The Difference Between Working Files and University Records
University records provide evidence of policy, decision or obligation and should be filed and saved according to the University Retention Schedule. They have ongoing operational, informational, evidential, or historical value.
Working files have no lasting operational, informational, evidential or historical value and can be disposed of as soon as you have finished with them.
The Office of Record
The office that is responsible for the custody and maintenance of any given type of records is called the Office of Record. Duplicates of those records held by offices other the Office of Record are classified as working files.
Examples of Working Files
Working files may exist in paper, audio, electronic, or other forms and media.
Announcements and Notices of a General Nature
- Notifications of meetings, special events, holidays, acceptances or regrets
- Memos to all staff of a routine nature where you are not the originator
- Preliminary drafts which don’t reflect or record significant steps in the preparation of a final document or record decisions
- Files where the results have been written into an official document and which are not required to support it
Convenience or Duplicate Copies
- “cc” copies which require no action
- “FYI” copies made and kept only for convenient reference or for information and that are not annotated or changed in any way
- Printouts or extracts from databases
- Minutes and agendas received from other parts of the university or external groups which require no action
- Office mail log/daybook copies of correspondence which are also filed elsewhere in the filing system
- Email messages forwarded for printing
Messages With No Operational Value
- Personal messages, for example: “meet me for lunch at noon”
- Business messages, for example: emails to schedule or confirm meetings
- Address lists
- Distribution lists
- Membership lists
Stocks of Obsolete In-house Publications
- Administrative manuals
- Telephone directories that do not originate from your unit
- Published reports, newsletters or reference materials received from other parts of the university, from vendors or external organizations which require no action
- Blank forms
Disposal of Working Files
Evaluate and discard outdated working files regularly.
- Review working files regularly and discard after operational need ends, or when the record copy’s retention ends (see University Retention Schedule for details).
- Do not keep duplicates of university records longer than the retention period of the record copy.
- Clearly identify draft items and discard once the final version of a document is prepared (with exceptions below)
As a general rule, destroy working files as soon as they have served their primary purpose.
- Notices – once event has taken place unless you are the originator
- Preliminary drafts – when the final version of a document is issued
- “FYI” – when no longer referenced
- “cc” copies – when issue is resolved or concluded
- Snapshots or printouts: when database is updated/rolled over
Exercise judgment on what working files may need to be kept and for how long:
- Drafts and working files of legal documents (e.g. relating to negotiations of various sorts) often need to be retained to document how the final agreement was reached
- Versions of documents which show major changes in policy or approach may have longer term value for historical research purposes
- Budgets or policies may have future value in the unit responsible for their creation
- A telephone message slip or transmission document may be kept as evidence of contact at a certain time and date
- An envelope may be kept because of the postmark
- An annotated copy of a convenience or duplicate copy showing significant input should be filed and saved with other records related to the same activity or function
- Periodic printouts may constitute an important “snapshot” record of a dynamic database
- Ensure the Office of Record has a copy if your working paper may be the only copy
- If your working paper is a record to another department (for example: departmental copies of HR documents like employee evaluations), be sure that the Office of Record has a copy prior to destroying your working document.
Questions and Consultation on Working Files
This information has been developed to assist in establishing good practices and procedures. Email Records Management or call (208) 885-2580 for questions on records and information management or information and privacy issues.