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Records Management at Brown University


Active record – records that continue to be used with sufficient frequency to justify keeping them in the office of creation.

Archives – a collection of non-current records of an institution preserved because of their continuing historical value.

Authenticity – 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.

Best practices – procedures and guidelines that are widely accepted because experience and research has demonstrated that they are optimal and efficient means to produce a desired result.

Born digital – information created in electronic format.

Brown confidential information/data – information that is neither public information/data nor regulated information/data.

Data custodian – individual or department responsible for the implementation of recordkeeping systems and the management of information resources.

Data set – a group of related electronic records that are organized and treated as a unit.

Digitize – the process of converting printed or graphic materials on paper or film into digital electronic signals for reading by a computer; accomplished by scanning the document.

Digital imaging – see Scanning

Disposition – the actions taken with regards to non-active records as determined by their appraisal; actions include destruction or transfer to the University Archives.

Electronic record – data or information that has been captured and fixed for storage and manipulation in an automated system and that requires the use of the system to render it intelligible by a person.

Electronic recordkeeping system – a computer application that can collect, organize, and categorize records to facilitate their management, preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition.

Evidential value – the usefulness of records in documenting the organization, functions, and activities of the agency creating or receiving them; considered in appraising records for permanent retention.

FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 - also known as the Buckley Amendment) – federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Fiscal value – the usefulness of records in documenting an agency's financial transactions and obligations; considered in appraising records for permanent retention.

Functional classification – the division of records into categories and subcategories to reflect the programs, activities, and transactions carried out by the organization accumulating the records.

GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act - also known as the Financial Modernization Act of 1999) – includes provisions to protect consumers’ personal financial information held by financial institutions.

Hard copy – recorded information copied from a computer onto paper or some other durable surface, such as microfilm (to be distinguished from a temporary image on a display screen and from the electronic information on a magnetic tape or disk or in the computer's main memory) or recorded information copied from microfilm onto paper and made readable without a special device.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) – legislation passed in 1996 that includes a privacy rule creating national standards to protect personal health information.

Inactive record – records that are no longer used in the day-to-day course of business, but which may be preserved and occasionally used for legal, historical, or operational purposes.

Informational value – the usefulness of records in documenting the substance of persons, places, things, or matters dealt with by an agency. The utility of the data contained in records, such as aerial photographs, engineering drawings, scientific observation data, navigation charts, etc.; considered in appraising records for permanent retention.

Legal value – the usefulness of records in documenting legally enforceable rights or obligations, both those of a government agency or other organization and those of persons directly affected by the agency's activities; considered in appraising records for permanent retention.

Metadata – description documenting the identification, management, nature, use, or location of information resources; literally defined as data about data.

Microfiche – a sheet of transparent film with micro-images arranged in rows and columns, usually with an area for an eye-readable description at the top.

Microfilm – transparent film containing highly reduced copies of documents.

Microform – a general term used for any medium, transparent or opaque, that holds highly reduced reproductions; includes microfilm and microfiche.

Migration/Data migration – moving from one electronic system to another, usually in upgrading hardware or software without having to undergo a major conversion or re-inputting of data.

Non-records – any information , regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received that DOES NOT serve to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the department; non-records may include, but are not limited to, personal correspondence, non-Brown publications, junk mail/spam, catalogs, journals, books, other library materials, faculty papers (Faculty papers are the property of the faculty member, not the university and as such are not university records).

Primary steward (or Data proprietor) – individual or department with primary responsibility for determining the purpose and function of an information resource. For example, the Office of the Registrar is the primary steward for student academic records, and the Dean of the Faculty is the primary steward for faculty personnel records.

Proprietary – referring to a computer file format owned and controlled by a single company and therefore usually only readable in a certain software and hardware environment, and not necessarily exportable to another environment.

Public information/data – information or data that can be shared with anyone without damage to the University.

Office of record – the department designated to maintain the record or official copies of a particular type of record in an institution.

Record – information regardless of physical form or characteristic, created or received which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the department.

Recordkeeping system – coordinated policies and procedures that enable records to be collected, organized, and categorized to facilitate their management, including preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition;

Records retention schedule – a listing and description of the record series maintained by all or part of an institution, prescribing the period of time that each series is to be maintained after no longer needed for current business, and when such series may be reviewed for disposition; a records schedule provides for the retention of institutional records of continuing value and for the prompt and orderly destruction of institutional records no longer possessing sufficient administrative, legal, fiscal or historical value to warrant their future keeping; also called records control schedule, records disposition schedule, records retention schedule, records retention and disposition schedule, or schedule.

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 type of transaction, take a particular physical form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use; records schedules typically list and describe records at the record series level of aggregation.

Refresh – to transfer digital data to new storage media at specified intervals to avoid the effects of media deterioration.

Regulated information/data – information or data subject to regulatory compliance.

Restricted data – data to which use is restricted by federal or state law or University policy; or data that a data proprietor has designated as protected from general access or modification, even if such access may not be prohibited by federal or state law or University policy.

Scanning – the process of converting an image of a document or microform into digital form for electronic processing and storage.

Semi-active record – records that are seldom used in day-to-day operations and that are appropriate for off-site storage.

Standards – an international, national, or industry agreement that establishes qualities or practices in order to achieve common goals.

Transient records – documents of short-term interest which have no historical value; they lose their administrative value and are disposable once the information they contain has been conveyed or the event has occurred.

Vital records – records essential to the continued functioning or reconstitution of an organization during and after an emergency, as well as rights-and-interests records necessary to protect the assets, obligations, and resources of the organization, as well as its employees and customers or citizens.


Richard Pearce-Moses, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (

Missouri Electronic Records Education and Training Initiative, Glossary of Electronic Records Terms (

University of California, Berkeley, Data Management, Use, and Protection (