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Digital Archives

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Many schools are investigating scanning of paper archives (student records, historical documents, etc.) into digital files. There are a number of ways to approach this task. However all approaches require that a school carefully examine practices that may be based more on tradition (that's the way we've always done it) than a rational appraisal of needs, resources, and best practices. In talking with a number of scanning vendors it is clear that the vendors are running into a lot of irrationality regarding record retention policies. I think this is a case where the technology has advanced much faster than the cognitive model in the heads of many decision makers. Digitizing archives is a case where the technology is fairly straight forward and easy to apply but the psychological issues can be complex, hard to untangle, and difficult to articulate.

Document Management SystemsEdit

Scanning Records to PDFEdit

Scanning to PDF involves having a scanning service (or inhouse people) scan student records and creating PDFs. Usually one PDF is created per student file. The PDFs are either accessed directly or via a database such as FileMaker. Some schools choose to remove the paper files from the school once they have been scanned. Paper files can be stored off site for a relatively small annual charge.

Some NYC area companies that will scan to PDF files include:

Archive Systems Inc. RLS Legal Solutions LDI Color Toolbox InfiNet Business Systems

Expect to pay about 8 cents per page for prepped files (staples removed, etc.) and almost double for unprepped files.

Schools ExperiencesEdit

  • We started digitizing our student records this past summer (2006). We've calculated it will be a 3 summer project for the staff member here who preps the files. It is going to take this long because we decided to scan almost everything in each student folder and because many of the folders have hundreds of pages in them. Many of the pages are stapled or paper-clipped together and all these have to be removed in prepping the files. In essence every piece of paper has to be touched in prepping the files and this takes a lot of time. You really have to try it to see how time consuming it is. Once the files are prepped we use a scanning company to convert each folder to one PDF. So there is one PDF per student. Each PDF is named with the student's lastname , firstname and year of departure from the school. Most of the scanning services will store the paper records in their secure warehouses if you don't want them back. We wanted them back, but we were told that many companies will pay the storage fees for a few years, realize that they are never accessing the paper files, and will authorize the destruction of the paper files.
  • we engaged Advanced Imagine Systems to scan all of our old transcripts. They house them in a searchable, off-site database and we can easily log on, search, and print or email what we need at any time. Our registrar has been very happy with it. We haven't made a move to house other records at this time, but I wouldn't have qualms about doing so based on our initial experience.

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