Federal Records Management

FAQs for GRS 4.4, Library Records

Download all Frequently Asked Questions of Individual GRS Schedules in a PDF


1.  Does this schedule cover library collections?

No.  This schedule covers only records about running a library.  It does not cover records about the materials in its holdings. 36 CFR 1222.14 defines most material held in library collections as non-records. 

Special collections, however, may be easily confused as records.  Special collections are library and archival material characterized by its intrinsic, historic, or unique nature, regardless of format (e.g., rare books, manuscripts, photographs, institutional archives).  These materials may have at one time been active agency records, but transferring them to a library special collection means the GRS cannot cover them.  They are either under an agency-specific disposition authority, or no longer governed by any records schedule at all.


2.   Why doesn’t the GRS cover records of special collections’ administration?

The GRS schedules records based on content, not type.  GRS 4.4 schedules records that agencies create in the course of routinely administering and managing a library.  While special collections involve similar functions, their administrative records are less likely to be routine. Since special collections contain unique material, their management creates records specific to special business processes: accessioning, special handling, access restrictions, security, tracking, preservation requirements, and loans to external entities, to name a few.  In addition, agencies often prove the authenticity and provenance of special collection items through records showing chain of custody. The historical value of these records must be linked to the value of the special collection itself. Since these records cannot be declared universally temporary or universally permanent, it is not possible to include them in a GRS.


3.  My agency creates and publishes special reports, journals, and magazines that are in the library collection.  Are these permanent records?

It depends on whether the library maintains the record copy or a reference copy.  Agencies typically schedule their own publications as permanent records. Libraries often collect and make available agency publications for reference purposes.  Copies the library keeps only for reference are non-record and the agency does not need to schedule them. Agencies must schedule the recordkeeping copies of their publications regardless of where they are held.


4.   Can I use this GRS for my library’s website?

The GRS is media-neutral.  This means that it covers records such as “promotional material describing library services and resources” (item 010) and “catalog searches and circulation of material” (item 020) whether the agency maintains them in hard-copy form or places them on a website (or in any other media form).  Many library online resources are non-record material (reference material, books, newspapers, etc.), which an agency does not need to schedule.  Given the potential mix of materials that may be on a website, GRS 4.4 does not automatically cover all materials on a Federal library website per se.  

GRS 3.1, item 020, covers website administration records.  GRS 5.1, item 020, covers copies of the records the agency uses or links to on websites or web servers, but not records of web pages themselves.  No GRS item covers, as a single entity, the records that produce a web page’s look, feel, and content.



5.  Item 020 covers records that contain information about library users that likely include personally identifiable information (PII).  Why are there are no instructions for how agencies should handle PII?  

The GRS provides instructions for how long agencies must retain records, not how agencies internally manage their records.  Handling PII is in the purview of agency policies and procedures; it is outside the scope of the GRS. 

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