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F&M College Library

Records Management Guidelines: Records vs. Archives

What is a Record?

a RECORD is any recorded information, regardless of medium, made or received and retained by an organization in pursuance of legal obligations, value to the government, or in the transaction of business. (ARMA, Records Management Explained

What counts as a "record" at F&M?

A record is any recorded information which is created, received, used, or filed in the course of official college business. Records can take many physical and digital forms and may reside in a file folder in your desk drawer, on a personal computer, a server or network, in cloud-based drives, on discs, external drives, or on microfilm. Photographs, audiotapes, videotapes, artwork, and college memorabilia are also considered official college records. 

If it documents the activities of your department or office, it is a record!


Records Have a Lifecycle

(Laserfische, What is Records Retention)


Most records follow a records schedule, or more specifically, a document that provides information describing things like retention (how long a record needs to be kept) and disposition decisions (what to do with the record after that period ends). 

Active Records

are used and referenced on a regular basis.

At F&M, active records should remain in your own office files so they are easily accessible.

Inactive Records

are not regularly used or referenced, but are still required to be stored and maintained.

What is an Archive?

an ARCHIVE refers to records of enduring historical value... These records are kept because they have continuing value to the creating agency and to other potential users. They are the documentary evidence of past events. They are the facts we use to interpret and understand history (Laura Millar as cited by SAA).

ARCHIVISTS asses, collect, organize, preserve, and make accessible these permanent records.

What do archives look like at F&M?

At the end of the document lifecycle, if a record is deemed historically significant, as having enduring value, and thus a permanent retention, it will then be transferred to the College Archives. 

At F&M, the College Archives collects, organizes, and makes accessible official College records that document the history of students, departments, offices, and campus activities across an array of formats and media. 


How is an archive different than a library?

Libraries and Archives function similarly in that they both exist to make collections available to people. However, they differ in the nature of what they collect.

LIBRARIES collect published, discrete items that are often available at other libraries. They typically have open stacks for patrons to browse and most items are able to be checked-out. 

  • example scenario: You walk into your public library and browse the non-fiction stacks. You pick out 3 books from a few of your favorite authors. You check out your materials at the circulation desk and return them 2 weeks later. 

ARCHIVES collect unpublished items that are unique to the institution they represent. Due to the sensitive and rare nature of the collection items, the stacks are typically not open to patrons. Instead, users of archives must request access to certain material. 

  • example scenario: You email the archives a few days ahead of your visit and request access to the records of the Athletics Department from 1900-1950 to get information for a research paper you are working on. You arrive at the archives reading room and an archivist or librarian has the boxes you requested ready for you to use. When you are done doing research, you leave the material with the librarian.