Coming August 11, 2009

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.

Comments RSS TrackBack 3 comments


in August 5th, 2009 @ 13:57

I’ve been thinking of retention scheduling in a coolaborative wiki setting including scheduling authorities, affected departments, review partners, and possibly the public. And I like the idea of big buckets with disposition instructions. Makes more sense than mindlessly repeating mantras like “a record is a record is a record” or “it’s the contents, not the media” and expecting users to figure out how to apply the schedule.

James Cassedy

in August 6th, 2009 @ 08:34

Thanks Terryx. Just looking at the proposed topics I am just amazed and kind of wish I could sit back, mouth agape, listening to you fine folks. I had been thinking in terms of a wikipedia, but can see where the Drupal and content management ideas of anarchivist and jgerencser might be very pertinent to what little I have to say. There is just way too much going on here though. Wow!


in August 6th, 2009 @ 15:06

I’d also be interested in seeing where this discussion might go – we’re just beginning to think about the nightmare that is electronic records retention (well, we’ve thought about it a lot, but now we’re thinking about actually doing something about it) and any and all approaches that involve as little assistance from IT as possible are of interest.

Drupal was another idea we’d kicked around and it would be great to see more on that.