Quaker A-Z: F is for Filing Structures

All clerks, or anyone needing to deal with records is likely to end up with documents that need to be stored. Documents need to be safe for archive as well, easy to refer to. There should be some system of recording what documents are where.

There are many filing systems you can use (after all data management is a career). In this instance, we’re going to look at how you can:

  • Collect items for each meeting (as they arrive)
  • File and maintain minutes and associated documents for an archive
Piles of folders and files
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

A helpful point-of-view presented to me when doing data management at college was to think about who might want to find something in this record you’ve created in a hundred years.

Longer than that and they likely won’t care about too many specifics. Shorter than that, there is a possibility of finding a human who was at the meeting, or at least knows more about it!

When does the process start?

Filing should actually start before the meeting itself. These days most clerks receive items for the agenda by email. Set up a folder in your email system labelled “[year] [month] meeting” (e.g., “2023 02 meeting”). When something comes in file it in the appropriate month folder.

Of course, you can easily move things to another month if necessary.

You can set up folders for every meeting this year, and even have a folder for a later date if necessary (useful for big events planned many months in advance).

After the meeting,  you can skim and delete anything which doesn’t need to be archived, then move the remaining messages from that folder into an archive folder.

Example filing structures...

a list of computer folders or files arranged by date

That can be a set time e.g. when sending minutes out. Or when setting up folders at the end of the year, or whenever you want to reuse the folder,

You can have a similar physical document filing structure, with each year as a folder or file, and each meeting separated into its own folder or divided part of the file.

For each meeting you should file:

  • a copy of the agenda,
  • a copy of the final minutes,
  • copies of any reports or associated documents referenced in the minutes or used as background (especially if you’ve copied part into your minutes).

I’m not going into archiving and archival proof papers here; Friends House library has information on these topics, as will many other libraries and records custodians.

If you are storing documents digitally ensure that the folder is secure (i.e., not available to anyone who doesn’t need access) and that you have backups. Data should be stored in at least three places, such as on your computer, on a local backup, and on a cloud-based backup.

Sometimes people use memory sticks or CD ROMs as an archive, but these presume that

  • a) the data will still be readable as saved
  • b) that the physical item won’t be damaged or lost.

If you do use physical media, ensure it’s checked regularly and replaced or updated as necessary.

How do you file and prepare for meetings? Any tips to share?

Wendrie Heywood

Wendrie Heywood

MBS Founder

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