Key Terms PDF
The Introduction to Records and Information Management course points out that archivists, Records Managers, emergency managers, and information technology (IT) specialists use many of the same terms, but sometimes those terms have different meanings for each specialty.
Record. When used by records management, the term “record” refers to any material that documents a transaction or activity of public business (a document, map, photograph, etc.). However, when used by IT, the term “record” refers to a collection of fields (individual items) in a database that make up a complete set of information (that is, if describing a person, a record would include name, address, phone number, etc.).
Essential records vs. vital records. The term “essential records” is used by both records management and emergency management to refer to those records that are critically important to the continued functioning or rebuilding of an agency during and after an emergency. These same records are also known widely as “vital records”; however, the term “vital records” also has a second meaning, especially in state and local governments, and that can lead to confusion. “Vital records” can also refer to records that document critical events in an individual’s life, such as birth, marriage, divorce, and death. To minimize potential confusion, CoSA has chosen to use the term “essential records” throughout the IPER training, but other organizations—including FEMA and the National Archives—continue to use “vital records” to describe records that are critical to continuity of operations.
File. When used by records management, the term “file” refers to a collection of business materials arranged according to a plan and related to each other in some way (for example, a case file). However, when used by IT, the term “file” may refer to a collection of records (when used in a data-processing context) or to an entity of information (when used in a computer application context like word processing or spreadsheets). In an application context, a “file” typically has a unique name, a particular format, and a specific file name suffix—e.g., .doc or .xls.
Document. When used by records management, the term “document” refers to information (such as a book, memo, letter, or map) that can be accessed and read. However, when used by IT, the term “document” refers to a word-processing text file, completed form, voucher, or other representation of stored information.
Content attributions are indicated at the end of each term definition, as follows:
[EMRIM] Emergency Management for Records and Information Management Programs. Virginia A. Jones and Kris E. Keyes. ARMA International (2001). Glossary, pp. 83–87.
[SAA] Society of American Archivists, Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology.
[ARMA] ARMA International, Glossary of Records and Information Management Terms.
[FEMA1] Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Response Framework (NRF) Resource Center Glossary/Acronyms. www.fema.gov/emergency/nrf/glossary.htm
[FEMA2] Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Continuity Directive 1 (FCD 1), Federal Executive Branch National Continuity Program and Requirements, February 2008.
[FEMA3] Federal Emergency Management Agency, Developing and Maintaining State, Territorial, Tribal, and Local Government Emergency Plans (CPG 101). Appendix B: Glossary and List of Acronyms (March 2009). www.fema.gov/about/divisions/cpg.shtm
[AIC] American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Definitions of Conservation Terminology. http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewpage&pageid=620