The Record - May 1998
U.S. Archivist Issues Bulletin on
Disposition of Electronic Records
Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin has issued a National Archives and Records Administration Bulletin to the heads of all Federal agencies on the creation and disposition of electronic records to help ensure that agencies are adequately documenting their activities.
The Bulletin reminds agency heads of their recordkeeping responsibilities as outlined in the law and NARA regulations. The Bulletin also describes procedures agencies should follow when seeking new or revised disposition authority from NARA for series of records that include items generated on office automation applications like electronic mail and word processing. The new procedure advises agencies to provide disposition instructions for both the copy of a record that resides on an electronic mail or other office automation application and the copy maintained in an agency recordkeeping system. Under current guidelines, recordkeeping systems may be electronic, micrographic, or paper. The full text of the Bulletin is available on the NARA Web site online.
The Bulletin also reaffirms NARA's commitment to developing a better approach to the disposition of electronic records through such means as the implementation of strategies for improving the management of electronic records described in NARA's Strategic Plan and the efforts of the interagency Electronic Records Work Group. Charged by Mr. Carlin to "review issues relating to the creation, maintenance, and disposition of certain types of electronic information," the Work Group is focusing on what NARA calls General Records Schedule 20, which provides guidelines to federal agencies on the disposition of computer-generated material. Noting that GRS-20 needs changing to be sure that programmatic records are protected, that schedules for the disposition of records are record-oriented rather than medium-oriented, and that records schedules are devised so that federal agencies can and will use them, Mr. Carlin requested a final report with an implementation plan from the Work Group by September 30.