Scanning in State Agencies

We have written on this blog several times about scanning government records.  There was a detailed explanation of how to determine whether scanning is an appropriate document management solution.  There have been several overviews of scanning operations for local governments, most recently in response to the question, If our county has a public record on paper and we scan it, do we have to keep the paper version of the record?

For state agencies, the process is largely similar to that for local government entities.  It begins with an analysis of the costs and benefits of mass digitization.  Here are some factors to consider:

  • Who will establish standards for resolution, file format, file naming, and metadata assignment?
  • Will each person be responsible for scanning documents received, or will a dedicated hire perform the scanning, or will the work be outsourced to a vendor?
  • Will scanning be done retroactively, and if so, who will be responsible for this work (including preparing the records for scanning)?
  • Who will oversee the quality control process that guarantees the usability of the scanned images?
  • Who will oversee the storage of these electronic files to guarantee their long-term preservation?

The Digital Services Section has produced some helpful guidelines that can assist your agency:

Once a state agency decides that a scanning project will be useful for accessing records, there first needs to be an electronic records policy in place that specifies that steps being taken to insure the long-term authenticity of these records.  The Digital Services Section has provided a Sample Electronic Records and Imaging Policy For Use by Local and State Agencies that can serve as a template for agencies that need to document their electronic records policy.  The Records Management Analyst assigned to your agency can assist you with this process.

With an approved electronic records policy in place, one final decision needs to be made.  If the state agency wishes to destroy the original paper record before its designated retention period has expired and instead retain only the scanned image, the program records retention and disposition schedule will first need to be amended.  The Records Management Analyst assigned to your agency can also assist you with this process.  Your new disposition instructions for an item that you wish to scan will look something like this:

Scan in office paper records.  Destroy in office after 30 days paper copies of scanned records. Destroy electronic records in office after 5 years.

The language on the signature page of your retention schedule indicates that your state agency “agrees to comply with all policies, standards, and best practices published by the Department of Cultural Resources regarding the creation and management of electronic records.”  In this case, that would include incorporating quality control measures in the period before the paper copies are destroyed in order to verify the accuracy and usability of the scanned images.  If you need more information about the eventual destruction of these electronic records, check the post that explained the recent update to the administrative code.