Storing Paper Records

Contrary to predictions in the 1960s of the paperless office, global consumption of office more than doubled in the 1980s and 1990s, and has leveled off somewhat since then. So chances are your office is still cluttered with paper documents.

Files should be purged at least annually, and inactive records should be stored separately from the active records. Because paper is vulnerable to temperature, humidity and light, it’s important to take care when storing this type of record (microfiche and microfilm, as well).

Recommended Storage Techniques

First, determine how long the records need to be stored, in accordance with UC Records Disposition Schedules. Whether you choose to store records on site or at an off-site location, you need to consider:

  • Security. Records should be kept in a place to which only authorized users have access. Choose a specific location in your department to store paper records. Only a few key individuals should have keys to the cabinet or room. Use sign-out sheets to record when documents are removed and by whom.
  • Light and air circulation. Because light fades paper and is harmful to microfiche and microfilm, lights should be turned off whenever possible. Rooms without windows are preferable. Store records in these types of containers:
    • Paper in heavy cardboard storage boxes.
    • Microfiche and microfilm in light-resistant containers.
  • Relative humidity. Paper, microfilm and microfiche documents should be stored in an environment with relative humidity of 45 to 50 percent. Higher humidity can cause mold to grow and may destroy the records.
  • Natural risks. Storing documents on metal shelving is preferable. Wood shelving can harbor pests and could contribute to the spread of fire. Cardboard boxes should be stored no more than three or four high, and should be stacked in staggered fashion, to avoid the possibility of the bottom box caving in.
  • Labeling. Each storage container should have sufficient information to identify the type of record, the date(s) covered by the records within and the date on which it may be destroyed (see the University Records Disposition Schedules). Use quality labels that will not lose their adhesiveness or mark the containers directly. Use permanent markers for labeling.
  • Off-site storage. UCLA has a contract with Iron Mountain, a records management vendor that stores paper and other records at their facilities and offers destruction services as well. If you have a large volume of records for off-site storage, you may want to consider scanning your paper documents into electronic images to save space and money.
  • Destruction. Records must be destroyed in accordance with the University's records retention policies. Documents that contain personal or sensitive information should be shredded. Purchasing a small cross-cut shredder for your department may be a good option if you do not shred a large volume of records. If you have a lot of records to dispose of, check the Vendor Agreements List (see Related Information) to find who has a contract with UCLA for document destruction. Remember that confidential records must be protected throughout the entire process. If you would rather use another vendor, contact Campus Purchasing for assistance. If a third party shreds your documents, be sure to obtain a certificate of completion to verify that the items have been destroyed properly.

Documents with historical value to the University should be sent to University Archives.