Coming August 11, 2009

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Big Buckets and Social Media

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been encouraging Federal agencies to consider the use of “big bucket schedules,” or large aggregation schedules, to schedule records.

Flexible scheduling provides for concrete disposition instructions that may be applied to groupings of information and/or categories of records. Flexibility is in defining the record groupings, which can contain multiple records series and electronic systems. The difference from the traditional scheduling approach is that the unit to be scheduled is not the individual records series or an electronic system, but all records in all media relating to a work process, group of related work processes, or a broad program area to which the same length of retention should be applied.

Flexible scheduling using “big buckets” or large aggregations is an application of disposition instructions against a body of records grouped at a level of aggregation greater than the traditional file series or electronic systems. The goal of this type of flexible scheduling is to provide for the disposition of records at a level of aggregation that best supports the business needs of agencies, while ensuring the documentation necessary to protect legal rights and ensure government accountability. In theory, “big buckets” simplify disposition instructions in a way that may be more useful to agencies implementing an Electronic Records Management Application.

For a variety of reasons, NARA is cautious about the application of big buckets to permanent records. NARA encourages an agency to define the level of risk- i.e., the degree to which records are in danger of improper disposition- before proceeding.

However, agencies are submitting schedules applying the concepts of “big buckets” to permanent records, and NARA is approving these schedules. The National Archives will be accessioning records of all types that have been organized using big buckets.

The goal of this presentation would be to present the concepts of big bucket scheduling to a group of archivists, discuss possible advantages of big bucket schedules, and to hopefully discuss (Web 2.0 or Social Media) tools that may help archivists to describe, preserve, and provide reference service to the records aggregates.

This presentation has not been completely thought out, and I am seeking the advice of archivists who may have suggestions for NARA as it moves toward the description of these record types.


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