Records management is a relatively new discipline whose beginnings can be traced to the early years of the twentieth century and which only firmly established itself in the post Second World War period. Records management is concerned with the generation, receipt, processing, storage, retrieval, distribution, usage and retirement of records. It encompasses a wide variety of activities and sub-disciplines each of which has arisen to cater for a specific need such as the management of mail, correspondence, reports, copies, forms and directives. Records management is multi-media embracing many types of media from paper, to audio tape' video tape, magnetic tape, magnetic disk, optical disk and microfilm.
While records management as a distinct discipline is a twentieth century phenomena, the generation and handling of records has of course been in existence since records themselves began to be created in Ancient times. Records are created in the transactional processes of Government as laws are made, budgets prepared, surveys conducted, reports made, instructions formulated and issued, letter received, responses given to inquiries, statistics compiled, staff recruited, promoted, demoted and retired, births, marriages and deaths registered' taxes and other dues levied, economic plans formulated, licenses issued, nurseries and schools built, certificates of educational attainment issued and as various governmental processes are carried out.
Records exist primarily because of the need to keep a record of transactions carried out. The process by which they are created, the manner of their creation, the way in which they are handled will differ from institution to institution, from country to country and from one geographical region to the next. The methods of handling records have also undergone changes over time from the days of the registry system in early Modern Europe when all items were entered in registers on being received to today' s situation in which mail can be electronically controlled. It is difficult to describe records management on a world wide basis because records management practices are closely tied to the peculiarities of Governmental and institutional processes which differ from country to country and from region to region. There are however certain core practices on which a degree of generalisation can be made within the limitations mentioned above.
No Government can function without records. If the records exist and they are not well managed it is equally difficult to achieve efficiency. The level of efficiency of the operations of the governmental machinery is closely tied to the effectiveness of the records management programme. Records management encompasses several main elements.
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