Centers Information Processing System Users Manual

Part 1. System Overview



NARA offers electronic processing of reference requests to agencies storing records at a regional records services facility or the Washington National Records Center. This system speeds service by eliminating:

  • The delivery of reference requests via the postal service or courier; and
  • Negative replies due to wrong center locations.

System Features

Agencies submitting non-computerized reference requests were required to provide the location of the desired records. Because records are frequently moved from their original location for space management reasons, agencies sometimes received negative replies because the location cited on the request was not correct.

CIPS eliminates negative replies for wrong location information by providing on-line access to the NARS-5 database. NARS-5 is the center location control system containing the most up-to-date location information for all center holdings. CIPS automatically inserts the correct location information in the electronic reference request when the requester provides the accession number and box number of the desired records.

The system allows agencies to use a personal computer (PC) with a modem and communications software to access an application residing on a mainframe computer located in the VA's Austin Automation Center (VA-AAC) in Austin Texas. This application will consolidate all agency requests, sort them in location number sequence, and transmit them to the correct center for processing daily at 10 A.M., 2 P.M., and 9 P.M. CST.

Equipment Required

  • IBM or compatible personal computer.
  • Modem capable of transmitting at speeds between 2400 and 9600 bits per second.
  • Telephone line for the modem. A dedicated line is recommended.
  • Communications software capable of emulating an IBM 3270 terminal and remapping the keyboard.

Communications Software

Terminal Emulation

There are a number of software packages that are capable of establishing an electronic link between an agency PC and the Austin Automation Center. These packages work by fooling the mainframe into believing that the PC is a terminal connected directly to it. This process is called terminal emulation. The reference request application will work best if the PC linking to the Austin mainframe (NARA/VA-AAC computer Center) is emulating an IBM 3270 terminal.

Keyboard Remapping

Mainframe terminal keyboards do not match the commonly-used PC keyboards. In order for terminal emulation to work, the user must translate the mainframe terminal function keys into PC keystroke sequences. This process is called keyboard remapping. Most PC communications packages allow the user to remap the PC keyboard to match more closely the keys and layout of the terminal type being emulated. The IBM PC keyboard most closely matches the IBM 3270 keyboard.

Appendix A contains PROCOMM PLUS communications software setup instructions for use with CIPS. This communications software allows IBM 3270 terminal emulation, and the user must only remap a few function keys to access the application efficiently.

Accessing the Mainframe Application Parts 2 thru 6 provide instructions on accessing the reference request system, creating electronic requests, accessing the on-line NARS-5 database, and viewing the history file (which lists accessions no longer in center custody) using the PROCOMM PLUS communications software.

Getting Started Requesters wishing to use this service should contact the CIPS administrator in their region to request assignment of user access information. Refer to Appendix B, Federal Records Center Addresses, or for current information and downloadable files, see the CIPS internet web page or the CIPS electronic bulletin board at 404-763-7779. Communications settings for the bulletin board are 9600, N, 8, 1, full duplex, ANSI emulation.

Austin Help Desk Help with using the new system should always be directed to the Help Desk via phone, FAX, or E-Mail. Refer to Appendix C, Austin Help Desk.

If necessary, the Help Desk will refer calls to the appropriate subject matter expert.

When contacting the Austin Help Desk, please identify yourself by saying
" I'm a NARA customer, my userid is ________. My problem is ... ".

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