CRS User Guide - Special Issues

Special Issues in Records Management

Certain kinds of records require special attention in terms of classification, maintenance and disposition.


Email presents particular challenges not only because it is voluminous, but also because it tends to be managed as a personal rather than a shared University record. Many emails can be considered personal and transitory and can be managed as the individual employee sees fit. However, many email messages are University records because they pertain to the administration and operation of the University.

Folders should be set up in individuals’ email systems that mirror the unit’s file plan so that email messages are being organized, can be retrieved, and can be easily disposed of according to the retention and disposition requirements of the CRS.

In the longer term, messages that are University records should be filed in the unit’s recordkeeping system (see Step 2 for a discussion of different kinds of recordkeeping systems).  Perhaps the simplest option is to save the emails as pdf documents – see the IPO’s guidelines on How to File and Save Emails from Lotus Notes Using Adobe Acrobat Pro.  If the official format of the record is paper, then the PDF documents should be printed and filed with the records, or linked to the paper records by cross-reference. If the unit has an electronic document and records management system (EDRMS), then emails can be easily transferred to that system.

See also Tip Sheet 5 on Email Management.

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Case Files

Case files are a series of uniform files, each pertaining to a particular instance of an investigation or administrative activity. They can relate to projects, to objects such as buildings, or more commonly, to individuals. In the CRS, case files have usually been established as separate file classes or sub-classes because they often require special treatment.

Case files pertaining to individuals normally are considered Personal Information Banks (PIBs) and must be handled confidentially in order to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires that PIBs be listed in a special directory (see York University’s PIBs: Personal Information Banks Directory).

Paper case files can often become voluminous, although they are frequently now managed through electronic databases.

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Electronic Databases and Systems

Electronic databases and systems can be difficult to manage because they often contain numerous records (frequently case files) and, depending on the sophistication of the system, may cut across numerous file classes. Such systems are useful in being able to draw together disparate data, sometimes from static tables, sometimes from other linked systems, sometimes from external web-based sources. Accordingly, a record may not exist “in reality” but may be crafted every time a search is conducted.

The classification codes and retention rules may therefore apply at different levels within electronic systems. Furthermore, it may be necessary to customize systems to implement retention and disposition rules, and to ensure that associated metadata are captured and managed along with the records.

It is strongly recommended that units using such systems consult with the Information and Privacy Office when implementing the CRS.

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Vital Records

Vital records are records that are essential to the functioning of the University as a whole. Their loss or inaccessibility, even for a temporary period, would be a significant detriment to the University. They should be adequately safeguarded to ensure the continued functioning of the University in the event of emergency.

There are two types of vital records: those that are needed to continue the University’s operations under other than normal operating conditions and to resume normal practices afterward, and those necessary to uphold the legal rights and financial obligations of the University and of those individuals directly affected by the University’s activities. Vital records can be in any format, such as paper, electronic, audio-visual.

Not all units will have vital records, but units that do should take steps to identify, inventory and protect them. Vital records should be noted in the unit file plan.

Examples of records vital to the University include student records, personnel and payroll records, contracts and agreements, and records of Senate and the Board of Governors.

Feedback and Assistance

We need your feedback on the Common Records Schedule. If there are gaps in the CRS, or if you are aware of changes to file classes, please contact us. We’d also like to hear what you think of this User Guide. It will be updated as we receive feedback from the University community.

Please contact us if you need help implementing the CRS, drafting a file plan, or deciding how to classify your records. Contact the Information and Privacy Office at ext. 20359, email:

User Guide Contents | Introduction | Step 1 Classify | Step 2 File and Maintain | Step 3 Retain | Step 4 Dispose | Special Issues | Appendix