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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

U.S. Geological Survey

General Records Disposition Schedule

Prepared by the Geospatial Information Office


May 2009

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S.Geological Survey

Foreword and Table of Contents | Record of Posted Changes | Information on Official Records | How to use Records Disposition Schedules | Changes in this Issuance | Chapter 100 | Chapter 200 | Chapter 300 | Chapter 400 | Chapter 500 | Chapter 600 | Chapter 700 | Chapter 800 | Chapter 900 | Chapter 1000 | Chapter 1100 | Chapter 1200 | Chapter 1300 | Appendix 1 | Appendix 2

Appendix 1 - Abbreviations and Definitions

Accession (1) The transfer of the legal and physical custody of permanent records from an agency to an archival institution.
Appraisal The process of determining the value and thus the final disposition of records, making them either temporary or permanent.
Archives The non-current records of an organization preserved because of their continuing, or enduring value. "National Archives of the United States" means those records that have been determined by the Archivist of the United States to have sufficient historical or other value to warrant their continued preservation by the Federal Government, and that have been accepted for deposit in the Archivist's custody. (2) The organization or agency responsible for appraising, accessioning, preserving, and making available permanent records. Also called archival agency. (3) One or more buildings, or portions thereof, where permanent records are located after being accessioned by an archival agency. Also called archival depository or archival repository.
Archivist A person responsible for, or engaged in, one or more of the functions listed under archives administration.
Archivist of the United States The head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
Break Refers to the systematic split or division of a file at regular intervals or when needed (i.e., at the end of each fiscal year) to make a file more manageable and simplifies retrieval. Does not mean cut-off. See also cut-off.
CFR Code of Federal Regulations.
Classified Information Records or information requiring, for national security reasons, safeguards against unauthorized disclosure.
Continuing Value The lasting value of records, especially of permanent records.
Convenience Files Non-record copies of correspondence, completed forms, and other documents kept solely for ease of access and reference.
Copy (1) A reproduction of the contents of an original document, prepared simultaneously or separately and usually identified by function or by method of creation. (2) In electronic recordkeeping, the action or result of reading data from a source, leaving the source data unchanged, and writing the same data elsewhere on a medium that may differ from the source.
Cross-reference In files management, a finding aid, directing a user from one place in a file to another when a particular document must be retrievable under more than one filing feature.
Custody Guardianship or control of records. Includes either physical possession (custody) or legal responsibility (custody).
Cut-off The division of a file, regardless of media, at regular periodic intervals (usually at the close of a fiscal or calendar year) to facilitate continuous disposal or transfer of the series.
Database In electronic records, a set of data elements, consisting of at least one file or of a group of integrated files, usually stored in one location and made available to several users.
Depository A place where records are kept and made available for use. Also called repository.
Description (1) In records management, the process of giving a written account of the contents and characteristics of a record series or system. (2) In archives administration, the process of preparing finding aids.
Destruction In records management, the major type of disposal action. Methods of destroying records include burning, pulping, and selling or salvaging the record medium.
Disposable records See temporary records.
Disposition (1) The actions taken regarding records no longer needed in current office space. These actions include transfer to agency storage facilities or Federal Records Centers, transfer from one Federal agency to another, transfer of permanent records to NARA, and disposal of temporary records. Disposition is the third stage of the records life cycle. (2) The actions taken regarding non-record materials when no longer needed, including screening and destruction.
Disposition Authority (1) Legal approval by NARA (and in some cases by the General Accounting Office) empowering an agency to transfer permanent records to NARA or to carry out the disposal of temporary records. (2) The agency's approval of disposition instructions for non-record materials.
Disposition instructions (1) Directions for cutting off records and carrying out their disposition in compliance with bureau records schedules approved by the Archivist of the United States. (2) Screening and disposing of non-records.
Document (1) Recorded information regardless of physical form or characteristics. Often used interchangeably with record. (2) An individual record or item of non-record material.
Documentation (1) The act or process of substantiating by recording actions and/or decisions. (2) See document. (3) Records, generally in paper form, required to plan, develop, operate, maintain, and use electronic records. Included are systems specifications, file specifications, codebooks, record layouts, user guides, and output specifications.
Donation (1) In records management, the transfer of temporary records from a Federal agency to an eligible person or organization after the authorized retention period has expired. Requires NARA approval. (2) In archives administration, the transfer from private sources to NARA of documents, including audiovisual materials, appropriate for preservation by the Government as evidence of its organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and transactions.
EEOC Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Electronic Mail (E-mail) Message A document created or received via an electronic mail system, including brief notes, formal or substantive narrative documents, and any attachments, such as word processing and other electronic documents, which may be transmitted with the message.
Electronic recordkeeping The creation, maintenance and use, and disposition of records created and stored by using a computer.
Electronic records Information recorded in a form that requires a computer or other machine to process it and that satisfies the legal definition of a record according to 44 U.S.C. 3301.
Emergency Destruction Eliminating records under abnormal circumstances, as provided by law or regulations. These circumstances involve a state of war or impending hostilities and also a continuing menace to life, health, or property. See destruction.
EMF Employee Medical Folder
EROS Earth Resources Observation System
Essential Records See vital records.
Evidential Value The usefulness of records in documenting the organization, functions, and activities of the agency creating or receiving them. Considered by NARA in appraising records for permanent retention.
Federal Records See records.
Federal Records Center (FRC) A facility operated by NARA for the economical storage and servicing of records pending their ultimate disposition.
File (1) an accumulation of records or non-record materials arranged according to a plan; (2) a unit, such as a folder, microform, or electronic medium, containing such records or non-record materials; (3) storage equipment, such as a filing cabinet; (4) in electronic recordkeeping, an organized collection of related data, usually arranged into logical records that are stored together and treated as a unit.
File Plan (1) A filing system. (2) A plan designating the physical location(s) at which an agency files are to be maintained, the specific types of files to be maintained there, and the organizational element(s) having custodial responsibility. (3) A document containing the identifying number, title or description, and disposition of files held in an office.
File Types Categories or classes of files. Includes case, case working, general correspondence, reading, transitory correspondence, convenience, and technical reference files, along with vital records and special records.
Files A collective term usually applied to all records and non-record materials of an agency.
Files Custodian The individual or office in charge of agency files. Often used interchangeably with records custodian.
Files Inventory See inventory.
Files Maintenance See files management.
Files Management Applying records management principles and techniques to filing practices in order to organize and maintain records properly, retrieve them rapidly, ensure their completeness, and make their disposition easier. See also records management.
Filing Putting documents into their place in accordance with a plan or filing system.
Final Disposition The end of the records life-cycle in which temporary records are disposed of and permanent records are transferred to NARA.
FOIA Freedom of Information Act
Frozen Records In records disposition, those temporary records that cannot be destroyed on schedule because special circumstances, such as a court order or an investigation, require a temporary extension of the approved retention period.
GAO General Accounting Office
General Records Schedule (GRS) A NARA-issued records disposition schedule governing the disposition of specified records common to several or all Federal agencies. (All items from the GRS that are applicable to bureau records are incorporated into the USGS General Records Disposition Schedule).
GSA General Services Administration
Information Product The compilation of scientific communication or knowledge such as facts, data, or opinions in any medium (e.g., print, digital) or form, including textual, numerical, graphical, cartographic, or audiovisual, to be disseminated to a defined audience or customer, either scientific or non-scientific, internal or external.
Information Resources Management (IRM) The planning, budgeting, organizing, directing, training, and controlling associated with the creation, maintenance and use, and disposition of information and related resources. Includes data processing, telecommunications, and records management.
Inventory (1) A survey of agency records and non-record materials that is conducted primarily to develop records schedules and also to identify various records management problems, such as improper applications of recordkeeping technology. (2) The results of such a survey. (3) In archives administration, a type of finding aid for accessioned records.
IRS Internal Revenue Service
Item (1) A document. (2) A separately numbered entry describing records on an SF-115, Request for Records Disposition Authority. Usually consists of a record series or part of an information system.
Legal Custody See custody
Legal Value The usefulness of records in documenting legally enforceable rights or obligations, both those of the Federal Government and those of persons directly affected by the agency's activities.
Life-Cycle of Records The management concept that records pass through three stages: creation, maintenance and use, and disposition.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) The Federal agency responsible for appraising, accessioning, preserving, and making available permanent records.
Non-record materials Government-owned informational materials excluded from the legal definition of records or not meeting the requirements of that definition. Included are extra copies of documents kept only for convenience or reference, stocks of publications and of processed documents, and library or museum materials intended solely for reference or exhibition.
NPRC National Personnel Records Center
Office of Record An office designated as the official custodian of records for specified programs, activities, or transactions of an organization; see "record copy."
Official File Copy See "record copy."
OMB Office of Management and Budget
OPF Official Personnel Folder
OPM Office of Personnel Management
OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Permanent records Records appraised by NARA as having enduring value because they document the organization and functions of the agency that created or received them and/or because they contain significant information on persons, things, problems, and conditions with which the agency dealt. Permanent records are ultimately transferred to the legal custody of NARA.
Personal Papers Non-official or private papers relating solely to an individual's own affairs. Must be clearly designated as such and kept separate from the agency's records. Also called personal files or personal records.
Preservation (1) The provision of adequate facilities to protect, care for, or maintain records. (2) Specific measures, individual and collective, undertaken to maintain, repair, restore, or protect records.
Printed Records Published materials, such as books and maps, or serial issuances, such as directives and press releases, produced by or for a particular agency, in contrast to extra copies kept in stock or distributed inside or outside that agency. See publications.
Privacy Act A law providing that no agency shall disclose any record that is contained in a Privacy Act "system of records" by any means of communication to any person or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains.
Public Records (1) In general usage, records accumulated by government agencies. (2) Records open to public inspection by law or custom.
Publications Documents printed or otherwise produced for wide distribution inside or outside an agency. Include brochures, pamphlets, books, handbooks, and maps. Also include instructional and informational materials in audiovisual form. According to 44 U.S.C. 1901, a U.S. Government publication is "information matter which is published as an individual document at Government expense, or as required by law."
Publishing The deliberate dissemination of an information product to a defined audience or customer constitutes publishing - whether in traditional printed formats, audiovisual formats, or electronic formats such as CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web of the Internet. This deliberate dissemination to a defined audience or customer thus distinguishes an Information Product as one subset of information or data in general.
Record Copy The official or record document that is so marked or recognized, complete with enclosures or related papers; also know as "official file copy." The record copy does not have to be an original unless specified.
Record Series File units or documents arranged according to a filing system or kept together because they relate to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, document a specific kind of action, take a particular physical form, or because of some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use. Generally handled as a unit for disposition purposes.
Recordkeeping The act or process of creating and maintaining records. Assumes the need for their proper distribution.
Recordkeeping Requirements Statements in statues, regulations, or agency directives providing general and specific information on particular records to be created and maintained by the agency. Since each agency is legally obligated to create and maintain adequate and proper documentation of its organization, functions, and activities, agency recordkeeping requirements should be issued for all activities at all levels and for all media, and should distinguish records from non-record materials for agency purposes.
Records According to 44 U.S.C. 3301, the term "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 U.S. 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 are not included."
Records Control Schedule (RCS) This is a document providing authority for the final disposition of recurring or non-recurring records. Also called a records schedule, or records disposition schedule.
Records Management The planning, controlling, directing, organizing, training, promoting, evaluating, and other managerial activities related to the creation, maintenance and use, and disposition of records to achieve adequate and proper documentation of Federal policies and transactions and effective and economical management of agency operations.
Records Officer (1) The person assigned responsibility by the agency head for overseeing an agencywide records management program. (2) A person responsible for overseeing a records management program in a headquarters or field office in cooperation with the agency records management officer. Also called records manager.
Records Schedule A document providing authority for the final disposition of recurring or non-recurring records. Also know as a records control schedule, retention schedule, or records disposal schedule. Includes the SF-115, the General Records Schedules, and the agency records schedule, which when completed becomes a comprehensive records schedule that also contains agency disposition instructions for non-record materials.
Retention Period The length of time that records are to be kept before being destroyed.
Retirement The transfer of records to agency storage facilities or a Federal Records Center.
Scheduled Records Records whose final disposition has been approved by NARA.
Scheduling The process of developing a document that provides mandatory instructions of what to do with records (and non-record materials) no longer needed for current government business.
Screening (1) Reviewing files to apply access restrictions. (2) Examining files to identify and remove documents of short-term value, especially those eligible for immediate destruction.
Series See "record series."
SF Standard Form.
Standard Form 115, Request for Records Disposition Authority The form used by Federal agencies to obtain disposition authority from NARA for records to which the General Records Schedules are inapplicable.
Standard Form 258, Request for Transfer, Approval, and Receipt of Records to NARA The form used by Federal agencies to transfer legal and physical custody of permanent records to NARA.
Temporary records Information that does not have permanent value and which will ultimately be destroyed. Even though records may have very lengthy retention periods, they are still considered temporary records.
Transfer The act or process of moving records from one location to another, especially from office space to agency storage facilities or to federal records centers, from one Federal agency to another, or from office or storage space to NARA for permanent preservation.
Unscheduled records Records whose final disposition has not been approved by NARA. These records may not be disposed of until approval is obtained by submitting a Standard Form 115 to NARA for approval. The form must be submitted through the Bureau Records Management Officer and it must describe the records and provide suggested disposition instructions.
U.S.C. United States Code
USGS U.S. Geological Survey
Vital Records Records containing information that is essential for (1) emergency operations during a disaster or a national emergency; (2) resumption and/or continuation of operations; (3) reestablishment of the legal, financial, and/or functional status of an agency; and (4) determination of the rights and obligations of individuals and/or corporate bodies with respect to an agency.

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