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In the Loop - March 2008

Some In The Loop articles and links are pertinent to EPA staff and are available to EPA Intranet users only.

ALERT: April is Records and Information Management Month (28-MAR-2008)

"Records and Information Management Month," originally promoted by the professional records management organization, ARMA International, and endorsed by EPA's Document and Records Management Task Force, is a great opportunity to focus special attention on our records management responsibilities.

Here are some ideas used by EPA records management staff in the past:

  • Provide demonstrations of how to use records management software (e.g., the enterprise content management system (ECMS)).
  • Invite staff to an open house, with tours and handouts, for your records center or file room.
  • Offer training sessions and briefings tailored to specific groups of people.
  • Introduce staff to their records contact(s).
  • Distribute flyers reminding staff to take the mandatory online records training.
  • Recognize special records management accomplishments with awards.
  • Hold a "brown bag" luncheon and show a records management video.
  • Send informational bulletins or messages on special topics, such as identifying records, vital records, or other records management issues in your office.
  • Display posters available from ARMA or the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Several good examples of products from your EPA records colleagues are available as Best Practices on the Records intranet site. We also provide links to several sites developed by EPA programs and regions (found on the right sidebar on the Records intranet).

Tip of the Week: User-friendly folder titles (25-MAR-2008)

Work with your Records Liaison Officer (RLO) to develop folder titles in your file plan that are unique and easy to understand so you and others can quickly identify them. User-friendly folder titles can make saving and retrieving e-mail records in ECMS easier than ever.

User-friendly titles include descriptive identifiers (e.g., organizational acronyms, dates, names, etc., highlighted in the screenshot below) that readily convey the contents of the folder and make the title unique to you or your organization. For example:

screen shot showing subfolder titles with unique identifiers

Also, consider using just the first of the three optional levels or tiers of subfolders. If you create meaningful folder titles at the first level, it saves your staff from drilling down to find the right folder for their records. To do this, combine the information from all three optional levels into the first level folder title.

Below are "before" and "after" examples. In the first example you need to click three times to add the folder to My Commonly Used Folders; in the second example you would need just one click.

Before: Three levels of subfolders

screen shot of 3 levels of subfolders

After: One single meaningful subfolder level

screen shot of 1 subfolder level

Note to RLOs: You will be able to revise folder titles when the File Plan Administration interface becomes available. Remember, you cannot (1) change the names of the schedules or disposition items, or (2) use the folder name more than once. If you try to do so, you will get an error message. If you get the error message, you can add a unique descriptor that distinguishes the folder as shown in the above examples.

See the File Plan Guide for more information on AFCs and folder titles, and Develop Easier to Understand Folders (PPT) (slide 2 of the version 1.2.6 update to the Lotus Documentum Framework (LDF)) for more about creating and using folders in ECMS.

Tip of the Week: Is that e-mail a record? (11-MAR-2008)

One of the biggest hurdles people are facing as they are learning to use the enterprise content management system (ECMS) is how to identify whether an e-mail message is a record. Region 5 created a newsletter (PDF) on this topic. The newsletter:

  • defines a record,
  • provides questions to ask that help identify records,
  • offers guidance in identifying e-mails that are records, and
  • provides links to other valuable resources.
See "Guidance - Best Practices" for training aids and products developed by other organizations and programs to help their staff learn about records.

Tip of the Week: GRS and Agency schedules (04-MAR-2008)

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) assigns a tracking number to all records schedules. That number identifies the schedule as either a General Records Schedule (GRS) or an agency-specific schedule. The GRS is developed by NARA to provide disposal authorization for records that are common to most Federal agencies (e.g., accounting, communications, printing). Agencies are required to develop their own schedules for records not covered by the GRS, and must submit those schedules to NARA for approval.

NARA's tracking number is included in all EPA schedules under the "NARA Disposal Authority" field. For example:

Schedule NARA Disposal Authority GRS or Agency schedule?
005 N1-412-07-1/1 EPA-specific schedule
070 General Records Schedule 25/3 Schedule that can be used by any agency

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