Thanks to the ease with which new records can be created, copied and circulated, it is inevitable that multiple copies of records will still exist – even if the creation and version control advice featured in previous sections is followed. For example, all members of a committee each receiving their own copies of the minutes and associated papers.
It is necessary to strike a balance between the need to extend appropriate management controls to all information held by the institution and the separate need to identify and manage the master copy of a record as a prime concern.
Why is this important?
It may be that the master copy of a record has additional unique properties which give it added value and significance over any other copies which may exist, for example if it contains an official signature.
Alternatively, it may be that different management requirements exist for the master copy than for associated copies. For example, a record requiring long term preservation may need to be migrated to a more stable open format. This is an exercise you only wish to perform once on the definitive master copy and not repeat unnecessarily on further copies.
Lastly, as we shall explore in more detail in the section on retention management the master copy will usually have different retention requirements than will apply to other associated copies.
How to manage the master copy
- Identify the agreed source of the master copy (for example the copy of the minutes signed by the committee chair, or the project sponsor’s version of the project plan)
- Consider establishing procedures for ensuring the capture of the master copy at the point defined as the end of its active use (end of project, year end etc)
- Issue an umbrella policy statement regarding whether the institution considers the paper or electronic version of records to be the master copy (where appropriate). This will need to consider the institution’s ability to preserve digital records in the long term, plus the legal position regarding the use of electronic information as evidence.