Records Management and Archives: Definitions

Certain terms have technical meanings in the fields of records management and archives. Understanding these meanings is necessary for proper compliance with University records retention schedules and the policies set forth in the Records Management and Archives Handbook.



Permission and means to use a record (ARMA International).

Active Record
A record needed to perform current operations. Subject to frequent use and usually located near the user. Can be accessed manually or on-line via a computer system. See also Current Record, Inactive Record, and Semiactive Record (ARMA International).

Additional Reference(s)
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the further source(s), if any, of the records retention period.

Administrative Record
A record that is related to budget, personnel, supply, and similar administrative or facilitative operations common to all organizations. It is distinguished from an operational record, which relates to an organization's specific functions. See also Operational Record (ARMA International).

Administrative Value
The usefulness of a record to the originating group in the conduct of its business. (Example: Marywood University is the originating agency of the Marywood transcript, and Marywood University is the succeeding agency for the transcript from another institution.) See also Fiscal Value, Historical Value, Informational Value, Intrinsic Value, and Legal Value (ARMA International).

See Records Appraisal (ARMA International).
1. The records created or received and accumulated by a person or organization in the course of the conduct of affairs, and preserved because of their historical or continuing value.
2. The building or part of a building where archival materials are located.
3. The agency or program responsible for selecting, acquiring, preserving, and making available archival materials (ARMA International).

A person professionally educated, trained, experienced, and engaged in the administration of archival materials, including the following activities:  appraisal and disposition, acquisition, preservation, arrangement and description, reference service, and outreach (ARMA International).

ARMA International
The principal educational records and information management organization in the United States and Canada, and one of the organizations accredited by the American National Standards Institute to develop records management standards. Formerly, Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA International).

The verification of the identity of a person or process (ARMA International).

On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the date upon which a University administrator signed the schedule, officially authorizing its implementation as a University policy.

Authorized Signature
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the signature of a Marywood University vice president or the Secretary of the University, granting the schedule the authority of a legal document.


Central File
The files of several organizational units physically and/or functionally controlled and managed under a centralized service. See also Decentralized File (ARMA International).

Certificate of Destruction
A formal assertion, in writing, that records have in fact been destroyed (ARMA International).

A control procedure to establish the current location of a record when not in the records center or archives (ARMA International).

Classified Record (Information)
See Confidential Record (ARMA International).

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
A codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive and other branches/agencies of the federal government of the United States (ARMA International).

Confidential Record
A record or document requiring protection against unauthorized disclosure, modification, or destruction. See also Privileged Record and Restricted Access (ARMA International).
Top of Page
Convenience File
An unofficial file, containing copies of documents, that is maintained for ease of access and reference, physically located near the point of usage. Usually considered non-records (ARMA International).

Current Record
The most recent record or collection of records that is used on a regular basis. See also Active Record, Inactive Record, and Semiactive Record (ARMA International).

The guardianship of records, which, in a strict sense, includes both physical possession (protective responsibility) and legal title (legal responsibility).   


Decentralized File
Records located and maintained in or near the unit immediately responsible for the function in which they are used. See also Central File (ARMA International).

On a Marywood University records retention schedule, a list of representative records in the records series, or a clarification of the title.

Destruction Notice
A notification (memo, form, etc.) of the scheduled destruction of records (ARMA International).

Destruction Suspension
A hold placed on the scheduled destruction of records that may be relevant to forseeable or pending litigation, governmental investigation, audit, or special organizational requirements. See also Frozen Records (ARMA International).

The actions taken with regard to records as determined through their appraisal. Actions might include transfer to storage, destruction, or preservation for archival purposes (ARMA International).

1. Recorded information regardless of medium or characteristics. Frequently used interchangeably with the word record.
2. A single record item (letter, memorandum, form, or report) consisting of one or more pages (ARMA International).

A rough or preliminary form of a document (ARMA International).  


Electronic Record/Document
A record stored on electronic storage media that can be readily accessed or changed (ARMA International).

Evidential Value
The value of those records of an organization that are necessary to provide legal, authentic, and adequate documentation of its structure and functioning (ARMA International).


Fiscal Value
1. Pertains to financial matters in general.
2. Value attributed to a records series that documents financial transactions. Such records are usually required for audit purposes.
See also Administrative Value, Historical Value, Informational Value, Intrinsic Value, and Legal Value (ARMA International).
Top of Page
Frozen Records
Records whose destruction process has been suspended because of special circumstances such as an audit, court order, or investigation. See also Destruction Suspension (ARMA International).


General Records Series
Records series for which record copies exist in two or more departments or offices. Example: Faculty Copies of Student Records.   
General Retention Schedule
A records retention schedule for a general records series; that is, a series with record copies in more than one department or office.


Hard Copy
Printed copy of a record that can be read without use of mechanical assistance (ARMA International).

Historical Value
Records that are retained permanently for purposes of enduring value and not necessarily for business purposes. See also Administrative Value, Fiscal Value, Informational Value, Intrinsic Value, and Legal Value (ARMA International).   


Inactive Record
A record that does not have to be readily available, but which must be kept for legal, fiscal, or historical purposes. See also Active Record, Current Record, and Semiactive Record (ARMA International).

Informational Value
The value of a record derived from the information it contains on persons, places, etc., and not on the originating agency itself. See also Administrative Value, Fiscal Value, Historical Value, Intrinsic Value, and Legal Value (ARMA International).

Intrinsic Value
The inherent value of a record dependent upon unique factors such as age, circumstances of creation, a signature, or an attached seal. See also Administrative Value, Fiscal Value, Historical Value, Informational Value, and Legal Value (ARMA International).

See Records Inventory (ARMA International).   


Legal Value
1. Value inherent in records that provide legal proof of business transactions.
2. The value of records in demonstrating compliance with legal, statutory, and regulatory requirements.
See also Administrative Value, Fiscal Value, Historical Value, Informational Value, and Intrinsic Value (ARMA International).

See Records Coordinator (ARMA International).


1. Items that are not usually included within the scope of official records, e.g., convenience file, day file, reference materials, drafts, etc.
2. Documents not required to be retained and therefore not appearing on a records retention schedule (ARMA International).
Office of Record
An office designated to maintain the record or official copy of a particular record in an organization. See also Record Copy and Official Record (ARMA International).

Official Record
1. Significant, vital, or important records of continuing value to be protected, managed, and retained according to established retention schedules. Often, but not necessarily, an original.
2. In law, an official record has the legally recognized and judicially enforceable quality of establishing some fact.
See also Record Copy and Office of Record (ARMA International).

Operational Record
1. A record documenting those activities of an organization that are directed towards the substantive purpose for which the organization was created.
2. A record that assists an organization in performing its primary function.
See also Administrative Record (ARMA International).

Originating Department
The department or other organizational unit that originates a record (ARMA International).

Other Copy
Any copy of a record in addition to the record copy, usually made for reference purposes. Reference copies or "other copies" are to be retained and disposed of according to the records retention schedule for that record.

Other Copy Disposition
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the method by which to dispose of non-record or duplicate copies of a records series.

Other Copy Retention
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the period for which to keep non-record or duplicate copies of a records series.   


Permanent Record
Information that has been designated for continuous preservation because of reference, historical, or administrative significance to the institution (ARMA International).

Appropriate housing, protection, care, and maintenance of archives, records, and manuscripts.

Privileged Record
A document with restricted access. See also Confidential Record and Restricted Access (ARMA International).

Protective Measures
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the plan in place to protect and preserve a vital records series.

To remove information from a file that has no further value, usually according to a records retention schedule. This process can be done to both active and inactive records. See also Weeding (Files) (ARMA International).


Recorded information, regardless of medium or characteristics, made or received by an organization that is evidence of its operations, and has value requiring its retention for a specific period of time (ARMA International).

Record Copy
The official copy of a record that is retained for legal, operational, or historical purposes, sometimes the original. See also Office of Record and Official Record (ARMA International).

Record Copy Disposition
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the method by which to dispose of a records series.

Record Copy Holder
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the department, office, or individual responsible for the retention and disposition of the record copy of a records series.

Record Copy Retention
On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the period for which to keep the record copy of a records series.

Records Appraisal
The process of evaluating records based on their current operational, regulatory, legal, fiscal, and historical significance, their informational value, arrangement, and their relationship to other records (ARMA International).

Records Coordinator
The individual responsible for coordinating records management activities within a department and acting as liaison between the department and the records manager/administrator (ARMA International).

Records Destruction
1. The disposal of records of no further value by incineration, maceration, pulping, or shredding.
2. The definitive obliteration of a record beyond any possible reconstitution (ARMA International).

Records Disposition
After records have reached the end of their retention period in active and/or inactive storage, they may be disposed: transferred to an archives for retention or destroyed. See also Records Destruction and Archives (ARMA International).
Top of Page
Records Inventory
1. A detailed listing that could include the types, locations, dates, volumes, equipment, classification systems, and usage data of an organization's records.
2. The dissecting of each record to capture all pertinent information about the record to be used in its appraisal (ARMA International).

Records Management
The professional management of information in the physical form of records from the time records are received or created through their processing, distribution, and placement in a storage and retrieval system until either eventual elimination or identification for permanent archival retention (Robles and Langemo).

Records Management Liaison
See Records Coordinator.

Records Manager
The individual within an organization who is responsible for systematically managing the recorded information generated and received by the organization (ARMA International).

Records Retention Schedule
A comprehensive list of records series titles, indicating for each series the length of time it is to be maintained. May include retention in active office areas, inactive storage areas, and when and if such series may be destroyed or formally transferred to another entity, such as an archives, for historical preservation (ARMA International).

Records Series
A group of organizationally related records established on the basis of provenance or office of origin. Records series are filed/used together as a unit and evaluated as a unit for retention purposes.

Records Value
The usefulness of records for operational, legal, regulatory, fiscal, and historical purposes (ARMA International).

On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the principal source for the records retention periods.

Reference Copy
See Other Copy.

Restricted Access
A limitation on the use of records. Restrictions may be imposed by law, the organization, or donors of the records to a collection. See also Confidential Record and Privileged Record (ARMA International).

Retention Period
The time period records must be kept according to operational, legal, regulatory, and fiscal requirements (ARMA International).

Retention Schedule
See Records Retention Schedule (ARMA International).  


Semiactive Record
A record that is infrequently referred to but is still needed for reference. See also Active Record, Current Record, and Inactive Record (ARMA International).

See Charge-out (ARMA International).

Society of American Archivists (SAA)
A professional organization that establishes standards and guidelines for the identification, preservation, and use of records of historical value (ARMA International).

On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the indication of whether the records series is vital or non-vital.

Statute of Limitations
A period of time in which legal action can be taken. Federal, state, and provincial statutes of limitation should be considered when developing the retention period of records (ARMA International).


Temporary Records
Records appraised as having temporary or limited value and approved for destruction, either immediately or after a short specified retention period. See also Transitory Record (ARMA International).

On a Marywood University records retention schedule, the name of the records series.

1. The act of changing the physical custody of records with or without change of legal title.
2. The relocating of records from one storage area to another (ARMA International).

Transitory Record
Routine correspondence, documents, or records with short-term value. The retention period is limited to the interval required for completion of the action covered by the communication. See also Temporary Records (ARMA International).
Vital Record
A record identified as essential for the continuation or survival of the organization if a disaster strikes. Such records are necessary to re-create the organization's legal and financial status and to determine the rights and obligations of employees, customers, stockholders, and citizens (ARMA International).


Weeding (Files)
The removal of individual documents or files lacking continuing value. Also known as culling, purging, stripping, or screening. See also Purge (ARMA International).


ARMA International. Glossary of Records and Information Management Terms (an American National Standard). 2nd ed. Prairie Village, KS:  ARMA International, 2000. Used with permission.

Robles, Marcel and Mark Langemo, CRM. "The Fundamentals of Records Management." Office Systems '99 (1999): 30, 32, 34, 36.