To Scan or Not to Scan…?

A number of state agency offices are involved in scanning records (also known as digitization) as part of their office record-keeping program. Of course if a state agency initiates scanning as a means of record-keeping for their offices, it should consult with the State Agency Records Analyst assigned to the state agency (the list of such assignments is located here) to consider whether updating the records retention schedule is required. This is to ensure that the agency’s records retention schedule includes this new format of records and to address the disposition of the records associated with the project, i.e., the paper files and the scanned images. But for this blog post I want to focus on identifying when a scanning program is useful or advisable for an office. Undertaking scanning, especially if it is to be an ongoing method of record-keeping for an office, does entail significant budgeting of resources to cover both equipment and personnel costs and expenses. Outsourcing the scanning project is also an option to consider.
So when is scanning advisable for an office?
–To make documents quickly and simultaneously available to multiple users, especially if the users are located in multiple sites or offices (DENR uses scanning to their advantage in this scenario as they have field offices around the state and users must have access to documents that may be in the central office or conversely in a field office—something scanning makes available and thus scanning makes perfect sense);
–To integrate hardcopy documents into new or existing sets of electronic procedures or records;
–To protect important or essential documents as part of business continuity or disaster recovery planning;
–To save space (though it is also the case that offsite storage of hardcopy documents may be quite cheaper than scanning on a cost per page or per image basis).
In sum, scanning works especially well where frequent and prompt access to records is required by multiple users. But always bear in mind that for permanent records (records of enduring or archival value that need to be retained permanently or for legal or other governmental reasons need permanent retention) scanning may not be the best way to preserve such records. Rather, users should look at microfilming or retaining paper as the most secure format for permanent retention. Microfilming paper and scanned images are services offered by our agency and we are able to help with the determination of the best format to proceed with. The Human Readable Preservation Duplicates guideline document (available on our website) gives further guidance on when a paper or microform format is recommended or required
There are also several other guidelines and best practices documents available on our website to aid in the determination of whether to start a scanning project. These include Best Practices for Digital Preservation, Best Practices for File Naming, Metadata as Public Record in North Carolina, and Digital Imaging Systems Guidelines.
Please note that the Government Records Branch offers a workshop on Scanning Public Records that goes into more detail about the costs and benefits of scanning. The current schedule for when this scanning workshop will be given is available here.

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2 thoughts on “To Scan or Not to Scan…?

  1. Pingback: Scanning in State Agencies | The G.S. 132 Files

  2. Pingback: Scanning Local Records Tutorial | The G.S. 132 Files

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