Glossary

Most of the following definitions are taken from the Dictionary of Archives Terminology (DAT) produced by the Society of American Archivists. Along with the definition of each term, you will find pointers to resources and workshops where you can discover more about these records management and archival terms.

Tab/Accordion Item

  • The process of identifying materials offered to an archives that have sufficient value to be accessioned.
  • The process of determining the length of time records should be retained, based on legal requirements and on their current and potential usefulness. DAT, s.v. “appraisal,” accessed May 6, 2021,
  • Appraisal 101 for State Agencies
  • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

  • When used by records management, the terms “archive” and “archives” often refer to an institution which collects permanent records after their current business use has ended, preserves them, and makes them available to the public for research and similar purposes. When used by information technology, the term “archive” refers to a collection of computer files that has been moved from active disk storage to another location (either for backup purposes or for storage on less expensive media) from which it can be accessed if needed. Council of State Archivists, Key Terms & Acronyms for the IPER Courses, s.v. “archive,” accessed May 21, 2021,

  • The quality of being genuine, not a counterfeit, and free from tampering, and is typically inferred from internal and external evidence, including its physical characteristics, structure, content, and context. DAT, s.v. “authenticity,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop

  • When used by records management, the term “backup” refers to duplicate records stored off site under environmentally controlled conditions for protection of the information in case the original records are lost or damaged. They usually satisfy the limited-term business retention requirements of the information contained in the backup. Backups are not substitutes for permanent retention of electronic records, which are stored in archives. Council of State Archivists, Key Terms & Acronyms for the IPER Courses, s.v. “backup,” accessed May 21, 2021.

  • A collection of documents relating to a particular investigation or in support of some administrative action. DAT, s.v. “case file,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Files and Filing workshop

  • Records to which access is restricted by law. Access may be limited to authorized persons and/or for a specified time period. Such records often include those relating to personnel, client health, labor or business negotiations, and juvenile offenses, among others. Council of State Archivists, Key Terms & Acronyms for the IPER Courses, s.v. “confidential records,” accessed May 21, 2021.
  • NC Gen. Stat. 132-11, Time limitation on confidentiality of records
  • Confidentiality in Public Records
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
  • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

  • An effort within individual agencies to ensure that they can continue to perform their essential functions during a wide range of emergencies, including acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies. Council of State Archivists, Key Terms & Acronyms for the IPER Courses, s.v. “Continuity of Operations Plan,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Essential Records and Disaster Preparedness workshop

  • A disposal process that results in the obliteration of records. DAT, s.v. “destruction,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • In NC paper records can be burned, shredded, placed in acid vats, or sold as waste paper. Electronic data and metadata should be overwritten, deleted, and unlinked.
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
  • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

  • Specific directions regarding the manner in which records are to be disposed. Note: Disposition instructions may include procedures for screening records before transfer to the archives or specific instructions on how records are to be destroyed. DAT, s.v. “disposition instructions,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
  • Managing Public Records
  • Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

  • Records needed for the Continuity of Operations (COOP) of a government agency during and following an emergency. They are records an agency must have to perform one or more of the following critical functions: operate during an emergency; resume or continue business after an emergency; re-establish the legal, financial, and/or functional status of the agency; rebuild the community after the crisis passes. Sometimes referred to as “vital records,” e.g., by the National Archives and Records Administration. Council of State Archivists, Key Terms & Acronyms for the IPER Courses, s.v. “essential records,” accessed May 21, 2021.
  • How to Identify Essential Records
  • Essential Records and Disaster Preparedness workshop

  • A classification scheme describing different types of files, how they are identified, where they should be stored, how they should be indexed for retrieval. DAT, s.v. “file plan,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Sample File Plan
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
  • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

  • The process of surveying the records in an office, typically at the series level. DAT, s.v. “inventory,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Sample Records Inventory Form
  • Essential Records and Disaster Preparedness workshop

  • "Public record" or "public records" shall mean all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions. Public Records Act, N.C. General Statute 132-1
  • NC Public Records Law

  • The single copy of a document, often the original, that is designated as the official copy for reference and preservation. DAT, s.v. “record copy,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • FAQ: The Record Copy
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
  • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

  • A written, approved, implemented, and periodically tested plan that includes the information and actions needed to respond to and recover from a records emergency. It is not the disaster plan itself, it is only an element of the plan—the portion of your disaster plan that relates to records. Council of State Archivists, Key Terms & Acronyms for the IPER Courses, s.v. “Records Emergency Action Plan,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Essential Records and Disaster Preparedness workshop

  • The systematic and administrative control of records throughout their life cycle to ensure efficiency and economy in their creation, use, handling, control, maintenance, and disposition. DAT, s.v. “records management,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
  • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

  • 1. A copy of a record kept for easy access to the information it contains, as opposed to its intrinsic or evidential value.
  • 2. A copy of a record distributed to make recipients aware of the content but not directing the recipient to take any action on the matter.
  • 3. A specific copy used as a benchmark for purposes of checking the quality of other copies. DAT, s.v. “reference copy,” accessed May 6, 2021.
  • FAQ: Reference Copies
  • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
  • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

    • The usefulness or significance of materials based on their content, independent of any intrinsic or evidential value. DAT, s.v. “reference value,” accessed May 6, 2021.
    • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
    • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop

    • A document that identifies and describes an organization's records, usually at the series level, provides instructions for the disposition of records throughout their life cycle. DAT, s.v. “retention schedule,” accessed May 6, 2021.
    • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop

    • The evaluation of the possibility of incurring loss, damage, or injury and a determination of the amount of risk that is acceptable for a given situation or event. DAT, s.v. “risk assessment,” accessed May 6, 2021.
    • Essential Records and Disaster Preparedness workshop

    • A record that has little or no documentary or evidential value and that need not be set aside for future use. DAT, s.v. “transitory record,” accessed May 6, 2021l.
    • FAQ: Transitory Records
    • Managing Public Records in Local Government Agencies workshop
    • Managing Public Records Using the Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies workshop