Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 4 – Information Management – Calculating space requirements

Most people these days think of storage space in terms of gigabytes and terabytes as organisations struggle to cope with the mountain of electronic data that is whisked into the ether every time the save button is depressed, or the sent button is activated.  We repeatedly hear that data storage requirements double each year, and the number of e-mails sent by the end of 2002 is a figure so great it defies understanding. But what about the vast forests of paper that has been stuck in the storerooms and filing cabinets for years and is still growing by a tree or two a day as staff print out every document and email ever sent or received.  Lets face it, conversion to electronic images via scanning is probably not the answer for the majority of it, given its natural and legal lifespan, so what are you going to do with it all?

Lets face it, the truly paperless office is still a long way off, especially given the laws relating to evidence, and the fun and games of version control, electronic signaturing technology, problems with electronic archiving and migration from one system to another. So how do you work out your current and future shelf and storage requirements for it all? Well, in this months issue we will try and answer some of those questions.

In this issue…
• Rules and Regulations
• Did you know;
• Working out the costs of storage;
• So what is Collection Management Anyway?
• A Thought to Ponder.

Rules and Regulations
Yes we are all bound by them, but even more so in the corporate world, where an effective records management policy can literally make or break your organisation.  Take Enron, Andersen and BAT as prime examples.

ISO 15489 on Information and documentation – Records Management covers (amongst other things) storage requirements.  Part 1, Section 8.3.3 states that “knowing how long the records will need to be kept and maintained will affect decisions on storage media.”  But how do you know how long to keep records for anyway? Part 1, Section 9.2 says that the decisions must be “based on an assessment of the regulatory environment, business and accountability requirements and the risk…statutory or other regulatory requirements may demand minimum retention periods…and…decisions should not be made intentionally to circumvent any rights of access.”  If you deliberately set out to destroy records knowing that litigation is pending, then you and your organisation will be held accountable for such actions.
Part 1, Section 9.6 covers storage and handling of records, both paper and electronic.  Part 2, Section 4.3.7 Covers storage of records in more detail.

If you would like some assistance to determine how long records should be kept for, then we would like to mention that the 2002 edition of the Australian Record Retention Manual is at the printers and will be available in early January 2003.  Copies can be purchased from

Did You Know?
Boxes of records weigh between 15-20kg, A rack 2m wide and 3m high will store 50-60 boxes – that’s about a tonne in weight.  Any more than that and you will find that bending occurs.  If your records area is not on the ground floor, or you are planning on adding one, remember to speak to the engineers about floor loading.
Figures taken from P124 Organising the Office Memory: Theory and Discipline of Records Management. J Eddis Linton

Working out the costs of Storage
A two-drawer vertical filing cabinet takes up about 10 square feet (1 square metre) of usable floor space, but holds only 4 linear feet (1.2 metres) of files. (NB a linear foot equates to 35cm). The annual cost of storing records in a two-drawer filing cabinet in office space which costs $12 per square foot per annum is $120 or $30 per linear foot or $60 per file drawer:

Annual cost/ft2 x ft2 occupied  = unit cost
————————————–      of storage
           cabinet capacity

figures taken from “How to Manage Your Records: A guide to effective practice.  Edited by Peter Emmerson. P62

If you decide that it would be more cost effective to house your records off site, please don’t forget to take into account the cost of retrieval.
So What is Collection Management Anyway?
So far we’ve looked at the records environment, we must now turn our attention to Libraries and Information Centres.  In a way it is easier to determine how much space will be needed for the following year(s).  You simply take the number of acquisitions from the previous year and halve it, as your budget has been cut because everything is on the net anyway, and people don’t have the time to read books anymore.

In all seriousness, most libraries will reach critical mass at some point during their existence, whereby there simply isn’t anymore shelf space, and you are faced with the decision that for every new item purchased an “old” item has to be disposed of.  If your parent organisation has already turned your request down for additional space then now is the time to get your collection management policy organised.

A collection management policy is more than just a document that tells you what should be managed and for how long, but the areas where your collection is weak, (great for arguing for bigger budgets) or surplus to requirements, (we can save money by…) but should also include information on how to handle migration of data from one medium to another (the case for audio and video tapes) especially material required for archival purposes, and so on.