Effective Use of Space

Once you have completed your records inventory and sorted, retired, and purged your records, you will know how much material needs to be moved to your new space.

Here are some tips on how to plan for the most effective use of your new space.

  • Consider these issues when determining where records should be located:

    • Usage - Who will use the records, how frequently, and for what purpose? Are there multiple users?

    • Security - Records with restricted access or valuable records requiring special protection may require special placement and equipment.

    • Suitability of space - Some records may require special storage conditions such as temperature or humidity controls.

  • Would your office benefit by centralizing files? Centralizing the right records at the right places can have the following advantages:

    • Better use of personnel
    • Better documentation
    • Streamlined operations
  • If you have or will have a centralized storage area, determine the location of:

    • Active records
    • Inactive records
    • Nonrecords, including technical reference material and duplicate publications and forms
  • Plan space to allow for existing materials plus growth. The person who does the filing can probably tell you how much the files grow in a month or a year. Also, take into account the records you will retire at the end of the year.

  • Determine what will be maintained electronically and who will be responsible for maintenance:

    • Records
    • Publications
    • Forms
  • Order the appropriate equipment or verify that the appropriate equipment has been ordered. See part 2 of this checklist, "Choosing Filing Equipment".

  • Determine which materials will be maintained in which equipment.

  • Do you need to plan for a "reference area" where people can review files?

  • Do you need to plan for a "staging area" where records can be prepared for filing, retiring, microfilming or scanning?

  • Do you need to plan for space for computers and barcoding equipment, microfilm readers, or other specialized equipment?

  • Are there electrical and telephone outlets for the equipment?

  • Is there sufficient space and appropriate equipment for storing oversize items such as maps and nonpaper items such as videotapes and slides?

Choosing Filing Equipment

Selection Criteria

  • Compatibility

    Equipment should be compatible with the size and format of the materials to be stored.

    Supplies should be compatible with the equipment (for example, use side tab folders for lateral shelving).

  • Accessibility

    Equipment should be easily accessible and located near the users so they don't need to go too far to get their records.

    There needs to be sufficient room for people to access the materials safely.

  • Cost

    Take into account the initial cost, maintenance, repair, and operating costs for the equipment, and cost of accessories and supplies. Also consider costs of converting to a different system.

    If moves are frequent, include costs for moving (and in some cases, dismantling and reassembly).

    Non-standard supplies may be needed for proper use of equipment.

  • Security

    Special equipment such as locks or fireproof cabinets may be needed for vital or confidential records.

  • Site

    Certain types of equipment will require reinforcement of the floor to handle the weight.

    Very sensitive records may need to be secured in areas with locked doors or limited access.

    Amount of aisle space will vary with type of equipment.

Types of Filing Equipment

Standard Equipment

On the following chart you will find descriptions of the four most common types of equipment, with advantages and disadvantages.

In addition, you will find there are other variations such as vertical cabinets which rotate like a "lazy susan" (also known as Times 2s or x2s) and lateral cabinets which move from side to side, instead of back and forth.

Also, while many of the types of equipment listed above can be tailored to hold nonpaper materials, there is a wide variety of specialized equipment.

Specialized Equipment

Large collections of maps, blueprints, charts, and drawings can be more efficiently stored in cabinets with:

  • Horizontal drawers where the documents lay flat.
  • Vertical drawers where the documents are suspended vertically.
  • Cabinets or boxes with pigeonholes which accommodate rolled documents.

Magnetic media (disks and tapes) can be stored in a variety of types of equipment. Security, sturdiness, and environment (temperature and humidity) are important criteria when choosing this type of equipment.

Microform storage also comes in many styles, both automated and manual. Microforms can be housed in cabinets, binders, panels and trays. Environment is important in this case also.

Filing Equipment Comparison Chart
Equipment Type Advantages Disadvantages
Standard drawer cabinets - These are the traditional vertical cabinets with one to five pull out drawers. Folders are placed vertically, front to back, with top tabs.

Suitable for smaller collections.

Relatively easy to move.

Minimum supply problems.

More time is required to retrieve and refile folders since drawers must be opened to gain access.

Only one drawer can be accessed at a time.

Limited adaptability to nonpaper materials.

Requires additional space when drawers are extended.

Difficult to read folders in back of drawers and in top drawers of 4 and 5 drawer cabinets.

Open shelves - Stores records on open, horizontal shelves. Folders are placed vertically, arranged in rows, from one side to the other, with side tabs.

Shelves do not extend into aisles.

Can be stacked higher than standard cabinets.

More than one person can access at a time.

Easily adaptable to color coding, bar coding, and computer based tracking systems.

Usually less expensive than drawer cabinets.

Rapid retrieval and refile.

More difficult to move than drawer cabinets.

Lateral filing equipment - Stores records in same way as open shelves. Drawers or shelves roll out or extend forward.

Can be designed to have drawers, or shelves (which roll out or are stationary), or to handle either suspension or regular folders.

Can be equipped with doors and locks.

Adaptable for nonpaper materials.

Only one drawer or shelf can be accessed at a time.

Drawers or shelves may be pulled out into aisles for access.

Mobile shelving - Shelves move along a track either horizontally or rotate vertically like a ferris wheel. May be manually operated or powered.

Can often double amount of storage space since there are few permanent aisles.

Reduces time required to walk to search for materials. In the case of vertical power files, for example, the appropriate shelf is delivered to the operator based on the operator's electronic command.

Can be equipped with locks on shelves and aisles to improve security and limit access.

Easily adaptable for nonpaper materials and other special needs such as temperature and humidity controlled conditions.

Requires more floor load capacity (ability of the floor to bear the weight of the equipment fully loaded).

May have to wait to access desired area until a particular aisle is available.

More expensive than other types of equipment.

If your equipment is powered by electricity and the power goes out, you can not access your materials.