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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 16, 2009

Skip the guesswork: Online policy library is current

by Erin Rosacker

Gone are the days of bestowing a university policy and procedures manual upon newly hired employees.

Create new shelf space by getting rid of that relic, and usher in the electronic age by accessing ISU's online policy library.

"Now you can get the most current policy, at any instant, no matter where you are," said Sheryl Rippke, policy administrator. "In fact, we encourage people not to print or reproduce the policy elsewhere. Instead, link to it. If you print it off and put it in a binder, you are defeating the purpose."

Throwing out the printed version in favor of an online library was the solution to keeping the most up-to-date version of policies available. The policy library also archives past versions for reference needs.

"This is a legal issue. Our attorneys need to know that they have the current information, or they need to know what version of the policy was in effect at any given point in time," Rippke said.

Something for everyone

Rippke said the policy library, which debuted in 2004, is for everyone -- students, faculty and staff. It's searchable by keyword, indexed alphabetically and organized categorically. Currently, there are 203 policies, ranging from academic honesty to workers compensation. The revised smoke-free campus policy is among the newest additions.

"If you have a question about how something works, go there first," Rippke said. "It's a great place to start if you have a question about basically anything."

Most of the policies from the written manual -- such as personnel, travel and procurement/sales policies -- have been extracted, updated, formatted and transferred to the online policy library. Rippke said she anticipates that process to be completed by the end of the fiscal year.

The policy library also links to other online handbooks, guides and governance documents. Many of them, including the Faculty Handbook, reciprocate with links back to the library.

Policy process

The policy library advisory committee, originally charged with creating the online resource, now helps guide the development of new policies. That includes determining if a proposal is a policy (rather than a procedure), and if it has a broad enough scope (rather than local interest).

"We don't want to put it in the policy library if it doesn't belong there," Rippke said. "The effort has been to draw all university-wide policies into one place, where they will be current and accessible, so we will always know we have the current one when we are looking at it."

Rippke said the group oversees the process of a campus policy's development, which includes developing a policy plan (including scope and implementation) and forming a policy team to work on crafting the language. She said most policies are posted for a period of public comment, giving the campus community a chance to submit feedback.

"It's better to get that input first, than to backtrack and have to fix it later," Rippke said.


"If you print it off and put it in a binder, you are defeating the purpose."

-- Sheryl Rippke