Record keeping systems
There are various manual (filing cabinets) and electronic (computer-aided and online) ways to record, store and retrieve information. Each association should decide on a record-keeping system that suits its particular needs, circumstances and resources (availability of space or computers). The system should be functional, accurate, reliable and user-friendly.
Record-keeping systems need to consider the:
- nature of information to be stored and retrieved;
- security and access of files and information (particularly computer records);
- validity and reliability of the information collected and the system on which it is recorded;
- resources and training required; and
- length of time that the records should be kept (general legal requirement is seven years).
Electronic records include document files, databases, spreadsheets, electronic mail and internet documents. Electronic records need to be kept securely and at the same time, be easily accessible for retrieval. Associations will also need to have appropriate processes in place to ensure that the electronic records are backed up and recoverable in the event of a computer or system failure.
Associations may consider developing a simple policy for identifying documents. It is very easy for there to be suddenly two or more versions of a document and no one is sure which is the most accurate. The policy could require all official documents, minutes, reports, records, forms and orientation documents must:
- be clearly titled;
- show authorisation;
- show date of authorisation;
- show date of review;
- title original copies as 'Original Copy'; and
- title any non-original document as 'Copy'.
The way in which records are stored will depend on:
- the purpose of the records;
- the type of records;
- how long records must be kept; and
- access needs.
Physical records may be stored on-site at the association’s place of business. If there is insufficient and appropriate space, records can be stored off-site by storage companies. It is essential documents are stored in safe, secure and appropriate facilities.
Destroying and archiving records
Some records may be destroyed after their legal retention period has expired (in most cases this period is seven years).
Records should not be destroyed unless the association is absolutely certain that this can be done both safely and legally. An association should have a policy on storing and destroying records and no records should be destroyed without the appropriate authorisation.
If the records of your association have not been destroyed, you may wish to consider passing them to the Battye Library. The Library maintains an extensive archive of the social history of Western Australia and its people and has expressed an interest in the records of defunct associations.
Records that must be kept permanently should be archived and not destroyed. Records that have permanent value are historical documents, minutes of meetings and legal documents. Archived records can be stored on-site or at an off-site storage facility.