April is Records and Information Management Month

Humans have been creating records for over 5,000 years. For most of that time, records have been created in similar ways – by entering data on physical objects, like paper (or clay tablets). The advent of electronic records in the late 20th century pushed many of us into rapid change, adapting to new technologies and processes. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a quick change in how we work, as many county agencies shifted to electronic processes and made efforts to digitize their physical records and “go paperless”.

The King County Records Management Program is celebrating April as Records and Information Management Month by recognizing the important role that records play in our daily work.

The proper management of records offers many benefits including lowering risk for King County and helping each of us find the information needed to do our jobs. It also aligns with various countywide initiatives and values such as Lean/Continuous Improvement, the True North Value “we are responsible stewards”, as well as Equity and Social Justice by encouraging transparency in the work that we do.

What you can do

There are many ways that employees can contribute to good records management:

History of Records Management in King County

King County records have existed since the county was formed in 1852. But it was many decades before there was any systematic control over county records. By the late 1960s, the county eventually recognized the need for better control over its records. This corresponded to a general nationwide push towards better records management in the 1970s and the passage of various public disclosure laws, including the Washington State Public Records Act. In 1971, King County Executive Order 1070 called for the creation of a county records management program. Over the next several decades, the purpose of the program was in developing records retention schedules and managing physical records in storage. The first King County records retention schedule was developed in 1972.

The 1980s saw various improvements to the county’s records management processes, including the creation of the King County Records Center and the King County Archives. Throughout this time, focus of the program continued to be the management of paper records. Then after a major lawsuit in 2000 regarding violations of the Public Records Act, King County realized they needed to properly manage electronic records. As a result, the county made efforts to acquire a countywide electronic records management system. The first system, KC ERMS (aka CARM) was in place between 2008 and 2019. In 2019, KC ERMS was retired and replaced by the current system, Content Manager (CM), which went live on October 7, 2019.

As of today, Content Manager is used to house over 17 million electronic records and to inventory over 100,000 boxes in off-site storage.