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? Now we can also offer you an online tutorial that walks you through the planning process for a digital imaging project and also explains what it means for you regarding handling public records.
Scanning paper records can be a useful way of decreasing your storage space for physical records while also increasing access to these records, but there are also some questions to review before beginning a program of mass digitization. Here are some factors to consider:
- 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)?
- If you choose to use an outside vendor, what happens to your digital images if that vendor goes out of business or if you decide to move your business to another vendor — will there be a way for you to export your records in a format that can be used in another document management system?
The Digital Services Section has produced some helpful guidelines that can assist your agency:
- Best Practices for Digital Permanence
- File Format Guidelines for Management and Long-Term Retention of Electronic Records
- Guidelines for Managing Trustworthy Digital Public Records
Once a local agency decides that a scanning project will be useful, 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. A Records Management Analyst can assist you with this process.
With an approved electronic records policy in place, one final decision needs to be made. If your agency wishes to destroy the original paper record before its designated retention period has expired and instead retain only the scanned image, you must submit for approval by the Assistant Records Administrator at the State Archives of North Carolina a Request for Disposal of Original Records Duplicated by Electronic Means. The online tutorial walks you through the completion of this form, and a Records Management Analyst can also assist you with this process.
Be aware that you need to incorporate quality control measures in the period before the paper copies are destroyed in order to verify the accuracy and usability of the scanned images. Also, if you hold records in your office that have a permanent retention, they may be scanned but the original paper records must also be kept. 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.