How Can You Make Our Records Management Program Better?
The National Institutes of Health’s Office of the Director was under pressure from the U.S. Congress to show evidence it was correctly implementing records management procedures. The NIH records office also needed to alleviate the high volume of calls it was receiving regarding the records disposition process. NIH engaged with HAI to perform a compliance audit of its records management program and develop practical guidance to augment the NIH manuals.
Assessing the Situation
Drawing on our considerable knowledge of and familiarity with the NIH manual Keeping and Destroying Records, HAI worked with the NIH records office to develop a list of offices and records series to be reviewed. Our staff interviewed file creators and custodians, inspected their records, then delivered a report that evaluated compliance with records requirements in offices throughout the Office of the Director and provided recommendations for improvement. We also storyboarded and created original content for “Moving Inactive Records Out of the Office,” a web-based tutorial that maps the records disposition process through a series of flowcharts.
Stepping Towards Improvement
During the audit, HAI archivists/records managers found over 2,200 boxes inappropriately stored by twelve institutes and centers in an NIH warehouse intended for short-term storage and surplus property. Our records managers created a box-level inventory as a follow-on project. Each box entry was identified by records creator when known, classified according to the records series, and annotated with disposition recommendations. HAI staff then prepared the records for transfer to a federal records center, removal by a records destruction firm, or return to the appropriate office.
HAI’s report provided the NIH with a roadmap for improving their records management program. The online tutorial gave their staff a user-friendly resource for learning the records transfer and destruction practices that are a necessary part of responsible records management. And the entire backlog of inactive records was properly disposed of in accordance with the NIH records schedule, thereby ensuring the client was compliant with federal regulations and freeing up valuable storage space.