Archives reconsidering records policies, formats

Saying it is time to confront the reality of electronic records, John Carlin,

national archivist, said he is ready to reconsider the policies that determine

which of the billions of records the federal government creates each year

have to be saved, and in what format.

Carlin announced Wednesday he plans, if necessary, to "reinvent the policies

and process for scheduling" federal records. "Scheduling" is the term the

National Archives and Records Administration uses for deciding how long

records must be saved.

In 1995, Carlin provoked an outcry and multiple lawsuits when he told agencies

they could destroy certain electronic records if they made and saved paper

copies.

Carlin was sued and lost; then he appealed and won. This month, the Supreme

Court settled the matter by refusing to hear another appeal.

In the meantime, NARA officials have made creating an electronic records

archive a major priority, and Carlin says it is time to re-examine records

management policies that were developed to handle paper records.

They were appropriate for the 20th century, Carlin said in a statement.

"The reality at the beginning of the 21st century is that most records

are created electronically and may be maintained in a variety of media,"

he said.

Deputy Archivist Lewis Bellardo has been assigned to head a fact-finding

effort that is expected to lead to record scheduling policies for electronic

records.

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