Federal Records Management

NARA Bulletin 99-04 A

Definitions That Apply to This Bulletin

Administrative records. Those records created by several or all Federal agencies in performing common facilitative functions that support the agency's mission activities, but do not directly document the performance of mission functions. Administrative records relate to activities such as budget and finance, human resources, equipment and supplies, facilities, public and congressional relations, and contracting.


Business needs. An agency's need to conduct its business, maintain a record of its essential activities and decisions for its own use, support oversight and audit of those activities, fulfill legal requirements, and permit appropriate public access.

Electronic copies. As used in this bulletin, an electronic record created using word processing or electronic mail software that remains in storage on the computer system after the recordkeeping copy is produced.

Electronic record. Any information that is recorded in a form that only a computer can process and that satisfies the definition of a Federal record in 44 U.S.C. 3301.
(Source: 36 CFR 1234.2)

Electronic recordkeeping system. An electronic system in which records are collected, organized, and categorized to facilitate their preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition.
(Source: 36 CFR 1234.2)

Note: An electronic recordkeeping system may be either a distinct system designed specifically to provide recordkeeping functionality or part of another system. A distinct electronic recordkeeping system will comprise an application program which provides recordkeeping functionality, data and metadata needed for management of the records controlled by the system, and any electronic records managed by the system. An electronic recordkeeping system may be part of another system, such as an application system or an electronic document management system, when the design of that system includes recordkeeping functionality.

Legal and financial rights records. Legal and financial rights records are that type of vital records essential to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and of the individuals directly affected by its activities. Examples include accounts receivable records, social security records, payroll records, retirement records, and insurance records.
(Source: 36 CFR 1236.14)

NOTE: Additional guidance for identifying records with legal and financial rights implications is found in Disposition of Federal Records Records Management Handbook available from NARA.

Program records. Those records created by each Federal agency in performing the unique functions that stem from the distinctive mission of the agency. The agency's mission is defined in enabling legislation and further delineated in formal regulations.


Recordkeeping copy. The copy of a record that is captured and maintained in a recordkeeping system.

Recordkeeping requirements. Statements in statutes, regulations, or agency directives providing general and specific guidance on particular records to be created and maintained by an agency. Since each agency is legally obligated to create and maintain adequate and proper documentation of its organization, functions, and activities, it needs to issue recordkeeping requirements for all activities at all levels and for all media and to distinguish records from nonrecord materials and personal papers.
(Source: 36 CFR 1220.14)

Recordkeeping system. A manual or automated system in which records are collected, organized, and categorized to facilitate their preservation, retrieval, use, and disposition.
(Source: 36 CFR 1220.14)

Records. Includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of data in them. Library and museum material made or acquired and preserved solely for reference or exhibition purposes, extra copies of documents preserved only for convenience of reference, and stocks of publications and of processed documents are not included.
(Source: 36 CFR 1220.14)


Records Schedule. Also called records disposition schedule, records control schedule, records retention schedule, records retention and disposition schedule, or schedule. A document that describes agency records, establishes a period for their retention by the agency, and provides mandatory instructions for what to do with them when they are no longer needed for current Government business. The term refers to: (1) an SF 115, Request for Records Disposition Authority, that has been approved by NARA to authorize the disposition of Federal records; (2) a General Records Schedule (GRS) issued by NARA; and (3) a printed agency manual or directive containing the records descriptions and disposition instructions approved by NARA on one or more SF 115s or issued by NARA in the GRS.
(Source: 36 CFR 1220.14)

Series-based review. The basis on which NARA appraises the potential research value of records by taking into account the value of whole series or systems of records. A records series is generally described as documents arranged according to a filing system or kept together because they relate to a particular organizational unit or function, result from the same activity, document a specific kind of transaction, take a particular physical form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use.