Record Management Stages

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Learning Contents Summary[edit | edit source]

The contents of Record Management Stages/LifeCycle Model as a learning resource is to expose librarians and library students to the concept of record management and its various stages. This course material serves as an avenue for learners from diverse academic disciplines to acquire knowledge on how libraries and archival centers, create, process, store, disseminate, and dispose of records.

Goals[edit | edit source]

At the end of this study, learners should be able to:

  • understand the definition of records, their examples, and types;
  • differentiate between record management and its models; and
  • the activities carried out in a record lifecycle model.

CONCEPT OF RECORD[edit | edit source]

Life Cycle of Record

A record, according to the International Foundation for Information Technology (2010), is something that represents proof of existence and can be used to recreate or prove the state of existence, regardless of medium or characteristics[1]. International Standard Organization (ISO) Standard 15849 defines a record as "recorded information created, received, and maintained as evidence by an organization or person in pursuance of legal obligations or the transaction of business." It is necessary for records to accurately reflect what was communicated, decided, or what action was taken; to support the needs of the organization, and to support accountability. A record consists of the outcomes of significant daily activities that support an organization's mission and objectives, such as[2];

A record can be correspondence, a memorandum, a book, a plan, a map, a drawing, a diagram, a pictorial or graphic work, a photograph, a film, microfilm, a sound recording, a videotape, a machine-readable record, or any other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics[3].

RECORD LIFE CYCLE[edit | edit source]

Records life-cycle in records management refers to the stages of a record's life span from its creation to use, maintenance, preservation, and or disposal. IBM Corporation (2009) describes the record life cycle as to how long a record is kept; what actions should be taken (if any) as the record progresses through various stages of retention; and what happens to the record when its life cycle is complete. It is a series of stages through which a record must pass before being disposed off. A life cycle, for example, can be as short as zero days or have no defined end. Each life cycle phase has a specific duration and denotes a specific records management activity that a records manager performs at the beginning or end of the phase. The duration of life cycles varies, and records management policy determines the duration of records.[4]


According to Roper (1977) the earliest verified stages of the record’s life cycle are divided into three stages that include active or current; intermediate or semi-current, and finally archives or non-current[5]. These three stages in the life of a record are basic to any records management program. The three stages of the life cycle are also identified by Hardcastle (1989: 60)[6]. These stages include the current stage when the records are active; the non-current stage when the records are inactive; and the archival stage when records are useful for historical rather than business purposes[7]. The three-stage vision of the record’s life cycle was also shared by Charman (1984: 2) who stated that the life cycle of a record is its progression from creation to the final disposal.[8][9] It includes the following phases:

Active or Current Records[edit | edit source]

Records that are regularly used for the current business of an agency or organization and continue to be maintained in their place of origin or receipt; records in this stage are sometimes called active records. For example, if you went to the dentist last week or even a few months ago, then your record would be considered active. However, if you last visited your dentist over seven years ago, then your record may be considered inactive.

Intermediate or Semi-Current Records[edit | edit source]

Kevin Ashley from the Digital Curation Centre (2022) described them as ‘the undead’- records that are still with us but not quite alive. Records that are required so infrequently for current business or activities that they should be transferred to a records center pending their ultimate disposal. Example of such records includes; closing equipment inventory, financial summary, demonstrations, exhibits, leadership and citizenship, project highlights, auctioneer statement, and club meeting log among others.

Non-Current or Inactive Records[edit | edit source]

Records that are no longer required for current business should be either destroyed or transferred to an archival repository. For example, many colleges are required to keep records of students, although the student may have attended decades ago. Many of these inactive records are required to be kept for legal, administrative, or even historical reasons. Non-records or transitory records are not required to control, support, or document the delivery of programs, carry out operations, make decisions, or account for activities of the department. Non-records should be managed and routinely disposed of properly once the administrative, legal or fiscal use has expired, (RIM taskforce, 2008)[10]. These may include:

  • Advertising materials: solicited or unsolicited information you receive from businesses or individuals advertising their products or services.
  • Blank information media: blank information media, e.g., letterhead, blank CDs, etc.
  • Draft documents and working materials: correspondence, reports, and other documents, which usually have not yet been finalized. These include research or working materials such as calculations and notes that are often collected and used in the preparation of documents. Once the final version of a document is complete and filed, most drafts and working materials should be disposed of.
  • Duplicate copies; where nothing has been added changed or deleted, where the copy is used for information or reference only, and where the original is filed in the records management system.
  • External publications: books, magazines, periodicals, pamphlets, brochures, journals, newspapers, and software documentation, whether printed or electronic, that you have obtained from sources outside your organization. Publications that are about schools or school boards/authorities may have historical value and should be retained as part of the records management program.
  • Routine notices: notices that contain information useful for only a brief period, after which it has no further value or is of little interest. Note that the originating department is responsible for retaining the notice if it supports departmental activities, responsibilities, or communication.
  • Information of short-term value/unsolicited information: information received as part of a distribution list, or email messages received from listservs and other Internet sources, solely for convenience of reference.

The number of stages in the life cycle of records advocated by Wallace, Lee, and Schubert (1992) extends beyond those discussed above[11]. According to them, the lifecycle of a record is divided into seven stages, which include:

The Creation[edit | edit source]

The creation of records according to the Ohio State University (2022) is also known as a receipt. It is the first stage of a record's life[12]. It refers to the process by which a record is created within an organization, including but not limited to:

  • typing/word processing of a document
  • typing and sending an email
  • construction of a spreadsheet
  • recording of a meeting
  • entering a transaction within an enterprise system
  • the receipt of documents
  • the receipt of spreadsheets
  • the receipt of the email

Records are created or received, throughout the creation phase by the process of collecting and capturing information in various forms such as paper-based records, microform-based records, and electronic-based records, (, 2022)[13]. At this stage, the records are very active.

Records distribution[edit | edit source]

This is the second stage of the record lifecycle. After a record is created or received, it passes through a distribution phase. The distribution in the life cycle of a record includes both internal and external distribution and the impact on the entire or a portion of a business. The record is widely used during this phase and must be maintained in an easily accessible location for easy access and use. The record might be kept for a few hours or years, depending on the retention schedule, (Information Management Simplified, 2021).[14]

Records utilization[edit | edit source]

The created desired records may be retrieved and delivered to the specified person on request for the efficient disposal of business functions. It involves the development of specified procedures through which records move from one person to another. As information is only valuable if it can reach multiple audiences at the proper moment.

Records storage[edit | edit source]

This stage involves the proper filing and care for the records. While many records may be disposed of after their initial use, others are required to be kept for a longer period for legal, fiscal, or other administrative reasons. Since immediate access to these records is no longer required during this phase, they are typically stored online, offsite or offline so as not to burden the operating office's storage capacity or the operating system's efficiency. The records are properly classified and put into separate file covers or folders. A proper filing system should be followed for keeping documents and should be stored in an easily accessible place. Proper care should be taken to protect every record, as maintenance of records is very much essential for effective management. This stage is further divided into two, namely;

Active storage[edit | edit source]

when you store a paper record in a file cabinet close to your workstation or an electronic document in an easily accessible file location or when an electronic record is considered active within a large database system, (New York State Archive, 2021)[15].

Inactive storage[edit | edit source]

When you stop regularly referring to a record, and no longer need immediate access to it, the record enters the inactive phase. Although you may never refer to the record again, the record must be retained for legal, administrative, or other purposes. At this point, you should remove the records from their active storage environment and maintain the records in a secure records storage facility or inactive records filing system for electronic records or indicate their inactive status within a database system, (New York State Archive, 2021)[15].

Records transfer[edit | edit source]

This is the fifth stage in the record management cycle. It is the stage whereby records are either transferred to the archive for retention or disposed of. According to Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) (2021), It entails taking custody, but not ownership, of permanent public records from an agency. Record is transferred when appraised as permanent using the appropriate Retention and Disposal schedule to reduce storage space and cost of maintenance[16]. If records are to be transferred to the archival institution, the following steps are to be taken;

  • Use the action dates file to identify records that are scheduled to be transferred to the archival institution.
  • Remove these boxes and check the contents to ensure that all metal pins, clips, etc have been removed and the records are clean and in order.
  • Amend the relevant transfer list in the master transfers file for the agency concerned.
  • Remove the copy of the transfer list from the action dates file and place this copy in a record transferred to the archives file.
  • All records to be transferred to the archival institution must be listed. The archival institution will likely use an accession form, and it may ask that this form be completed when preparing the records for transfer.
  • Notify the originating agency of the change in the status of the records by sending them an amended copy of the transfer list.
  • As records transferred to the archival institution become subject to different regulations, refer any future requests for access to these records to that institution.

Records disposition[edit | edit source]

According to US National Archive (2022) Disposition refers to those actions taken regarding records after they are no longer needed in office space to conduct current agency business or activities.[17] These actions include:

  • Transfer of records to agency storage facilities or records centers.
  • Transfer of records from one agency or department to another.
  • Transfer of permanent records to the Archives of an institution for preservation and research.
  • Disposal of temporary records no longer needed to conduct business, usually by destruction or occasionally by donation.

The records and documents no longer required are destroyed after getting approval from top management. Obsolete and unnecessary records are destroyed to avoid needless storage costs and avoid storage space also. These are also informed to the top management. Valuable documents such as deeds, bonds, registration certificates, tax returns, property documents, and the like are retained for future use and permanent storage. In contrast to disposition, ‘’disposal’’ in Federal usage refers to only those final actions taken regarding temporary records after their retention periods expire. It normally means the destruction of the record content. The term is also used occasionally to mean the transfer of temporary records from Federal control by donating them to an eligible person or organization after receiving the record manager’s approval. Destruction is accomplished in a variety of ways including, but not limited to:

Questions for Practice[edit | edit source]

Print out this section and provide the correct answers to the questions.

  1. What is a Record?
  2. What are the types of Records known to you?
  3. List the stages of the record lifecycle and briefly explain 3.
  4. What is the difference between disposition and disposal of record?

REFERENCES[edit | edit source]

  1. "International Foundation for Information Technology – Just another WordPress site". Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  2. International Organisation for Standardisation (iso) (2001). ISO 15489-1 Information and documentation-records management: Part 1 general. Geneva: ISO.
  3. Pearce-Moses, R. (2005). A glossary of archival and records terminology. Chicago, Il: The society of American archivists. p. 23
  4. "Record life cycles overview". Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  5. Roper, M. (1977). This is records management. in: records management conference, 21 oct. [s.l.]: [s.n.].
  6. Hardcastle, S. (1989). Providing storage facilities. in: Peter Emmerson (ed.). How to manage your records: A guide to effective practice. Cambridge ICSA publishing
  7. Mokhtar, Umiasma’ (2017). Records classification: Concepts, principles and methods records management models. 63–96. doi:10.1016/b978-0-08-102238-2.00004-4
  8. Charman, d. (1984). records surveys and schedules: a ramp study with guidelines. Paris: UNESCO.
  9. Tayfun, A.C. & Gibson, S.A. (2022). Model for life cycle records management, article, October 1, 1996; Vienna, Virginia. university of north Texas libraries, UNT digital library,; crediting UNT libraries government documents department.
  10. RIMtaskforce (2008). Guidelines for determining what records need to be retained. Retrieved from:
  11. Wallace, P. E., Lee,  J.  & Schubert, D. T. (1992). Records management integrated information systems. 3rd ed. Englewood liffs, New Jersey, prentice hall.
  12. "Records Lifecycle | Ohio State University Libraries". Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  13. "The records life cycle concept". 2022. Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  14. Malak, Haissam Abdul (2021-12-30). "What is Records Lifecycle: The Complete Guide". Information Management Simplified. Retrieved 2022-11-08.
  15. 15.0 15.1 New York State Archive, (2021). The record lifecycle. Retrieved from
  16. Public Record Office Victoria (prov) (2021). What is a record transfer? Retrieved from,from%20a%20victorian%20government%20agency
  17. "Records Disposition Overview". National Archives. 2018-02-05. Retrieved 2022-11-08.