|ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
RECORDS MANAGEMENT MANUAL
(Fifth Edition, 2000)
Columbus Memorial Library
Archives and Records Management Services
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20006
The records of the Organization of American States are an invaluable and integral resource in the General Secretariat. They provide the basis for continuity of OAS policies, actions, procedures; they preserve and document the intellectual memory of the Organization; and they contain evidence of financial and legal commitments that must be preserved to protect the Organization.
Responsibility for the management of these records should be shared by all members of the General Secretariat. In order to facilitate the creation, maintenance, and disposition of our records, uniform policies, standards, and procedures, to be followed by all offices, have been established by the Records Management Program.
Executive Order 97-2 assigns to the Columbus Memorial Library the responsibility to administer the “archives and records management of the Organization; identifies, preserves, and makes available the permanently valuable records of the Organization and makes policies for the orderly and cost effective management of the Organizations’ current records, which are herein defined as any document, paper, book, letter, drawing, map, plat, audio-visual material, electronic or machine readable document or database, or any document, regardless of format, created or received by an office or staff member in connection with their official work; periodically revises and brings up to date the Records Management Handbook and the Records Retirement Schedule; determines which records have sufficient historical value to warrant their continued preservation consistent with the resolutions of the organs of the Organization, with other pertinent legal requirements, and with the need to maintain documentation sufficient to guarantee an adequate defense of the legal interests of the General Secretariat”.
In order to conserve costly office space and manage records effectively, disposition procedures for noncurrent or inactive records have been established by the Archives and Records Management Services of the Columbus Memorial Library. Records are stored in the Records Center, and ready reference and secure storage are provided for this valuable organizational resource.
The Records Management Handbook was originally issued in 1961. The Fifth Edition, now called the Records Management Manual with the accompanying Records Retention Schedules, formerly called Records Retirement Schedule has been revised and updated to meet the current needs of records maintenance within the General Secretariat, at the National Offices located away from Headquarters, and by any other activity or mission under General Secretariat control. It is in the best interest of our Organization that these procedures be observed and carried out with care and attention.
Note: This is the first edition, which has a separate chapter and schedule for the maintenance of electronic records.
Christopher R. Thomas
Assistant Secretary General
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Records in Perspective 1
The Role of Archives and Records Management Services (ARMS) 5
Records Retention Schedules 7
Disposition of Records 9
Guidelines for the Transfer of Records to the Records Center 10
Retrieving Records from the Records Center 12
Managing Electronic Records 13
Managing Audiovisual Records 18
The Archives of the General Secretariat of the OAS 20
Vital Records Program and Disaster Preparedness 22
Appendix A General Administrative and Program Records Retention Schedule 25
Appendix B OAS Records Disposition Authorization & Instructions 127
Appendix C OAS Records Center Label & Instructions 131
Appendix D OAS Records Transmittal Form & Instructions 135
Appendix E Norms for Use of Information Technology Resources, April 27, 1998 139
Appendix F Administrative Memorandum No. 88 - Removal and Disposal of Surplus
1. RECORDS IN PERSPECTIVE
1.1 IMPORTANCE OF RECORDS
Records in their various forms must be viewed as a valuable organizational asset. They play a vital role in the management and operations of the organization, document past events, and serve as the basis for future actions.
All executive secretariats, departments, units and offices are responsible for creating and preserving records that adequately and properly document the functions, policies, decisions, procedures and transactions of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (“GS/OAS”). Complete and accurate records are essential to:
protect the legal, financial, and other rights of the Organization;
ensure continuity and consistency in administration;
assist officials and their successors in making informed decisions and
provide the information required by the Member States for overseeing the Organization’s activities.
By creating and maintaining adequate and proper documentation, officials are able to:
reconstruct the development of their own and their predecessor's policies and decisions;
furnish their successors with information needed to understand past and current actions and
leave an enduring record of their official duty.
Records and information, like other organizational resources, must be managed. This management should be a responsibility shared by all members of the General Secretariat. To facilitate this management, Archives and Records Management Services (“ARMS”) has established uniform policies, standards and procedures to assist GS/OAS executive secretariats, departments, units and offices in the handling of records and information in the most cost effective and efficient way.
1.2 WHAT ARE OAS RECORDS?
Executive Order 97-2 defines records as:
... any document, paper, book, letter, drawing, map, plat, audiovisual material, electronic or machine readable document or database, or any other document, regardless of format, created or received by an office or staff member in connection with their official work.
All records created or received by an office or staff member in connection with, or as a result of the official work of the office are official records and are the property of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States.
Some categories of materials that would satisfy the definition of “records” are those:
containing information developed in preparing position papers, reports and studies;
reflecting official actions taken in the course of conducting GS/OAS and OAS business;
conveying information on executive secretariat, department, unit and office programs, policies, decisions, and essential transactions;
conveying statements of policy or the rationale for official decisions or actions;
documenting oral exchanges, such as meetings or telephone conversations, during which policy was discussed or other activities were planned, discussed or transacted and
documenting official actions not included in printed official records.
1.3 WHAT ARE NON-RECORDS?
Materials that do not meet the definition of records are considered “nonrecord” material. Examples include:
library and museum materials made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibit purposes;
extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience or reference;
publications and processed documents;
preliminary drafts not circulated for comment;
working papers and notes that would normally be disposed of when they are superseded or no longer needed;
stocks of blank forms;
superseded manuals, policies and directives maintained outside the issuing office;
vendor catalogs and product literature;
mailing lists and
published directories, staff listings or rosters.
1.4 WHAT ARE PERSONAL PAPERS?
Official records belong to the executive secretariats, departments, units and offices of the Organization and should not be removed from the office. However, many officials and employees accumulate and keep some personal papers at the office. These non-official or private papers that relate solely to an individual’s own activities should be clearly designated and kept separate from the Organization’s official records.
Examples of personal papers include:
papers created before entering the Organization, such as, previous work files, political materials and reference files;
private materials brought into, created, or received in the office that do not pertain to the business of the Organization, such as, family and personal correspondence, materials documenting professional activities, outside business, or political pursuits; and
work related personal papers that are not used in the transaction of the Organization’s business, and can include diaries, journals, notes, personal calendars and appointment schedules.
OAS officials may donate their personal papers to the OAS Archives after leaving office. The material donated is appraised according to guidelines prescribed in the Collection Development Policy of the Columbus Memorial Library. If a determination is made that the papers are of historical significance to the Organization and warrant permanent preservation, then ARMS will accession the material and include it in the archives collection. Any papers that fall outside the policy guidelines are returned to the individual.
Restrictions on the use of personal papers donated to the GS/OAS Archives may be made through a “Deed of Gift” in which the donor provides instructions to the Archives on what papers are to be closed, opened, and on which date. Also, ownership of the material, intellectual rights and copyrights are defined in this document.
1.5 CONFIDENTIALITY OF RECORDS
Access to records stored in the GS/OAS Records Center is controlled by the originating executive secretariat, department, unit or office that owns the records. Confidential records are usually identified by the originating office or records owner at the time when the records are being transferred to the GS/OAS Records Center.
Non-current and permanent files transferred by any office to the Records Center may be withdrawn by the same office, by a successor office, or by a higher office with authority over the files, and by the Inspector General. For example, inactive personnel files and fiscal records should be requested directly from the Departments of Human Resources and Financial Services, respectively.
2. THE ROLE OF ARCHIVES & RECORDS MANAGEMENT SERVICES (“ARMS”)
2.1 MISSION OF ARMS
The mission of the Archives & Records Management Services (“ARMS”) of the Columbus Memorial Library is to:
provide efficient and cost effective records management services to offices of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States; and
collect, preserve and make available for research historical records generated by GS/OAS offices.
2.2 SERVICES PROVIDED BY ARMS
ARMS is responsible for developing uniform standards, procedures and techniques for the handling of records of the various executive secretariats, departments, units and offices of the Organization of American States. Among the services that ARMS provides are:
Records Retention Schedules
Records Retention Schedules list and describe the kinds of records that are created and maintained by the Organization. Specific time periods are given for the retention of each type of record. The schedules also identify those departmental records with historical value that warrant permanent retention in the OAS Archives.
Storage is provided for non-current records in the GS/OAS Records Center at no cost to executive secretariats, departments, units and offices. In addition to in-house storage, ARMS has contracted with a commercial offsite records storage facility to further promote efficiency and cost effectiveness.
By storing semi-active and inactive files in the Records Center, as well as destroying obsolete records in a timely manner, executive secretariats, departments, units and offices avoid labor costs, as well as costs incurred by the inefficient storage of office records.
ARMS provides executive secretariats, departments, units and offices with technical assistance in active files maintenance techniques, in the use of retention schedules, and in the transfer of records to the Records Center.
Reference and retrieval services are provided to the executive secretariats, departments, units and offices of the General Secretariat for records that have been transferred to the Records Center.
Archives are described as the permanently valuable records of the Organization that are preserved because of their continuing or enduring value. The Archives of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States consists of the inactive permanent records of the OAS and GS/OAS, and are maintained by the Records Management Center.
Archival reference and research assistance is provided to the executive secretariats, departments, units and offices of the General Secretariat, the Permanent Council, Missions of the Member States, Permanent Observers to the OAS, Inter-American agencies, outside organizations, and individual scholars.
3. RECORDS RETENTION SCHEDULES
3.1 WHAT ARE RECORDS RETENTION SCHEDULES?
Records retention schedules are the official guide for the management of the Organization’s records and information resources. They provide mandatory instructions for the disposition of records no longer needed for current official business.
The various kinds of records found within offices in the Organization are categorized into records series on the schedules. The records series is:
the file unit or documents arranged according to a filing system or kept together because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, document a specific kind of transaction, take a particular form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use.
The records retention schedule lists and describes the various records series that are created and maintained by the Organization and indicates the length of time they are maintained in office, in storage, and when they should be destroyed or transferred to the OAS Archives for continued preservation.
Implementation of the records retention schedule can result in the following benefits to the Organization:
scheduled authorized destruction of records;
lower record-keeping costs;
reduced equipment and supplies costs;
better service and increased production;
reduced clerical costs; and
improvement in the flow of work and information throughout the Organization.
Records schedules are approved by the appropriate Director, the Department of Legal Services, and the Director of the Columbus Memorial Library.
3.2 RETENTION SCHEDULES PREPARED FOR OAS OFFICES
APPENDIX A contains the General Administrative and Program Records Retention Schedule prepared for the various executive secretariats, departments, units, offices and missions of the Organization of American States.
4. DISPOSITION OF RECORDS
4.1 RECORDS DISPOSITION
The records retention schedule establishes the guidelines for the retention and final disposition of all records created or maintained by the Organization. Records disposition is the action taken regarding records no longer needed in current office space. These actions include the:
transfer of temporary records to the OAS Records Center;
transfer of permanent, archival records to the OAS Archives; and
disposal of temporary records.
4.2 OAS RECORDS DISPOSITION AUTHORIZATION
The purpose of the OAS Records Disposition Authorization form is to:
provide authorization to executive secretariats, departments, units and offices requesting the destruction of temporary unscheduled records;
provide ARMS the authorization to seek approval for the destruction of temporary records held in the OAS Records Center according to an approved records retention schedule; and
document the transfer of legal custody of records with permanent preservation to the OAS Archives.
The OAS Records Disposition Authorization Form is available on-line on the Columbus Memorial Library’s Public Folder.
APPENDIX B provides a sample of an OAS Records Disposition Authorization form and instructions to complete the form.
5. GUIDELINES FOR THE TRANSFER OF RECORDS