April is Records and Information Management (RIM) Awareness Month

I am Tishangi Bennett, Emory’s records and information manager, and I am thrilled to be serving in this role. I am relatively new to Emory, and I truly enjoy consulting, learning, and sharing my RIM expertise with the Emory family. I know many of you may wonder: Why records management? What is records management? Why is this position and program needed? How did I become a records manager?

Well, records management has been around since the late 1900s, but many organizations did not have a program or a manager back then. Currently, it is difficult to find an organization that does not have some type of records management program. While it is not the sexiest topic, managing records is a vital task that often gets put on the back burner, but we are not going to do this at Emory.

See shredding and records events starting April 22 under Emory RIM activities below

Dr. Tishangi Bennett

When I was a little girl, I definitely had no thoughts or aspirations of being a records manager. Even as a young adult, records management never crossed my mind. My college degrees prepared me for my career as a college professor, industrial engineer, project manager, and business owner. Little did I know I would be asked to lead a records and information management program. At the time, I knew much about managing programs and people and little about managing records and information. So, I began my journey 20+ years ago to become the best records and information manager I could be with hopes of making a positive difference in the lives of organizations. I researched, read, networked, attended conferences, participated in webinars and training, joined professional RIM organizations, published scholarly articles, and obtained a RIM certification. I never thought this was what I would be doing, but I love it.

Over the past 20+ years, I have worked in diverse RIM positions. I have managed existing RIM programs, created RIM programs from scratch, worked as a RIM consultant, been a speaker at RIM conferences, and served as a SME in developing and conducting RIM training, assessments, and audits. What’ s so wonderful about records and information is that no industry can do without them. Every organization, regardless of the industry, is constantly inundated with paper and electronic records and information, and both are necessary to business operations. Records help support decision making, provide resources for future needs, show evidence of transactions, and give transparency and accountability for business operations. It is the maintenance and management of these records and information that determine the productivity, effectiveness, efficiency, and risk readiness of an organization.

April is Records and Information Management Awareness Month. During this month, RIM is celebrated globally to highlight the significance and importance that records have on organizations. Throughout the year, especially in the month of April, my goal is to emphasize the value and importance of maintaining and organizing records and data to comply with state and federal statutory requirements. I want Emory to reduce risk associated with unintended disclosure of sensitive information, increase efficiency of business operations through thoughtful storage and retrieval systems, support the consistent and comprehensive management, retention, and disposition of the organization’s records, and protect vital and historical information about Emory University and Emory Healthcare. Essentially, RIM Month is spring cleaning!

Two of the main misconceptions about RIM is that it is strictly about retention, and it only applies in a paper-based world. RIM deals not only with retention, but also with the maintenance, storage, disposition, access, control, and protection of records. And RIM does not just apply to paper records. It also includes audio and video recordings, electronic records, and digital records.

Proper records management and Emory’s records management policy apply to all employees of Emory University, Emory Healthcare, and contractors who conduct business for or on behalf of Emory, and includes all records relevant to Emory’s business and legal obligations. As Emory’s records manager, I need help from the Emory family to ensure a sound and compliant records management program. I am focused on several principles that describe best practices for records management, including compliance, accessibility, security, retention, disposition, and accountability. Ensuring compliance with state and federal requirements is vital to Emory’s success. Records need to be accessible to maintain efficient operations and secure in order to protect confidential information. What good is a record if it is not available when you need it?

Establishing a records retention and disposition policy is the most cost-effective action we have taken at Emory. Retaining records for their required retention period and disposing of them when they are eligible for destruction ensures compliance and the protection of sensitive information. Without an adequate disposition process, confidential information is vulnerable to liability should a breach occur.

In observance of RIM Month, we need everyone to do the following:

Review Emory’s Records Management website and get acquainted with the policy and records retention schedules that are pertinent to your department or office.

Reduce liability risks by retaining records according to Emory’s approved Records Retention Schedule (RRS). The RRS identifies and describes Emory’s records, provides the length of time they must be retained, and identifies their method of disposition. Departments may transfer records with enduring value to the University Archives.

Examine the RIM procedures that should be utilized for your role.

Schedule a RIM assessment, one-on-one consultation, or training if desired.

Transfer inactive records to Emory’s approved offsite storage vendor if needed.

Reduce the volume of records stored offsite and onsite that are eligible for destruction by destroying them.

Ensure that essential business records are identified and properly protected.

In addition, department heads should ensure that procedures within their area of responsibility meet the requirements of Emory’s records management program. I will be reaching out to department heads soon to designate a records liaison in support of this work. Records liaisons will serve as my contact and assist staff within their unit with understanding and complying with Emory’s records management program.

It is important to note that all faculty, staff, and contractors are responsible for managing the records in their possession and in compliance with the Records Management policy. When leaving a position, employees must ensure that records are left in the custody of personnel of the originating department. As part of the off-boarding and exit interview processes, the following tasks should take place:

* The supervisor and separating employee must meet to review the employee’s records.

* IT must meet with the employee’s supervisor to ensure removal of employee from all records systems and the proper transfer, protection, and deletion of electronic records.

* Records are transferred to another employee, into office filing systems, or to offsite storage.

Often times we forget about records when we off-board employees, which results in a boatload of records left behind that we don’t know what to do with or we struggle to manage. Regardless of the format or where records reside, they remain Emory’s property. Under no circumstances should records be inadvertently destroyed, made public, or depart with the employee.

RIM Month activities at Emory have been planned this month, including:

* Emory Point Recycling & Shred Event, April 22, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

* RIM & FileBRIDGE refresher training – April 26, 9 – 11 a.m.

* RIM & IM Connect refresher training – April 28, 1 – 2 p.m.

* Offsite records eligible for destruction notifications – all month

Please be sure to participate in the Emory Point Recycling & Shred event by bringing paper items that are eligible for destruction and non-paper items for recycling. There are also shred bins at your Emory locations for confidential paper record destruction. Please use this time to spring clean and clear out unwanted items. In addition, all Access and Iron Mountain users will receive an invite to participate in FileBRIDGE and IM-Connect training. Please register for these refresher trainings. Information on the systems as well as an overview of records management will be presented.

Thank you so much for being good stewards and custodians of Emory’s records. Happy Records and Information Management Month!

—Dr. Tishangi Bennett is the records and information manager at Emory.

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