There are four main reasons for keeping things.
In some instances there is a law which specifies how long
something should be kept for. This is particularly true
where matters of health and safety are concerned, but can
also apply to contracts, expenditure and immigration. Where
there isn’t a specific law we often look to the Limitation
Act 1980. This is the Act that allows people 6 years after a
contract has been broken to take their case to court.
The University needs to have evidence to show that it
owns the campus, or that buildings are insured, for example.
We need to know who our staff are, and what to pay them. We
need to know about our students, our courses and our
facilities. There is also business continuity on an
individual level. If you left tomorrow do you have records
that would allow someone else to step into your role –
written procedures, lists of contacts, and so on? In your
job there will be things that you don’t do very often and
you need to keep older documents to remind you how you do
things. You shouldn’t need to keep many of these. You might,
for example, have a leaflet that you produce every year for
Fresher’s, or an email that you send out at the beginning
of each term. You probably want to keep the previous one
each time, just to remind you what you did.
Work in progress
There will also be materials you need to keep because you
are in the middle of working on it. So notes you’ve taken at
a meeting and draft copies of your typed up versions of
those notes; emails, letters and notes of meetings about an
ongoing investigation; notes, drafts and ideas for a new
policy; projects (large and small, formal and informal) you
are working on. You’ll probably want to keep most of this
while the work is in progress. At the end you may just want
to keep a note of the final outcome of the investigation,
the final report or policy or approved set of minutes.
When archaeologists uncover the remains of the campuses
in 2147 they will be thrilled by everything they find. Every
last teaspoon, biro, memory stick, sticky note and
whiteboard marker will be a valuable historical artefact.
Even an historian writing in 20 years time will be pleased
to have any box of scribbled notes. However, the University
is a live working organisation, not a museum, and we have to
strike a balance between respecting our history and being
swamped by it.
The library keeps files on the main events in the
history of the University. If you have something that
appears to be particularly interesting, but which is no
longer relevant to your area, consider offering it to the