Glossary of Records Management Terms

Active Records: Records which are used in an office at least once per month.

Administrative Value: The usefulness of records to the office of origin for carrying out its day-to-day activities.

Appraisal: The evaluation of records to determine their value and proper disposition.

Archives: An area utilized for storage of inactive records, manuscripts, papers, and memorabilia which are retained permanently for historical, legal, research, or social reasons. Also, the agency responsible for selecting, preserving, and making available non-current records with long-term value

Disposition:. The final state in a record’s life cycle, involving either:

  • destruction
  • transfer to inactive storage with destruction at a specified later date
  • transfer to the University Archives for permanent preservation

Document: Recorded information regardless of form or medium.

Evidential Value: The usefulness of records as the primary or legal evidence of an organization’s authority, functions, operations, transactions, and basic decisions and procedures.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: Also known as FERPA or the Buckley Amendment. The Act provides students with the right to inspect and review their education records; insures that in most instances the contents of education records may not be disclosed without the student’s consent; and permits students to request the modification of inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate education records.

Filing: The process of sorting and arranging, classifying or categorizing, and storing records so that they may be retrieved rapidly when needed.

Filing System: A planned arrangement of records designed to satisfy the reference needs of the people who use them. The classification scheme which structures records so that they are readily accessible and complete

Fiscal Value: The usefulness of records for information about the financial transactions and obligations of an organization.

Historical Value: The usefulness of records for historical research concerning an organization’s functions and development, or for information about persons, places, or events.

Inactive Records: Records used in an office less than once a year.

Informational Value: Factual data about the persons, events, problems, and conditions of the record creator, and which may be useful for historical research or other studies.

Intellectual Control: A series of measures, such as box and folder inventories, card catalog entries, and indexes that enable users of records to find the information they need.

Legal Value:  The usefulness of records to contain evidence of legally enforceable rights or obligations of the government or private persons.

Lifecycle: The theory that the paperwork of an institution goes through distinct phases: records are created, used for some purpose, stored or filed for future reference, evaluated, and eventually disposed of or transferred to an archives for permanent retention.

Non-record: Stocks of printed or reproduced documents kept for supply purposes where file copies have been retained for record purposes;

  • books, periodicals, newspapers, or other library materials preserved solely for reference purposes;
  • preliminary drafts or computations, worksheets, and informal notes which do not represent significant steps in the preparation of a record document;
  • duplicate copies of documents preserved only for convenience; materials not filed as evidence of departmental operations or for their informational value;
  • or personal materials which are the property of the custodian and which have no relation to official duties.

Office of Origin: The office in which a given record or record series was originally created or accumulated.

Official Copy: A record which is not duplicated elsewhere, or the designated record copy of duplicated and dispersed materials.

Open Records: Records of all governmental agencies, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, fall under Chapter 335, Wisconsin Open Records Law. The presumption of the law is that all public records are accessible except as exempted.

Public Records: According to Wisconsin Statutes 16.61, “means all books, papers, maps, photographs, films, recordings, or other documentary materials or any copy thereof, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any agency of the state or its officers or employees in connection with the transaction of public business…”

Public Records Board (PRB): The policymaking body for public records management, which consists of the Governor; the State Historical Society Director; the Attorney General; the State Auditor; a newspaper and a small business representative appointed by the Governor; and the Executive Secretary of the Legislative Council; or their designated representatives.
Its charge is to preserve for permanent use important state records,to provide for the orderly disposition of other state records, and to rationalize and make more cost effective the management of forms and records by state agencies. The Board reviews and must approve all University of Wisconsin-Madison retention schedules, without which no records may be destroyed. Meets quarterly

Records Inventory: An identification and evaluation of the records possessed by an office for the purpose of creating a retention schedule

Records Retention/Disposition Authorization (RDA) : The RDA is the form used to secure approval for the disposition of all public records. It outlines how long records are to be maintained and their disposition after a retention period has ended. By law, RDAs have to be submitted one year after each records series has been received or created. After 10 years, the RDA sunsets, and a new one must be resubmitted for Public Records and Forms Board approval.
Records Schedule: The timetable and description of a records series’ lifecycle, including instructions for disposition. In Wisconsin State government, the retention schedule takes the form of the Records Retention/Disposition Authorization (RDA).

Records Series: A group of related records or documents that are normally used and filed as a unit because they result from the same activity or function or have some relationship arising from their creation, receipt, etc.; and that permit evaluation as a unit for retention scheduling purposes.

Research Value: The usefulness of records for research by the government, business, private organizations, individuals, and scholars

Retention: The process of holding documents for use.

Retention Period: The length of time an office must keep particular records. This is usually expressed in terms of years, months, days and may be contingent upon an event or specification.

Retrieval. The process of locating and withdrawing documents and delivering them for use

Scheduling: The process of analyzing and appraising the value of a given set of records, and then preparing a retention schedule showing the disposition of the records

Sunset Requirement: By Statute, Records Retention/Disposition Authorizations (RDAs) expire after a period of 10 years from the date of their original approval by the Public Records and Forms Board. The purpose of the sunset requirement is to force periodic re-evaluation of records, and to reflect changed administrative needs, improved filing practices, and amended laws.

Transfer: The movement of records from one custodian to another. Usually moving records from active or semi-active office files to off-site storage or to the University Archives