OLD Borough On The Record

A discussion of open and efficient government

Where do you begin?

Your Borough asks you to improve their records management efforts.  Where do you begin?  Find below a simple checklist to start you on your journey.

Major themes

To explain a project, you need to be able to summarize it or state its major objectives in one or more sentences.  Here are a few of my major themes:

  • Every government is in the information business
  • Records management requires an appointed manager, separate from the Municipal Clerk, to define and implement long-term procedures for the creation, distribution, and safeguarding of government records.
  • Information, technology, and productivity need to be formally recognized by the Governing Body by the creation of a Standing Committee of the Council called Policies, Procedures, and Protocols
Build the project team
  • Establish a working committee to develop and debate ideas
  • Define goals – long term and short term
  • Appoint project coordinator
  • Build enterprise-wide support

Once the project team is established, it’s time to begin measuring the scope of the project and developing action steps.



  • Visit physical locations where hard copy and digital records are stored (binders, CDs, cabinets, PCs, servers)
  • Review hardware –  PCs and software;  PC hard drives for digital documents; backup drives; digital capture devices, such as scanners, audio recording devices, et al

Procedures – The Authors

  • Determine document/record authors – who create the written government records
  • Evaluate available PC tools, software skills, and ongoing training for staff who process documents
  • Review each author’s procedures they use to create, certify, and store documents

Procedures – The Managers

  • Determine the records managers – who control the collection, sharing, and safeguarding of records
  • Review each manager’s procedures as records gatekeeper and guardian
  • Review data security, password protocols, disaster recovery

Procedures – The Records Custodian

  • Review municipal policies for satisfying OPRA requests
  • Review recent OPRA requests, response policies, and legal actions due to denials
  • Evaluate records requests that require extraordinary effort or special service charges

Procedures – Document Coordination

  • When an author prepares a new document, where is it stored?
  • How is it shared with Records Custodian?

Governing Body

  • Define policies to oversee records management
  • Review document training efforts for elected representatives

Make content readable and searchable

  1. Create a folder topology to separate files into categories (e.g., Mayor and Council, Planning Board, etc)
  2. Apply our comprehensive naming scheme to each file (e.g., Allendale 2016-01-017 MC MN RS.PDF)
  3. Convert text and image files into PDF format
  4. Apply Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert scanned images into readable and searchable text

Make information available via a variety of systems

  • Folder structure can be copied onto a small flash drive for Windows/Apple PC access
  • Files maintained in a Dropbox account – for direct access via PC, iPad, and iPhone and shared access via Internet links
  • Web site developed to provide web access to our content
Making it work

Identifying and investigating the above items is a good start, but it’s only a start.  For an information system to be successful, it needs:

  1. A plan
  2. A champion
  3. Buy-in by staff

To develop a Digital Archive, those who prepare, process, and distribute your documents must be familiar with the following tools:

Microsoft Word or Google Docs – to prepare document and convert to PDF

Adobe Acrobat – to create a modify PDF files

Scan to PDF – this feature is available on most scanners.  Converts paper documents to PDF files

Dropbox – allows you to create an on-line document folder to store documents and share with others

Gmail – Google’s mail service for sharing documents

WordPress – web site development tool to create easy to update web site