Do we need bigger buckets or better search engines?. The challenge of unlimited storage and semantic web search for records management

Publication Date13 July 2010
AuthorLawrence W. Serewicz
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Do we need bigger buckets
or better search engines?
The challenge of unlimited storage
and semantic web search for
records management
Lawrence W. Serewicz
Durham County Council, Durham, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the challenges created by unlimited storage in
space and time.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper looks at the issue from a practioner’s viewpoint and
considers it from the philosophical perspective regarding unlimited storage.
Findings – Unlimited storage in terms of space and time can present philosophical and technological
problems. The rise of the semantic web search engines will help transform this process, but for most
organisations it will be a managerial issue rather than a technological issue.
Research limitations/implications – More work needs to be done into how semantic web will
influence records management.
Practical implications – Semantic web is in its infancy, but it has far reaching consequences for
records management because it can transform the process.
Social implications – The philosophical issues affect how to understand memory and what the
collective memory of a society, as seen through archives, is understood and challenged by unlimited
storage in space and time.
Originality/value – Looks at the issue from a philosophical perspective and pushes, the boundaries
of the field by looking at the implications of the new developments.
Keywords Search engines,Digital storage, Records management,Semantics
Paper type Viewpoint
Working in the public sector for a large unitary authority, the question made me
consider what it means for records management practically, the day-to-day work of an
organisation, and theoretically, for the future of records management as a field. If an
organisation had the physical, capacity to retain everything electronically, the
proverbial bigger buckets, would that change the way that most, if not all, staff worked
or understood records management? By bigger buckets, I mean storage capacity rather
than issues around retention guidelines. I also mean it in a metaphorical sense because
records management, archives, and related work falls into the bigger bucket of
information management. While retaining everything forever has a certain theoretical
appeal, the practical consequences present serious challenges to the way a public sector
organisation and other sectors operate, and the way records management, as a field,
understands itself, especially its relationship to archives. From an operational level, the
approach would cast off the most recognized discipline that people use to manage their
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 13 April 2010
Accepted 22 April 2010
Records Management Journal
Vol. 20 No. 2, 2010
pp. 172-181
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/09565691011064313

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