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PhILS FAQs

  1. What is the Philadelphia Information Locator Service (PhILS)?
  2. What types of information can I access using this system?
  3. Where does the information in the PhILS come from? Is it official? How often is the information in the PhILS updated?
  4. What is the difference between an archival and a current record?
  5. Why do you include a list of agencies that no longer exist?
  6. Where can I go for other information about current Philadelphia government agencies?
  1. What is the PhILS?
    The PhILS is a service provided by the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Records which is intended to provide information about the records created by Philadelphia's government agencies. In order to provide context for the records, the PhILS includes information about the function and history of each agency. The focus of the PhILS is on the records which are available to the public, and not on general agency information. To find general information (e.g., contact information, detailed information about programs, fee schedules, etc.) on current agencies, visit the city web server, which is located at http://www.phila.gov.
  2. What types of information can I access using this system?
    Using the PhILS, anyone can access information about each current and past Philadelphia government agency and the public records each agency creates or has created. The PhILS also contains descriptions of these groups of records and locations at which they can be accessed. In cases where the agency has an information page on the city web server, the PhILS links to that page from the agency page.
  3. Where does the information in the PhILS come from? Is it official? How often is the information in the PhILS updated?
    The PhILS contains information from many sources. Function information comes from each agency's mission statement, and the history of each agency is maintained by the City Archives. Information about archival records comes directly from the descriptive inventory of the City Archives, which describes all of the holdings of the Archives. Current records information is gathered and maintained by the Records Management Division of the Records Department. The PhILS will be constantly updated to reflect changes in agencies' names, functions, and the status of the records held by the Archives and the agencies themselves. For general maintenance, the PhILS will be updated monthly. The date of the most recent update can be found at the foot of every page in the service.
  4. What is the difference between an archival and a current record?
    Current records are those records which are being created and maintained and actively used by each individual agency. Records are kept with each agency until they are no longer actively used by agency staff. For this reason, each agency maintains control over the access to those records which may not be open for public inspection. Archival records are agency records which are deemed to have long-term administrative, legal, historical, or research value. These records are transferred to the Archives, which administers all public access to records in their care.
  5. Why do you include a list of agencies that no longer exist?
    This list is included here for a number of reasons. First, it provides the information about agencies and departments which preceded Philadelphia's current governmental organization. Second, as the structure of Philadelphia's government changes, functions are transferred between agencies, names are changed, some agencies are only temporary in nature, etc. For whatever reason, the agency either no longer exists or has been renamed. The list provides access to current agency information through the names by which Philadelphians may commonly know these governmental units. The agencies which are obsolete or whose functions have been taken over by other units have no current records, so only function, history, and archival records information is provided.
  6. Where can I go for other information about current Philadelphia government agencies?
    Other information about current agencies is available on the Philadelphia web server, located at http://www.phila.gov.

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Last updated on 3 April 1998.