Scanning for legal needs

I had a response from a concerned person who asked how they could recover 600,000 images which were less than usable.

It is unlikely that any Quality Assurance Policies or Practices were in place to check on the quality of the images produced at the point of scanning or sometime soon after scanning. Fortunately, the documents had not been destroyed. My advice was to rescan the 600,000 documents, only this time to make certain that some Quality Assurance process at the scanner was in place.

In the typical digital image management system, all incoming documents are scanned, indexing information is entered and the original paper documents are eventually destroyed. In some systems the scanned image of the document may never be examined until it is needed. Strict quality control is required to ensure the images stored are of acceptable quality and are locatable through the index.

If a scanner is not operating properly, many useless images may be stored on the system. When the problem is discovered and corrected, the original documents will have to be scanned again, if they still exist. Procedures should be established so that any problems are discovered while the original documents are still available.

The quality control procedures described in US standard ANSI/AIIM MS44-1988 titled ‘Recommended Practice for Quality Control of Image Scanners,’ allow the user to make sure that the system is performing today as well as it was when originally adjusted by the manufacturer. Used on a regular basis, these procedures can assure the user that the scanner will produce digital images of sufficient quality for their intended use.

Testing systems.

How often test runs should be made depends on how much scanning will take place, and the consequences of improperly scanning documents.

The best security is provided by doing a test run before and after each batch of documents scanned. If the pre- and post-test runs are acceptable, the scanned documents will generally be acceptable. If a scanner is known to be stable, the test runs after each batch can be eliminated. In this case it may be desirable to print out and examine the last document scanned to make sure it is acceptable. Testing only at the beginning and end of each scanning shift or workday may be acceptable in some operations, but this should be the minimum testing frequency.

Frequent testing is strongly recommended because it minimises the risk of lost time or lost documents. Lack of frequent testing carries the risk of scanning documents which will be unusable and committing non-erasable storage to these documents.

By the time a scanner problem is detected, thousands of documents may have been scanned and will have to be scanned again. A worse risk is incurred if original documents are routinely destroyed after scanning. Assuming that we are scanning to the standards, we now have the legislative issue. I note that the NSW, Victorian and National Archives of Australia guideline is to keep all long term and archive material in paper format even after scanning.

The Western Australian requirement is, to my understanding, that files and the enclosed documents with either long term or archival retention and disposal sentencing periods are required to be placed in a file folder suitably identified with the enclosed documents in folio order.

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president & national director, has been involved in records management and the micrographic industry for 37 years. Laurie has his own microfilm equipment sales & support organisation – Digital Microfilm Equipment – DME – and a – records & information management – RIM – consulting & training business – The Varendorff Consultancy – TVC – located near Perth, Western Australia, & has tutored & written course material in recordkeeping & archival storage & preservation for Perth’s Edith Cowan University – ECU. Phone: +618 9286 3705; mobile: +61 417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

The author, Laurie Varendorff gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and nonprofit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

SPECIAL NOTE: Use of this article by publishers, commercial, government, or educational organisations requires a financial agreement to be negotiated with Laurie as the copyright holder for this work.