured on the appropriate files. There are two alternative procedures which would ensure this. The more convenient method should be chosen and put into practice consistently.

Method 1

  1. The original document is photocopied, a copy being made to represent each subject treated of in it.

  2. Copies of the original are stamped as such.

  3. The original and copies are attached to the appropriate files. Prior to filing however, the file number in which the original is placed is noted on all copies. In some sets of circumstances, a copy of a document may not be adequate, for example, in a court case.

Method 2

Alternatively, the original document may be attached to one file, and a note placed on all other relevant files, indicating where the original document is located.

Document order

4.7.1 Document order refers to the order in which documents are attached to files.

4.7.2 For ease of retrieval, documents should be added to files in strict date order.

4.7.3 The earliest documents should go at the back of the file and the latest at the front.

4.7.4 Strict date order may not be possible in several situations:

  • Sometimes a copy or full or partial transcript of an earlier document may be included with later documents, for example, a copy of a lease dating from the nineteenth century may accompany current correspondence. In this case, the earlier document should be placed with the documents to which it refers and maintenance of strict date order should be avoided. Enclosures should always be adjacent to the items with which they were sent.

  • Related e-mails are often printed off together, that is, the message thread may be preserved and e-mails printed off and filed when a business transaction has been completed. This is the most appropriate manner in which to manage e-mails and may continue, notwithstanding the fact this method may negate the achievement of strict date order. Individual e-mails, may be difficult to decipher as they are often written informally and in a cryptic manner.

Folio numbers

4.8.1 Folio numbering is the practice of placing a number on each folio or page in a file, so that folios are easily identifiable from one another.

4.8.2 Folio numbering is used in filing systems not only as a means of distinguishing pages from each other, but also to identify the contents of files if the following problems exist:

  • There are security problems.

  • Documents are being incorrectly removed from files and replaced incorrectly.

4.8.3 Folio numbering is often associated with accountable filing systems. It is advantageous as:

  • It is obvious when folios have been removed from a file.

  • It provides an easy reference tool to any document or any page within a document on a file.

4.8.4 It is recognised that the application of folio numbers to each file in a filing system would be time-consuming, and that the need for it is dependent on specific sets of circumstances. If widespread use of folio numbering is not necessary, staff members should seek to delineate specific files where folio numbering may be of benefit.

4.8.5 One area where folio numbering may be beneficial is in relation to meeting files. Some organisations retain records in files known as meeting files, in preparation for upcoming meetings (and the files may be maintained on an ongoing basis). There may be only a tenuous or no connection between records, and the contents of files may normally fluctuate. In a situation such as this, and especially where particularly important documents are concerned, it is appropriate to introduce a security mechanism such as folio numbering to ensure that records are retained in an orderly and safe fashion.

How to apply folio numbers

4.8.6 The following steps should be adhered to where folio numbers are being applied to files:

  1. Folio numbers should be added to the top right-hand corner of each page.

  2. Under no circumstances should the top left-hand corner be used to record folio numbers, as this is the area of pages which is hole-punched to facilitate the attachment of documents to files.

  3. Folio numbers should be recorded in ink, perhaps in a distinctive colour like green, or using a stamp. The latter is recommended in order to emphasise folio numbers, and that they are not confused with the content of documents. The stamp might simply read, 'Folio No…'.

  4. Folio numbers should not be added in ink to important legal documents, items of artistic significance, archival documents or those which may be returned to the sender. If absolutely necessary, they may be recorded lightly in pencil and erased if appropriate.

  5. Where a document exceeds ten pages in length, folio numbers need not be noted on every page. The appropriate folio numbers should be noted on the first and last pages only.

  6. Where a document comprises more than one page, it should be noted that it is the last page which will be folio numbered first as folio numbers proceed from the bottom to the top of files.

  7. The total number of folios should be noted on a space provided on the file cover. This must be updated when new documents are added to the file.

Closing files

4.9.1 When files are closed, no further records are added to them. Files are then said to move from the active to the semi-active stage of their life-cycle. Files may be moved from active to semi-active storage. Whereas active files are stored in office accommodations, semi-active files are frequently transferred to records centres.

4.9.2 Several sets of circumstances may prompt the closure of files:

  • If files reach a maximum thickness of 3cm.

  • If an issue/project etc has been terminated and no further additions to relevant files are foreseen.

  • If it is found that it has been some time since documents have been added to files. A specific period, for example, one year, should be chosen to facilitate this process.

  • Files are allocated specific life-spans by the file classification scheme. They should be closed in accordance with the scheme's provisions.

When to close files

4.9.3 It is essential that the significance of closing files is recognised. If closure is not effected on a regular and appropriate basis, several problems may present themselves:

  • Files become untidy with resulting damage to documents.

  • The weight of paper causes excessive strain on paper fasteners and file covers.

  • Access to items on files is difficult.

  • If active, semi-active and inactive records are stored on the same files, and no distinction is made between them, records cannot be moved to semi-active storage or destroyed.

  • Seldom used files remain in office accommodation causing congestion and not making way for newer files. Considerable money must then be expended to provide new storage in office accommodation.

4.9.4 However, when closing files, care should be taken that closure is conducted at opportune times. This means that papers relating to the same transaction should be retained on the same file, and not split between an old and closed file and a new file.

How to close files

4.9.5 The following steps should be followed when files are being closed:

  1. Responsibility for file closure should be designated to one person. Notwithstanding this, all staff members have a responsibility to support the maintenance of good order in the filing system. The closure of files is central to effective maintenance.

  2. Any staff member may submit a request for a file to be closed, but must quote a specific reason, for example, one of those listed above. It is appropriate that a simple form is completed and tendered to the staff member responsible for the closure of files. The nominated staff member will consider the request and communicate the decision to the requester. It should be noted that closure of one file might motivate the creation of another.

  3. The form requesting file closure should contain the following categories of information:

To be completed by person requesting closure of file To be completed by person responsible for file closure

File number 
File name 
Reason for closure 
Requester name 
Date

If it is decided that the file is not to be closed the request may be discarded. However, if the request for file closure is acceded to, the following information should be supplied by the staff member responsible for file closure: 
Previous volumes of file 
Subsequent volumes of file 
File closed by 
Date file closed

  1. It would be practical to allow requesters to submit these forms in hard copy or via e-mail.

  2. If the request for file closure is acceded to, the form should be added to the file as the top and final folio.

  3. The form should also state that the file is now closed and no documents may be added to or removed from it.

  4. A sample form which may be used to request and record file closure is supplied as Appendix 3 - Request for file closure. It may be photocopied as necessary.

Responsibility

4.10.1 Activities associated with filing records are onerous and time-consuming. Methods of creating, closing and constructing files are enumerated here with reference to tasks to be completed.

4.10.2 It is strongly recommended that most activities associated with filing records should be the responsibility of one member of staff. This is suggested in order that consistency of action and expertise are attained. Notwithstanding this, all staff members will have responsibility for some actions, for example, preparation for filing of records they create and receive in the course of activity.

4.10.3 The appropriate response to the tasks outlined here is that all staff members discuss who will be assigned responsibility for which tasks. Assignments should be documented. In addition to this, options are outlined with reference to somevx tasks. Where this is the case, staff members should choose the method that will be more convenient.

Strategies for the creation of records of verbal business activities

4.11.1A central contention of Part 2 - Fundamentals of information and records management of this manual is the necessity of creating records that document all major business activities. An area that requires especial attention is where business is transacted verbally. This can occur in face-to-face formal or informal meetings or in the guise of telephone or conference calls.

4.11.2 Important decisions are often taken during verbal interaction, and consultation often occurs as there is a requirement for consensus. It is especially important to create evidence of consensus, as well as ensuring that all business activities are documented. This invokes a requirement to introduce deliberate strategies for the creation of records.

Minutes

4.11.3 Many meetings should be documented. The decision of whether or not minutes should be taken depends on the significance of the business transacted there. Minutes of meetings should follow a specific format. Where they are discernible, the following categories of information should be recorded. Some headings may have to be adapted slightly if the meeting takes place outside the scope of a formal committee context, and if the meeting is more informal in nature:

  • Date of meeting

  • Location of meeting

  • Name of committee

  • Persons present and their positions

  • Name of chairperson

  • Name of secretary

  • Statement that minutes of last meeting are acceptable

  • Subjects discussed

  • Decisions

  • Further actions and names of those who will carry them out

  • Signature of chairperson (technically, minutes are invalid if not signed)

  • Date of chairperson's signature

4.11.4 The conventions of minute-taking have changed somewhat over time. Whereas in the past, conversations were frequently recorded verbatim, more concise statements are now recorded in many instances. The following practices should be adapted for use where minutes are being recorded:

  • The principals of each subject discussed or only the decision taken on each subject should be recorded.

  • Objective, factual, non-personal language should be employed throughout.

  • Those attending the meeting should not be quoted verbatim in the minutes unless there is a requirement that this is done, or speakers specifically request that their contributions are recorded in this manner.

  • Draft minutes should be destroyed when the final, official minutes have been created. Rough draft minutes would not normally be circulated.

4.11.5 Tabled and circulated documents should bear the number of the agenda item which refers to them. This is for the convenience of those attending meetings and to ensure that papers are retained in an orderly manner.

4.11.6 Where meetings are ongoing and important, minutes should be retained in a minute book.

4.11.7 Minutes of meetings should be created and distributed by an office or entity which supplies the secretariat for the committee.

Telephone conversations

4.11.8 Significant amounts of business are transacted over the telephone. This avenue facilitates meetings, or advice is tendered, commitments given and complaints made. Where telephone conversations impact on important subsequent action or result in changes to policy, it is important that some record of them is made. Those categories of information detailed above could be adapted to make records of telephone conversations. Alternatively, a file note could be inserted in the relevant file (see Appendix 6 - File Note). If necessary the record could be sent to the other party for agreement. The record would then be inserted in a relevant file.

Filing rules

4.12.1 These filing rules mark a summary or compilation, and in some cases, a slight extension, of the most important actions or underlying principles of the foregoing and subsequent sections.

  1. The file should be considered the smallest unit of a record-keeping system. The removal of documents from files is expressly forbidden unless absolutely necessary. When individual documents are removed from files there is a real danger that they may be misplaced. This may result in the loss of important evidence and force the re-creation of records. Removal should be carefully documented if it is to be of some duration. A note of removal should be placed in the file recording the date and the name of the person who has the document.

  2. Multiple copies of documents (unless annotated) should not be filed; one copy is sufficient.

  3. Cryptic messages should not be filed unless accompanied by documents which provide context.

  4. Discard envelopes if there is a return address and date on the document.

  5. Each file should be allocated a unique identifying number. Numbers are preferable to alphabetical file arrangement.

  6. Identifying information, most importantly, file number, should be recorded on each file cover.

  7. Documents should be added to files in strict date order.

  8. Folio numbers should be added to each page of every file, or to each page of particularly important files.

  9. File covers should not be overfilled. No file should exceed 3cm in thickness. Once files reach this size, they should be closed.

  10. With the exception of personnel files, file contents should not be allowed to exceed a five year period.

  11. Close files once the business to which they relate has been completed.

  12. If a new subject develops causing a file title to become inaccurate or obsolete, the file should be split and new titles composed.

  13. If a file has not been added to for a defined period of time (for example, one year) it should be closed.

  14. Treasury tags (plastic ends) should be used to secure documents in folders.

  15. Staples should be used to affix related documents to each other. Other metal paper fasteners, sellotape and rubber bands should never be used. Solid plastic paper clips should be used if stapling is undesirable.

  16. Records of transient or ephemeral value should not be filed.

  17. Post-its should not be attached to documents as the adhesive will fail and post-its will become detached from documents. If information is of sufficient importance that it should be filed, it should be written up appropriately. Post-its may be photocopied onto a file note sheet. A sample is supplied as Appendix 6 - File Note. It may be photocopied for this purpose.

  18. Documents should be recorded on paper that will endure their expected retention period. If important records are created and are expected to become archival, they should be recorded on archival quality paper. Recycled paper should not be used for any records which will be required for a period longer than ten years.

  19. Newspaper extracts or thermal facsimile paper should not be preserved as archives. Such extracts should be photocopied and the copy preserved. The original can then be destroyed.

  20. Photographs are volatile and should be protected by conservation grade packing materials.

  21. Fragile computer storage mechanisms such as floppy disks should not be placed in paper files.

  22. File drawers should not be overfilled.

Audit

4.13.1 It is crucial that the filing system is kept in good order by conducting an audit of all files on an annual basis. The purpose of the audit is to check the presence of files, their physical condition and to identify files which may be closed.

4.14.2 In conjunction with this audit, the database that acts as a file register should also undergo an audit to verify the accuracy and completeness of the data it contains. Files should be checked against the database. It should be noted that any changes to physical files will cause changes to database entries, for example, file closure.

4.13.3 In order that the audit occurs in a timely manner, it is recommended that all staff members participate in it. An audit of the filing system should be recognised as a major and time-consuming activity.

Office of Corporate and Legal Affairs

Oifig um Ghnóthaí Corparáideacha agus Dlíthiúla

1 st Floor, East Wing, Main Quadrangle,

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