Lost in the 90's - The Struggles of Records Management

By Mark Gates
In the 90s I worked as a records coordinator in a university. Our office was responsible for maintaining the paper admissions paperwork for students. We all dreaded ''the black hole'': the mythical destination of all lost files and paperwork.
I usually realized a file was lost when the student called to check on their admissions status. We had a primitive computer system for tracking files but if the file's status was ''out'' for months, I knew there was a problem and began my hunt.
Where was the file? If the file was checked out to another staff member, I had the awkward task of asking them where the file was or hunting through the mounds of the files in their office. To avoid a confrontation, I tried to do this when they were at lunch.
Some staff members were notorious for taking a file from the cabinets without completing an out card. So a lost file produced a fair amount of finger pointing and tension between staff members.
Lucky for me, my boss had a sixth sense for finding lost files. He would cram himself into the bank of rolling filing cabinets and sometimes find a lost file. But sometimes not. And the file was lost to ''the black hole'' and it was up to me to tell the furious student that they would have to resubmit all their paperwork including their application and supporting paperwork.

‘’Have it all sent directly to me and I’ll try to put a rush on it,’’ I’d tell the caller, trying to calm them down. They would mutter about their frustration and disappointment and hang up. Ah, another satisfied customer.
The files were not scanned so there was no backup if one went missing. All we had in the computer system was some information from the student's application. But no transcripts or any other documents that would allow us to admit them to the university.
A lost file was a nightmare.
Back then, if we had had a sophisticated records management tool like FileBRIDGE Digital everything would have been different. As soon as a student submitted their application, all of their documents would have been scanned and available for review. Instead of losing and fighting over paper files, our staff would have had the necessary access to review virtual application packets. Paper files could have been a backup and not the main source for an admissions decision.
Life would have been better for everyone involved: me, my co-workers, the students, the students' families, and the university.
And best of all, no more lost files.

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