RIMS Glossary

This glossary is a resource for anyone at the University whose work includes contact with records and information management. The RIMS team aims for clear and consistent understanding and usage of terms used in relation to records and other documents at the University.

A PDF version of these definitions is also available.

authoritative copy:

The complete, final, and authorized version of a record, especially the version bearing an original signature or seal. Not necessarily the original, but the definitive version of a record.

access copy:

see convenience copy

archives: (general term)

The non-current records created or received and accumulated by a person or organization in the course of the conduct of affairs and preserved because of their continuing or enduring value. The related term of archiving means The conduct of all activities related to caring for records of continuing value.
Note: In the context of information technology the term archiving is also used to mean the action of backing up electronic records or data or storing such information offline, yet still available for future use.

best practices:

The 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.

convenience copy:

The unofficial copy that is maintained near the user for ease of access and reference. Also referred to as reference copy or access copy.


The definitive obliteration of a record beyond any possible reconstruction.

destruction hold:

see litigation hold


Any data or recorded information that exists as binary code (zeros and ones). Also referred to as electronic.

digital repository:

An electronic storage area where documents and records are kept.


see disposition


For records that have met their retention period, disposition is a comprehensive term that refers to the final action taken according to the retention schedule. Depending on the record type, this action could be permanent preservation at the University Archives or destruction via secure methods.


Recorded information or object that can be treated as a unit.
Note: Document is a broad term and is not a synonym for record. Not all documents are records.

document imaging:

Also referred to as scanning. A system consisting of hardware and software that converts source documents into digital format.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA):

U.S. statute (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99), enacted in 1974, to protect student and parent rights to access the student’s records kept by the school, and to restrict access to those records by others without the permission of the student or parents.
Note: This law is also commonly referred to as the Buckley Amendment, in reference to the bill’s sponsor. Text available at: www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/

folder-level inventory:

A list of the titles of each folder in a particular box. This is necessary for transferring a box to the Archives.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):

U.S. statute (5 U.S.C. § 552), enacted in 1966 and taking effect on July 5, 1967, that provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.
Note: Text as amended available at: www.archives.gov/about/laws/foia.html

general records retention schedule:

A general records retention schedule is one that describes records series broadly based on general business function categories and can be applied across the organization. General records retention schedules are needed when addressing organization-wide information processing systems. See also retention schedule.

Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles® (GARP):

GARP is a framework of definitive principles for governing an organization’s information as a strategic asset. These information governance principles support organizational goals, facilitate compliance with regulatory, legislative, and information management requirements, and limit risks.
Note: Established by ARMA International in 2009, the principles were synthesized from authoritative international and national standards and global best practice resources for governing information.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA):

HIPAA is the U.S. Public Law 104-191, enacted in 1996, that addresses the use of individuals’ protected health information by organizations that are subject to the Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information. Its goal is to allow for the exchange of information needed to provide high-quality health care while protecting patient privacy.
Note: Text available at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ191/html/PLAW-104publ191.htm

inactive record:

An inactive record is one that is no longer required on a daily basis or to conduct current business, but is required to be preserved until it meets the end of its retention period.
Note: Inactive records are often located in a nominated secondary storage area be it physical or electronic.

legal hold:

see litigation hold

life cycle (of a record):

The life cycle of a record refers to the major milestones of a record’s existence, subject to changing requirements: creation, use, retention, appraisal, and disposition.

litigation hold:

A litigation hold is an order to refrain from disposing of specific information resources, including carrying out a scheduled destruction of records, due to foreseeable or pending litigation, governmental investigation, audit, or special organizational requirements. Also referred to as destruction hold or legal hold.

long term or enduring value:

Long term or enduring value is the designation of a record that has been determined to have sufficient historical, administrative, legal, fiscal, or other value which warrants continuing retention.


Metadata is the structured information (approved, standardized lists of attributes) that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use or manage information resources. Metadata is typically broken down into broad types that include, but are not limited to, administrative metadata, content metadata, descriptive metadata, preservation metadata, and structural metadata.


Non-record refers to any materials that are not records as defined by the Illinois State Records Act. Non-records are still typically public records according to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Non-record materials may be disposed of without the prior approval of the State Records Commission.
Note: For examples of non-record materials refer to the RIMS documents A Guide for the Clarification of Non-Record Materials and Communication 003: Identification of University Records versus Non-Record Materials.

office of origin:

The office of origin is the organizational unit that creates or originally receives a record. Also referred to as the originating department.

office of record:

The organization or administrative unit that has been officially designated with the maintenance, preservation, and disposition of the authoritative copy of a document.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR):

A technology whereby a machine reads data from source documents and scans the characters for storage on a magnetic medium, providing text-searchable capabilities.

originating department

see office of origin

Records and Information Management Services (RIMS):

The purpose of the Records and Information Management Services (RIMS) office is to provide a cohesive approach to the effective management of records and information resources throughout the University of Illinois, across all departments and campuses. The RIMS office consists of several core staff members, an Advisory Committee, and an ad hoc virtual team of functional and technical experts from across the University that are available for input on issues related to their areas of expertise. For more information on the RIMS program visit the RIMS website at http://www.uillinois.edu/cio/services/rims.

Records Disposal Authorization (RDA):

see retention schedule

Records Liaison:

A Records Liaison is a person responsible for coordinating an office's records and information management procedures. They are also the initial contact person for questions and concerns about records management from within their unit. Records and information management procedures include: creating file organization and maintenance structures, conducting inventories of records and information resources, transferring historic materials to the University Archives, and disposing of records according to the unit's Unit Plan.

records series:

A records series is a group of related records filed/used together as a unit and evaluated as a unit for retention purposes. An example would be Personnel Employment Files which may consist of résumés, employment contracts, evaluation forms, etc.

reference copy:

see convenience copy

reference materials:

see transitory document


Retention is the length of time required for keeping documents, records, and information resources to assure that they support business functions for as long as needed. Some records are required to be retained past their active support of business functions to support good financial recordkeeping practices or to meet legal or regulatory retention requirements. On top of these considerations for retention, some records have long-term or enduring value and are expected to be retained indefinitely.

retention schedule:

A retention schedule is a document listing all the of the records series in a group of records (HR, Student, etc.), the length of time each record must be retained as an active record, and the disposition as agreed upon by the State and the University. The RIMS office works with contributors from each campus to create retention schedules and submits them to the State Records Commission for approval. Once approved, the retention schedule becomes the official reference to which the State compares future submitted disposal requests. Also referred to as the Application for Authority to Dispose of Records. See also general records retention schedule.

RIMS Advisory Committee:

This committee is a main component of the RIMS office. In coordination with functional and technical experts, the committee creates, modifies, periodically reviews, and approves University policies and procedures/protocols related to the management of records and information resources at the University. The Committee may also provide guidance to the State of Illinois on the creation of processes, procedures, and best practices related to the management of records and information resources.

RIMS Communications:

In the context of the University, RIMS Communications inform or interpret various laws and existing policies related to records and information management matters and applicable to the University and its three campuses. The Communications are created and approved in conjunction with the RIM Policy Advisory Committee.


See document imaging

supporting documents:

Documents that verify, authenticate, or otherwise ensure the reliability of the records.

system of record:

The system of record is the system or software on which the official record resides.


To change custody, ownership, and/or responsibility for records. Most often transfer refers to moving records with permanent value to the University Archives.

transitory document:

A transitory document is one this is of short-term value and that can be destroyed immediately or after meeting its transitory need.  Also referred to as reference materials or working documents.
Note: E-mails that are not records are considered transitory documents.

trigger date:

In a retention period, this is the date that starts the clock on how long the item needs to be retained until it reaches its disposal eligibility date. Often, trigger dates are different from the creation date of the item. For example: for items where the retention period is “6 years after separation from employment, then obtain State approval to dispose," the date that the separation from employment occurred is the trigger date (not the date of the item). In this case, the item in question would not be eligible for disposal until six years from that trigger date.

unit-specific records retention schedule:

A unit-specific records retention schedule is a list of records series found within a unit, indicating for each series the length of time it is to be maintained. It may include an indication of period of retention in active office areas, inactive storage areas, and when and if such series may be destroyed or formally transferred to another entity, such as the University Archives for historical preservation.

University Archives:

The University Archives is the official repository for records with permanent historical value related to or created by the University. Their mission is to select, preserve and make accessible an authentic record of the programs, people, and operations of the University.

vital record:

A record that is fundamental to the functioning of an organization and necessary to the continuance of operations.

working document:

see transitory document


ARMA International. (2012). Glossary of records and information management terms. (4th ed.). Overland Park, KS: ARMA International.
University of Tasmania, Australia Records Management Unit. (2013, June 5). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from http://www.utas.edu.au/it/records/support/faqs