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5 Ways To Ensure A Successful Microfilm Scanning Project

You can have your microfilm archive in front of you and know that you want to scan it to digital, but what else should you be thinking about? In this article, we’ll give you some ideas that we believe will make your project successful. You can ask ten companies the same question and get ten different answers, and that’s fine. But here are five ideas we want you to know about that’ll guide your decision-making process and enable you to execute a successful microfilm scanning project. Onward!

1) Phases Are a Good Thing

Why phases? Because if you try to do too much at once, you can get lost in the sauce and not know how to get out. By using a phased approach, you can complete the most important task first, then move on to other items as needed. Here’s an example for microfilm scanning:

Phase 1: Replicate Your Current Methods

What this means – Do what you’re doing now, but in digital!

Why this works – You know how and where to find your records, so starting with an existing (working) method is a great place to begin. Not only will your people know how to find their data, but it will be even faster to find in once it’s in a digital format.

Phase 2: Get Granular With Indexing

What this means – Microfilm is normally organized simply because it contains many records on a single unit. There’s not really much you can do other than find the roll to find the record. Once your microfilm is digital, though, you can get fancy and index (name/organize) your records at the individual level.

Why this works – Once you’ve scanned your microfilm into a digital format, you can decide if you need to get even more detailed. If the answer is yes, you can identify which records need to be segmented into distinct files, and how they will be named during the indexing process. The nice thing here is that the records are already in a digital format (good work starting with Phase 1!) so it’s a simple process to look at various images and get a sense for the scope of the indexing.

(more on this in “2. Indexing” below)

Phase 3: Data Transfer

What this means – Once you have your digital images, you’re ready to import these to electronic databases for total document management.

Why this works – You may already have a database for your current and go-forward images and data, and you want to get your archive microfilm records into that database. By using the phased approach, you now have a complete set of digital images (Phase 1) indexed to your specifications (Phase 2) and ready to import into your system. Instead of trying to get the perfect solution up front, which can drag out projects for what seems like forever, you decided to go step by step and make the process smooth as butter.

2) Indexing

Indexing (identifying, naming, and organizing your records) can make or break a project: it can be simple and cost-effective, or extremely complex and pricey; it can help you find your records quickly, or it can cause confusion and consternation. Getting this part right is critical!  

How do you access your records now? Using this as a starting point, you can make your life easier. If you find microfilm by opening cabinet drawers and then locating a box of film that’s organized alphabetically, it could make sense to replicate this structure digitally. Once the records are scanned and digitally accessible, you can then see what may make more sense and do a reorganization of the files based on different criteria.

Maybe you want the full monty solution with image-level indexing up front. Aggressive, but doable. Identify the way files will be separated and named, and make sure that you have examples of each type of document that exists in your archive. This is a potential rabbit hole, so be ready for a flurry of questions from the company you’re working with, all with the intent of making the project successful.

3) Identify the Primary Points of Contact

A very important step, but one that’s often overlooked. Because scanning projects are dynamic and involve unique material like microfilm, surprises are a guarantee. By having a primary point of contact at your organization and your scanning partner’s organization, questions and answers will flow more smoothly and ensure an efficient and effective project.

Without clearly identified points of contact, you will run into delays, confusion, frustration, and finally resignation. That’s probably a bit more dark than reality, but you get the point. Have a point of contact identified and accountable!

4) Understand What You’re Willing to Pay For … and What You’ll Get For It

If you want the lowest price, don’t expect rainbows and sunshine at the end of the project. If you want best total value, consider your project an investment: it doesn’t feel good putting money in now (short-term pain), but when you finish the project and see a result that makes your and your staff’s life easier, you’ll be glad you did (long-term payoff).

We see many companies that opt to pay the “low” price up front, only to realize that scope changes, mistakes, and errors ensure much more total spend down the road. You can never be certain what will happen during a project, or what surprises will pop up and derail your plans, but having a solid understanding of the capabilities of your scanning partner and their willingness to work with you will go a long way. Beware the charlatan that promises perfection and asks for little in return!

Caveat – high price doesn’t guarantee high quality. Make sure your partner understands you and your objectives, not just what they want to sell.

5) Understand the Material

As a colleague of mine used to say, “ask for the world, but expect New Jersey” (sorry, he was from Boston).

What does this mean? Ask for what you want, but temper your expectations. With scanning projects, we see plenty of new customers with grand visions of perfection: that just because the images are now digital, the entire organizational structure of the files will be perfect, down to the image; errors will be non-existent; all documents will be optimum legibility; coffee will brew itself!! A pleasant dream. And this even though they may have only asked for roll-level indexing. Be aware that with digital content, there are many ways to peel the onion and organize your records, but you need to be specific at the beginning of the project so that your scanning partner can create an optimized process flow.

A way to think about this is “scanning” vs. “cataloging.” Scanning is the up front part, getting the images into a digital format. Cataloging is the back end indexing/organizing part, normally a bit more difficult depending on your requirements. If you decide on a simple roll-level indexing scheme, and have 500 rolls of film, you can expect 500 files named by roll container. You should not expect multiple document types to separate the varying kinds of content on the rolls, and then formatted into 10-page segments named by the employee ID#. That, my friends, is cataloging.

Now, if employee-level indexing is stated as a requirement up front, absolutely expect it to happen! But just be sure you’re clear on what you’re asking for, and what you receive.

There you have it, five ways to make your microfilm scanning project successful.

Further Reading

In a previous article we gave you some important first steps to prepare for and start a scanning project. If you haven’t read it yet, we encourage you to take a look by clicking this link: “How Do I Start A Microfilm Scanning Project?

2018-09-12T06:19:36+00:00 September 12th, 2018|Blog|

How Do I Start A Microfilm Scanning Project?

A simple question, with simple answers. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, of course, but we’ll do the best we can to make it that way. First, we’re glad you’re reading this article, because it means you’re curious about how to make your microfilm scanning project a success. Second, you’re reading our article, which always makes us happy. Our goal here is to give you some ideas before heading down the path of microfilm scanning, and we know you’ll find at least one nugget of useful information here. Let’s proceed, shall we?

4 Steps To Prepare For A Microfilm Scanning Project

If we wanted to, we could list dozens of steps to help you prepare for a microfilm scanning project. Dozens of steps could be a long read, though, so instead we boiled this article down to four larger steps to get your planning juices boiling as you embark upon the great crusade of digital conversion! Read on and open your mind to the wonders of microfilm scanning…

Step 1. Figure Out What You Have

One of the first questions we like to ask prospective clients is “what type of microfilm do you have (microfilm, microfiche, aperture cards, etc.), and how many?” You don’t need to have the exact number down to the roll of microfilm or sheet of microfiche, but a good estimate is a solid first step. Something as simple as “about 500 rolls” or “30,000-40,000 microfiche” is a great first step.

Not sure what type of microfilm you have? Click over to our “What Kind of Microfilm” page to get a better idea of the various formats you may have. And if you still can’t figure it out, a phone call with an expert (hint: BMI) will do the trick!

Here’s a bonus trick to count microfiche.

Microfiche are those small sheets that are close in size to an index card. You know, those cards  you used in grade school to learn how to spell words? Anyway, if you have even a small archive of microfiche, you’re not going to want to count out all the sheets to figure out a volume for your project. Luckily for anyone that’s ever had to deal with fiche, there’s a quick way to get an approximate number of fiche: when the sheets of fiche are stacked together, such as in a drawer, get a measure of the linear inches that the fiche take up and multiply that by 90. (90 is a rough number and will depend on if the fiche are stacked tight together, if they’re in sleeves, if there are numerous separators, etc.). This will get you a ballpark count of fiche!

Example: you have a 4-drawer cabinet of microfiche, and each drawer has two rows of fiche, front to back. The drawers are 15” deep. So, four drawers multiplied by two rows per drawer equals eight total rows. Eight rows multiplied by 15” per row equals 120”. 120” multiplied by 90 fiche per inch equals a total estimate of 10,800 fiche. Easy!

Step 2. Figure Out What You Want To Do

It’s nice to know what you have, but it’s even better to know what you want to do with it. Why is this step important? Good question! Let’s use an analogy:

Scenario A: you’re laying around on the couch, watching cartoons, and your stomach rumbles. Ok, time to get some food. You hop in the car and start driving around. And driving around. And around.

Let’s try a different approach.

Scenario B: you’re laying around on the couch, watching cartoons, and your stomach rumbles. Ok, time to get some food. You sit up and think for a minute or two and decide on a sandwich, and you remember a great place downtown. So you hop in the car and in ten minutes you’re at the shop ordering your hoagie.

Could you make Scenario A work? Sure, but it’s tedious and time-consuming, and seeing all the options on the drive may put you into analysis paralysis, which could mean hunger cramps and being hungry. Make your life easy and have a (general) idea of what you want to do before jumping into action.

What does this mean for a scanning project? Well, here are a few things you could have in mind … *DEEP BREATH* scanning resolution, file output format (e.g. PDF, TIF, black + white or grayscale images), index information (how to name your files once they’re digital), start date of project, desired completion schedule, budget, and so forth. Whew! Quite a few things to ponder, but well worth the effort.

Step 3. Decide How You Want To Do It

You know what you have and you know what you want to do with it. But how?! If you’re a DIY kind of person, we applaud you and wish you the best of luck. We can even give you some helpful advice to guide you on your way.

If you lean towards the “I can do it myself, but I have more important things to do” kind of person, we applaud you even more and would like to meet you. Specifically to scan your microfilm.

Step 4. Do It!

Time to roll up our sleeves, get in the trenches, put some back into it, and get your microfilm scanned! Really, though, digital scanning projects are (almost) never emergencies or urgent, so even if you’re not planning on starting scanning today, it’s a good idea to get the ball rolling so that it doesn’t surprise you when your boss says “hey, I want that film scanned. How are we doing it?”

Think ahead to get ahead. Planning early is the smart move, and we know you’re smart because you took the time to read this entire article, give you a leg up in your conversion project preparation.

Further Reading

If you’re curious how your project will run once we get the green light, take a look at our “How Does a Microfilm Conversion Project Work?” page to get an overview of our unique process.

2018-09-04T09:45:15+00:00 August 7th, 2018|Blog|

Online Document Management

Benefits of Online Document Management

Online document management software has many benefits that can help your organization reach new levels of success. Here are some of the key reasons why your organization needs to consider utilizing online document management software.

Online Document Management Saves Money both Directly and Indirectly

The cost savings benefit of online document management software can be seen both directly and indirectly. Going paperless saves a lot of money in well-documented ways (e.g. paper, ink, toner, paper waste removal), but there are other savings as well.

With online document management software solutions, all of the company’s documents and data are digitally stored in one place, making it easily accessible from any computer with Internet access. Employees become more productive and efficient. Document sharing takes a fraction of the time with online document management software as it would shuffling through physical paper documents. Time spent searching for documents through a library of file cabinets is eliminated, and this frees up time for employees to get more work done, improving overall efficiency.

Data Security and Disaster Recovery

Online document management software adds several layers of security to your organization’s information. Plus, your data is protected from site disasters (e.g. flood, fire) because there are data backup measures in place to protect against these types of failures.

Easier Access to Data

There’s no comparison between the legacy way of storing documents in file cabinets and the modern way of storing them digitally. Using online document management searching capabilities, you can search and retrieve any file, new or old, within seconds. Once the file is found, it’s easy to share the file with other team members or email it to a client. The entire process is streamlined with online document management software.

Information Becomes Portable and is Accessible from Anywhere

Document management software allows you to have a library of information with you from any device – PCs, laptops, mobile. Online document management software allows you to virtually work from anywhere and still be able to share files with coworkers and access data while away from the office.


Online document management solutions offer well-known benefits associated with replacing bulky paper file cabinets. Increasing business productivity, lower costs, document retention for compliance and better disaster recovery protection are key reasons organizations implement document conversion and document management solutions.

Learn more about BMI Imaging’s online document management solutions.

2017-01-31T08:38:38+00:00 January 30th, 2017|Blog|

Microfilm Conversion for Napa County Library

Napa County Library Offers Custom, Napa Branded Online Access to the Napa Valley Register and the Weekly Calistogan

Napa County Library serves a population of 135,000 and offers four libraries that provide public computers, printing, wireless internet access, entertainment and informational programs, and a wide assortment of other materials tailored to community interests.

The Napa Valley County Library provides newspaper archives for the Napa Valley Register and the Weekly Calistogan. In the past, the County received print copies of the newspapers, microfilmedLibrary Microfilm Conversion the copies, and then offered a microfilm archive to patrons for newspaper research.

The library staff hand-indexed the papers and would leverage a card catalog for search and retrieval. Over time, this became burdensome and, combined with the hassles common with microfilm, led the County to search for a digital solution.

After issuing a Request for Proposal, the Library selected Digital ReeL because of the range of benefits it would provide and its competitive price. The Digital ReeL platform hosts the Library’s digital newspaper records at BMI’s data center and offers a custom, Napa-branded online portal for patrons searching the newspaper archives.

Read the complete library microfilm conversion solution case study here.

Learn more about the Digital ReeL microfilm conversion solution.

2017-01-04T17:26:36+00:00 January 4th, 2017|Blog|

Microfilm Conversion Solution for Libraries

Online, Searchable Newspaper PDFs at San Jose State University ScholarWorks

SJSU’s ScholarWorks collects, preserves and provides access to scholarly work created at the university. One archive ScholarWorks offers for free, public access is The Spartan Daily — a newspaper produced by journalism students since 1934.

More than 80 years of TMicrofilm Conversion for Librarieshe Spartan Daily was not digitally accessible and was only available as aging newsprint in physical bound books and on tattered and torn microfilm. Researching this history was a challenge.

SJSU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications planned to digitize the physical books and contacted BMI to provide the scanning services. However, BMI presented the alternative of scanning the microfilm archive using their first-generation film positives since they photographed much of the original microfilm. This reduced the project price by 75% and eliminated the need to remove the physical archive from the university and cut apart the bound volumes and page scan the hardbound book archive.

Today, all of the legacy Spartan Daily newspapers are easily accessible on the Internet as searchable PDF files. Users can browse legacy issues and search using any keyword (e.g. last name, date). Anyone can now access these legacy newspapers online … click here to view the online archive.

Read the library microfilm conversion solution case study here.

Learn more about our solutions for libraries and archives.

2016-11-29T05:56:05+00:00 November 29th, 2016|Blog|

Microfilm Conversion for Law Enforcement

Join us at CLEARS 2016 in Reno, Nevada

BMI will be at the California Law Enforcement Association of Records Supervisors (CLEARS) 43rd Annual Training & Technology Seminar in Reno, Nevada. The conference will be held from November 14th – 18th at the Peppermill Resort. We’ll be demonstrating records management solutions, including BMI’s unique microfilm conversion solution, Digital ReeL.

CLEARS, Inc. is a not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to providing training in the technical and legal aspects of law enforcement records. CLEARS, Inc. provides networking capabilities to its members and associates who are comprised from more than 500 law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies within California.

Microfilm Conversion for Law Enforcement

Many legacy records required for long-term retention continue to sit on paper and microfilm. These records are not accessed that often and it is easy for an organization to forget about them. Microfilm, in particular, does not last forever and it is possible that the records could be deteriorating without anyone realizing it.

Ultimately, digitally converting the records ensures that the record archive becomes part of the larger data management and disaster recovery processes of the organization. BMI’s Digital ReeL is uniquely capable of helping law enforcement agencies digitize microfilm records in an affordable, practical way. Stop by for a live product demonstration to learn more about this microfilm conversion solution.

Learn more about our microfilm conversion solutions for law enforcement.

2016-09-29T06:35:42+00:00 September 29th, 2016|Blog|