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Appendix A - Glossary

A  B  C  D   E  F  G  I  L  M  N   O  P  R  S  T  V  W

A      Top

Accession. The transfer of the legal and physical custody of records from an agency to an archival agency or a records center. The agency retains legal custody of the records when transferred for temporary storage at a records center.

Accession Number. A number assigned to identify shipments of records in the records center.

Adequacy of Documentation. A standard of sufficiently and properly recorded actions and/or decisions. Derives from the legal requirement that agency heads "make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organizations, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency and designed to furnish the information necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of persons directly affected by the agency's activities" (U.S.C. 3101).

Agency Records (FOIA Records). The Supreme Court has articulated a basic, two-part test for determining what constitutes "agency records" under the FOIA: "Agency records" are records that are (1) either created or obtained by an agency, and (2) under agency control at the time of the FOIA request. Inasmuch as the "agency record" analysis usually hinges upon whether an agency has sufficient "control" over a record, courts have identified four relevant factors for an agency to consider when making such a determination: the intent of the record's creator to retain or relinquish control over the record; the ability of the agency to use and dispose of the record as it sees fit; the extent to which agency personnel have read or relied upon the record; and the degree to which the record was integrated into the agency's recordkeeping system or files.Agency "control" is also the predominant consideration in determining the "agency record" status of records that are either generated  or maintained by a government contractor.

Alphabetic-Subject Filing System. A classification system in which subjects are arranged in alphabetical order regardless of their relationship to one another. For example, the subject "adrenalin" might immediately follow the subject "administration."

Appraisal. The process of determining the value, and thus the final disposition of records, making them either temporary or permanent.

Archives. The noncurrent records of an organization, preserved because of their continuing or enduring value.

Audiovisual Records. Records in pictorial or audio form, regardless of format. Includes still photographs or still pictures, graphic arts (posters and original art), motion pictures, video recordings, audio (or sound) recordings, and related records.

B          Top

Block. A chronological grouping of records consisting of one or more segments of cutoff records, that belong to the same series and are dealt with as a unit for purposes of their sufficient transfer, especially the transfer of permanent records to the National Archives. For example, the records schedule may direct a transfer of permanent records in 5-year blocks. In electronic recordkeeping, a grouping of data stored as a unit on an external storage medium and dealt with as a unit by the computer for input or output.

C         Top

Cartographic Records. Graphic representations at reduced scale of selected physical and cultural features of the surface of the earth and other planets. Includes maps, charts (hydrographic/nautical, weather, and aeronautical), photomaps, atlases, cartograms, globes, relief models, and related records, such as field survey notes, map history case files, and finding aids. Also includes geographic information system records, or digital cartographic records, which are managed like other electronic records.

Central Files. Files accumulated by several offices organizational units, and maintained and supervised in one location; also called centralized files. This arrangement is most effective in small organizations.

Charge Out. The act and result of recording the removal and loan of a document or a file, from the main filing system, to include its location. Usually involves the use of a form, such as OF-23, Charge out Record.

Classification. The process of determining the sequence or order in which to arrange documents.

Classified Information. Records or information requiring, for national security reasons, safeguards against unauthorized disclosure.

Closed File. A file unit or series containing documents, on which action has been completed and to which more documents are not likely to be added. A file unit or series to which access is limited or denied.

Contingent Records. Records scheduled for final disposition after the occurrence of an event at some unspecified future time, such as an internal audit.

Continuity Reference. A reference form used to replace material withdrawn for consolidation with more up-to-date material.

Current Records. (Also referred to as "active records.") Records that are necessary for conducting the current business of an office and must be maintained in office space and equipment.

Costing.  The calculated financial cost of storing 1 cubic foot of records both on and off site for a government facility.

Cut-Off. Breaking or ending files at regular intervals, usually at the close of a fiscal or calendar year, to permit their disposal or transfer in complete blocks and to permit the establishment of new files. (Also called file cutoff or file break.)

D     Top

Decentralized Files. Files accumulated by each principal element of an agency and maintained at the point of reference.

Disposal. The actions taken regarding temporary or nonpermanent records after their retention periods expire, and including either destruction or, in rare instances, donation. Also, when so specified, the actions taken regarding non-record materials when no longer needed, especially their destruction.

Disposal Authority. Legal approval empowering an agency to transfer permanent records to the National Archives or carrying out the disposal of temporary records. Must be obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration and also, for certain records proposed as temporary, from the General Accounting Office. The agency's approval of disposition instructions for non-record material.

Dispose. To carry out disposal, which includes either the destruction or the donation of temporary records, but not the transfer of permanent records to the National Archives.

Disposition Schedule. A document providing authority for the final disposition of recurring or nonrecurring records. Also called records disposition schedule, records control schedule, records retention schedule, or schedule. Includes the SF-115, Requests for Records Disposition Authority, the General Records Schedules, and the agency records schedule, which when completed becomes a comprehensive records schedule that also contains agency disposition instructions for non-record materials.

E        Top

E-discovery. An abbreviated term for electronic discovery, is the obligation of parties to a lawsuit to exchange documents that exist only in electronic form. Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, enacted in late 2006, now compel include civil litigants to preserve and produce electronic evidence. Examples of electronic documents and data subject to e-discovery are e-mails, voicemails, instant messages, e-calendars, audio files, data on handheld devices, animation, metadata, graphics, photographs, spreadsheets, websites, drawings and other types of digital data.

Electronic Mail System. A computer application used to create, receive, and transmit messages and other documents or create calendars that can be used by multiple staff members. Excluded from this definition are file transfer utilities (software that transmits files between users but does not retain any transmission data), data systems used to collect and process data that have been organized into data files or databases on either personal computers or mainframe computers, and word processing documents not transmitted on an E-mail system.

Electronic Record. Numeric, graphic, text, and any other information recorded on any medium that can be read using a computer and satisfies the definition of a Federal record in 44 U.S.C. 3301. This includes, but is not limited to, both on-line storage and off-line media such as tapes, disks, and optical disks. [36 CFR 1234.1]

Electronic Mail Message. A document created or received on an E-mail system, including brief notes, substantive documents, and any attachments which may be transmitted with the message.

Emergency-Operating Records. Vital records essential to the continued functioning or reconstitution of an organization during and after an emergency.

F     Top

FederalRecords Center. A storage facility operated by the National Archives and Records Administration.

File Plan. A listing of the files (not necessarily records) contained in a specified location. An inventory is a descriptive listing of each record series or system and other pertinent data.

Files. A collective term usually applied to all records and non-record materials of an office or agency.

Files Custodian. The individual or office in charge of agency files. Often used interchangeably with records custodian.

Filing System. A set of policies and procedures for organizing and identifying files or documents to speed their retrieval, use, and disposition. (Sometimes called recordkeeping system.)

Finding Aids. Indexes or other lists, manual or automated, that are designed to make it easier to locate relevant files.

Fiscal Value. The usefulness of records in documenting an agency's financial transactions and obligations.

FOIA Records (Agency Records). The Supreme Court has articulated a basic, two-part test for determining what constitutes "agency records" under the FOIA: "Agency records" are records that are (1) either created or obtained by an agency, and (2) under agency control at the time of the FOIA request. Inasmuch as the "agency record" analysis usually hinges upon whether an agency has sufficient "control" over a record, courts have identified four relevant factors for an agency to consider when making such a determination: the intent of the record's creator to retain or relinquish control over the record; the ability of the agency to use and dispose of the record as it sees fit; the extent to which agency personnel have read or relied upon the record; and the degree to which the record was integrated into the agency's recordkeeping system or files.Agency "control" is also the predominant consideration in determining the "agency record" status of records that are either generated  or maintained by a government contractor.

Frozen Records. In records disposition, those temporary records that cannot be destroyed on schedule because special circumstances, such as a court order, require a temporary extension of the approved retention period.  Also see Litigation Hold.

G    Top

General Records Schedule. Schedules authorizing the disposal, after the lapse of specified periods of time, of records common to several or all agencies, if such records will not, at the end of the periods specified, have sufficient administrative, legal, research, or other value to warrant their further preservation by the United States Government. [44 U.S.C. 3303A(d)]

I     Top

Inactive or Noncurrent Records. Records no longer required to conduct agency business and therefore ready for final disposition.

Information Technology (IT) System. A discrete set of information resources organized for the collection, processing, maintenance, transmission, and dissemination of information, in accordance with defined procedures, whether automated or             manual to support HHS’ or OPDIV’s mission. An interconnected set of information resources under the same direct management control, which shares common functionality. A system normally includes hardware, software, information, data, applications, communications, and people.        Refers to a set of information resources under the same management control that share common functionality and require the same level of security controls.

Intrinsic Value. In archives administration, the value of those permanent records that should be preserved in their original form rather than as copies.

Inventory. A survey of agency records and non-record materials taken before developing schedules. A File Plan is a listing of the files (not necessarily records) contained in a specified location. An inventory is a descriptive listing of each record series or system and other pertinent data.

Item. A separately numbered entry describing records on Form SF-115, Request for Records Disposition Authority. Usually consists of a record series or part of an information system. A document.

L     Top

Legal Custody. Guardianship, or control, of records, including both physical possession (physical custody) and legal responsibility (legal custody), unless one or the other is specified.

Legal Value. The usefulness of records in documenting legally enforceable rights or obligations, both those of the Federal Government and those of persons directly affected by the agency's activities.

Life Cycle of Records. The concept that records pass through three main stages: creation, maintenance and use, and disposition.

Litigation Hold Within the context of records management, a "hold" is an agency's temporary suspension of disposition action(s) because of legal, audit, or investigative needs. When a hold is initiated, documentary materials, regardless of physical location, are required to be kept for as long as the hold is in place. Because this category of records potentially could affect multiple OPDIVs, it is imperative that all potential holders of the information be informed to preserve and not destroy or alter any documents of any type, including hard copy, electronic format, and e-mails.  Also see Frozen Records.

M     Top

Mnemonic Filing System. A classification system in which records are coded by symbols that remind the user of the subjects; for example, ADM for administration and PER for personnel. These symbols are usually arranged alphabetically.

 N    Top

National Archives. The organization or agency responsible for appraising, accessioning, preserving, and making available permanent records.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The agency having overall responsibility for the records management program throughout the Federal Government. When permanent records are transferred to the National Archives, they are placed in the custody of NARA's Office of the National Archives.

Non-record. U.S. Government-owned informational materials excluded from the legal definition of records. Consists of extra copies of documents kept only for convenience of reference, stocks of publications and of processed documents, and library or museum material intended solely for reference or exhibition.

Numeric-alphabetic Filing System. A classification system in which numbers are assigned to main divisions, and letters and numbers to succeeding subdivisions, and the records are arranged accordingly. For example, "ADM" might stand for "Administrative Management," and "1" for the subdivision "Policy." "ADM 2" might stand for "Reports and Statistics," and further subdivided under this subject may be "ADM 2-1, Activity Reports."

O    Top

Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR). The office delegated responsibility for a specific function. This office normally maintains the official agency record, including the yellow copy and related incoming correspondence. The OPR may designate other offices to maintain the official agency record copy for that function.

Official File Station. Any location in an organization at whichrecords are maintained for current use.

Official Record Copy. The yellow file or otherwise designated copy maintained by the originating office. Also includes incoming correspondence used to document a specific function.

P    Top

Permanent Records. Records appraised by the National Archives and Records Administration as having sufficient historical or other value to warrant continued preservation by the Federal Government, beyond the time they are needed for administrative, legal, or fiscal purposes. Sometimes called "archival records."

Personal Papers. Nonofficial or private papers, relating solely to an individual's own affairs. Must be clearly designated as such and kept separate from the agency's records. Also called "personal files" or "personal records."

Preserved Record. Documentary materials that have been deliberately filed, stored, or otherwise systematically maintained as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government, or because of the informational value of the data. This applies to documentary materials in a file or other storage system, including electronic files and systems, and those temporarily removed from the files or other storage systems.

Program Records. Records documenting the unique, substantive functions for which an agency is responsible, in contrast to administrative records.

Public Records. In general usage, records accumulated by Government agencies. Records open to public inspection by law or custom.

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Reading Files. Outgoing correspondence records arranged chronologically, in contrast to those arranged by subject. (Chronological (chron) or day files.)

Record Group. A body of organizationally related records, established by an archival agency after considering the organization's administrative history and complexity and the volume of its records. National Archives and Records Administration uses record group numbers to keep track of agency records during and after the scheduling process, including those transferred to a Federal Records Center and/or the National Archives.

Records Maintenance System (Centralized). A centralized records maintenance system is one in which all records accumulating in an organization unit are centralized in one location, and designated personnel are assigned the responsibility to properly manage the organization's records. As technology advances and the need for information grows, a centralized records maintenance system may prove to be more cost effective and achieve greater benefits than those associated with a decentralized system.

Records Maintenance Systems (Decentralized). A decentralized records maintenance system is one in which accumulating records are maintained by the individuals performing the agency's functions, or the originators.

Record Series. File units or documents arranged according to a filing system, or kept together because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, document a specific kind of transaction, take a particular physical form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use, such as restrictions on access and use.

Recordkeeping System. A system for collecting, organizing, and storing records to facilitate their preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition, and to fulfill recordkeeping requirements.

Records. According to 44 U.S.C. 3301, the term "includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of data in them. Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included." A more simple, working definition: Official Federal Government records include documentary material that you create, or that you receive from outside of AMS.

Records Maintenance and Use. Any action involving the location of Federal agency records or the storage, retrieval, and handling of records kept at office file locations by, or for, a Federal agency. This is the second stage of the records life cycle.

Records Management. The planning, controlling, directing, organizing, training, promoting, and other managerial activities involved with respect to records creation, records maintenance and use, and records disposition in order to achieve adequate and proper documentation of the policies and transactions of the Federal Government and effective and economical management of agency operations. [36 CFR 1220.14]

Records Management Program. A planned, coordinated set of policies, procedures, and activities needed to manage an agency's recorded information. Encompasses the creation, maintenance and use, and disposition of records, regardless of media. Essential elements include issuing up-to-date program directives, properly training those responsible for implementation, and carefully evaluating the results to ensure adequacy, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Records Officer. The person assigned responsibility by the agency head for overseeing an agency-wide records management program.  A person assigned a Record Group.

Records Schedule.A document describing, providing instructions for, and approving the disposition of specified Federal records. It consists of one of the following:

(a) An SF-115, Request for Records Disposition Authority, which the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has approved to authorize the disposition of Federal records;

(b) the General Records Schedules (GRS) issued by NARA; or

(c) a printed agency manual or directive containing the records descriptions and disposition instructions approved by NARA on one or more SF-115's or issued by NARA in the GRS. [36 CFR 1220.14]

Retention Period.  The length of time that records are to be kept.

Retirement. The sending of inactive records to the Federal Records Center or to the National Archives, either for storage until time for disposal (destruction) for permanent retention.

Rights-and-Interests Records. Vital records essential to protecting the rights and interests of an organization and of the individuals directly affected by its activities.

Screening. Reviewing files to apply access restrictions. Examining files to identify and remove documents of short-term value, especially those eligible for immediate destruction. Also called weeding or purging.

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Security Backup. Copy of a record in any medium created to provide a means of ensuring retention and access in the event the original record is destroyed, inaccessible, or corrupted.

Special Records. Types of records maintained separately from textual/paper records because their physical form or characteristics require unusual care, and/or because they have nonstandard sizes. Includes electronic, audiovisual, microform, cartographic and remote-sensing imagery, architectural and engineering, printed, and card records.

Standard Form 115, Request for Records Disposition Authority. The form used by Federal agencies to obtain disposition authority from the National Archives and Records Administration for records which the General Records Schedules are inapplicable.

Standard Form 135, Records Transmittal and Receipt. The form to be submitted by Federal agencies before transferring records to a Federal Records Center. Sometimes referred to as "shelf lists."

Subject Files. Records arranged and filed according to their general informational or subject content. Mainly letters and memorandums, but also forms, reports, and other material, all relating to program and administrative functions, not to specific cases.

Subject-Numeric Filing System. A subject classification system in which the main topics are arranged alphabetically and the subdivisions, i.e., secondary (second) and tertiary (third) are coded numerically. For example, "Personnel 8" might stand for "Hours of Duty." This system may be modified by combining it with the mnemonic filing system so that, for example, "Personnel 8" would become "PER 8."

(a) Primary Subjects are the prime or major subject designations that identify and describe groups of related records.

(b) Secondary Subjects are one or more related subjects that have been created or established by the division of a primary subject.

System of Records. System of Records is used to identify records that contain information covered under the Privacy Act.

System Topup. Copy of off-line storage media of software and data stored on direct access storage devices in a computer system, used to recreate a system and its data in case of unintentional loss of data or software.

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Tertiary Subjects.  One or more related subjects that have been created or established by the division of a secondary subject. 

Technical Reference Files. Non-record copies of articles, periodicals, reports, studies, vendor catalogs, and similar materials that are needed for reference and information but are not properly part of the office's records.

Temporary Records. Any Federal record that the Archivist of the United States has determined to have insufficient value to warrant its preservation by the National Archives and Records Administration. [36 CFR 1220.14]

Transmission and Receipt Data.

(a) Transmission Data.  Information in E-mail systems regarding the identities of sender and addressee(s), and the date and time messages were sent.
(b) Receipt Data.  Information in E-mail systems regarding date and time of receipt of a message, and/or acknowledgement of receipt or access by addressee(s).

Unscheduled Records. Records for which no ultimate disposition has been determined.

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Vital Records. Records essential to the continued functioning or reconstitution of an organization during and after an emergency; also, those records essential to protecting the rights and interests of that organization and of the individuals directly affected by its activities. Sometimes called essential records. Include both emergency-operating and rights-and-interests records. Vital record considerations are part of an agency's records disaster prevention and recovery program.

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WashingtonNational Records Center. The Federal Records Center for the inactive permanent records (except those located in the National Archives) and temporary Federal records for offices located in the Washington metropolitan area.