The Preconditions of an Effective Records and Archives Appraisal Strategy

Etiwel Mutero
Appraisal is important in the management of records and achieves.  Failure to have an effective appraisal strategy; will lead to accumulation of obsolete records in organisational offices and archival institutions leading to a shortage of storage space and difficulty in retrieving needed records and archives. In this paper, the author is going to discuss the pre-conditions for an effective appraisal strategy.
Ropper & Miller (1999:6) defines appraisal as “The process of determining the value of records for further use, for whatever purpose, and the length of time for which that value will continue.  Also known as evaluation, review or selection. Ropper & Miller (199:6) continue to say: “First appraisal involves deciding what records need to be kept and for how long in order to allow the organisation to continue its work.  This is known as appraisal for continuity utility”.  Second appraisal involves deciding what records merit permanent preservation as archives because they have an enduring value for purposes other than those for which they were created, such as historical research. 
Firstly an effective appraisal strategy relies on effective records management programme existing in the organisation putting into consideration the life cycle concept and the records continuum concept.
The lifestyle concept is a concept that draws a analogy between the life of a biological organism, which is born, lives ad dies, and that of a record, which is created, is used for so long as  has continuing value and is then disposed of by destruction or by transfer to an achieve institution.  The life cycle appraisal maintains provence of records, applies document and file handling procedures that excludes ephemeral and duplicate material from the onset and organises and controls records by series based on functions, thereby allowing appraisal decisions to be taken at a higher level than the whenever possible.
On the other hand the continuum concept which is a consistent and coherent process of records management throughout the life record, from the development of record keeping systems through the creation and preservation of records, to their retention and use as archives.  The continuum concept ensures that records are approved at creation.  The continuum put together the work of the Record Manager, Archivist  and that of the Action Officer together.
Though certain records may  be maintained in the departmental offices  the centralized registry is one of the key pre-conditions of an appraisal strategy.  The central registry will try by all means to keep records in the discernible series.
The record series are an important element in the appraisal of records. Cox (1992:123) had the following to say on the record series.  The record series is the heart of the institution archives’ arrangement efforts. A series is the file units or documents arranged in accordance with a filing system or maintained in a way because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, or have a particular form or some other relationship determined from their creation, receipt or use .
Besides arranging records into series, an effective records office will further divide into different functions of the organisation such as general, personnel management, accounting and finance, internal communication, personnel management, accounting and finance, internal communication and so forth.  Ropper & Millan say a good records office system should observe the series as a basic unit or control throughout the life cycle, including the appraisal, retention and disposal process.
Milla & Roper go on to say administrative (housekeeping) files, common to all agencies, will be distinguished from policy or operational files documenting the specification of the individual agency.  These files deal with subjects such as building, equipment and supplies, finance and personnel, as well as with general internal administration.
Records offices will also separate policy and other files relating to  the foundation and procedures for implementing the agency’s policies from the case files, which documents the individual cases arising from the implementing of the agency’s programmes.
With the exception of administrative files, for which a government organisation wide, classification system may be appropriate, the files will be organised and controlled by a classification system tailored to the needs of each individual agency.  The classification system will be kept up to date as the agency’s responsibilities change and its functions and subjects areas develop in new directions.
As classification by definition is the process of identifying and arranging records and archives in categories according to locally structured conversations, methods and procedural rules represent in a classification system. Griffin & Hopper (1999:90).
In addition to a classification system indexing will be done also.  Indexing is the process of establishing and applying terms as access points to records.  Since no classification scheme is perfect, and any scheme will inevitably group together some items which relate to move than one subject area.  An index (normally based on a controlled vocabulary) should compensate for this by providing more than one retrial term for each document or file.
In a good records management system, transitory or phemerical records of the continuing utility, such as rough drafts, duplicates, announcements and trade publicity materials, will not be filed in the first place so that the selective destruction of the document which files will not be necessary.
In conclusion, the appraisal strategy is fully implemented where there is a good working records management programme, with standing retention schedules and where record values are determined at creation.
1.      Miller L (1999), Building Records Appraisals, IRMT; ULL
2.      Miller L (1999) Preserving records, IRMT, ULL
3.      Cox, Managing Institutional Archives
4.      Mahapatra, (1999), Preservation in libraries Perspectives, Principles and Practice, New Delhi, Fess Ess Obligatory
            Etiwel Mutero holds a Bsc  Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.Do you want assistance in writing your college or university assignment? You can contact Etiwel Mutero on 00263773614293 or

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