Friday, August 11, 2017

More than decluttering: Onsite storage cleanup brings many benefits

The junk drawer in the kitchen. The hall closet. The spare room. Under the bed. These are the places that collect clutter in our homes.

Workplaces often have “catch all” locations, too . . . places where you can find old files, ancient office equipment, and musty holiday decorations.

For UVAFinance, this location was the “caged storage” in the Carruthers Hall basement.

a small space with boxes of files on shelves
Caged storage prior to cleanup completion.
For years, departments in Finance had been using their designated space in the basement to store everything from filing cabinets to microfiche. A new plan to renovate the basement space meant that the caged storage got the attention it had long needed, not only in terms of a clean-up, but also in terms of reevaluating records storage.

The newly-formed Administrative Services Group (ASG) within UVAFinance partnered with UVA Records Management to tackle the mess in the basement. Patrick Wood is a member of ASG and fulfills a lead role in records management and retention.

Wood reports that the monumental cleanup effort took a total of seven weeks, and involved a team of nearly a dozen people from UVAFinance and Records Management, working diligently to sort, inventory, and properly dispatch everything.

Caroline Walters, University Records Officer, leads the Records Management Team. It is this team’s job, among many other duties, to assist and guide faculty and staff on the proper management of all records. She has seen many instances of records landing in these “catch all” spaces.

Walters says that one of the hazards of on-site storage is that records often go unmanaged, which isn’t safe for the records and may put the University at risk when it comes to potential audits, Freedom of Information Act requests, and so on.

The group worked in dim, cramped quarters, painstakingly going through stacks of records, boxes of old files, and envelopes of microfiche, determining with Records Management’s careful guidance which to keep and which to destroy.

“It was dusty, dark, dingy, and claustrophobic,” said Wood. “But Caroline Walters and her team from Records management helped us immensely, and we gradually cleared the space out to the point that it’s now well organized, clean and spacious.”

And what happened to all of that . . . stuff?

“We had four loads of shredding, five loads of furniture and equipment taken to surplus, a ton of trash, loads of recycling, and a heap of things sent to Goodwill and the Rose Project. A few things were sent to the University archives,” said Wood.  

And, notably, over 1200 boxes of records were sent out for off-premises storage.

“Records Management helped us make decisions on what to keep and what to throw away, and even more importantly, how to manage what we kept so that it was stored safely and accessibly,” said Wood.

“Not only is much of the basement area now clear and ready for additional construction with cleaner, smaller storage spaces still available, but also, we have our records stored in a way that guarantees safety, compliance, and transparency,” he said.

Wood says the ASG team is writing Standard Operating Procedures for UVAFinance departments on how the storage should be used in the future, so the space doesn’t get cluttered up again.

Special thanks to all involved in this project:  Connie Alexander, Cindy Rodgers, Elizabeth Jackson, Caroline Walters, Jessie Graham, Jessica Burgess, Esther Grace, Stacey Rittenhouse, Patrick Wood, Ashley Rogers, Warren “Hubba” Wood, Mary Fields, Lori O’Connor, Ann Criser, Samantha Morris, Dorothy Moyer, Bess Landolt, and Peggy Johnson.

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