Our BMI Imaging Systems Blog, Microfilm articles are designed to provide you with useful information for project planning. Microfilm is a nuanced way to store content, and we’ve been working with microfilm since 1958. We know microfilm, and want you to know it just as well.

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?

2018-10-01T13:51:17+00:00September 12th, 2018|Microfilm|

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.

2018-10-01T13:45:44+00:00August 7th, 2018|Microfilm|

Building Department Microfiche Conversion

Is Converting Your Microfiche Archive to Your Permitting System the Right Approach?

Building departments manage many different types of documents, including building plans, geologic survey information, permit copies and other residential or commercial title related records. A lot of building department staff time is spent searching through physical microfiche archives for specific records. Misfiled and lost fiche present further hassles. Although many building departments see the value of digitally converting their microfiche records, many have not.

Building Department Microfiche Conversion Solution

 Why haven’t building departments converted their microfiche archives to digital? Expense and staff time required are the two main reasons. Most building departments start with the position that they want all of their digital records migrated into an existing permitting system or document management system. This typically comes with a hefty price tag. To accomplish this, each individual image on the microfiche must be separately digitized and indexed. A content review needs to take place which requires your building department staff to dedicate a lot of time reviewing the documents after conversion. The review is to ensure that the microfiche indexes are properly mapped to the permitting or document management system index. This is time consuming and the amount of labor required quickly drives the price up.

There is a better way to affordably convert microfiche archives. A microfiche conversion solution is really a two-step process (1) scanning and (2) indexing. Many building departments want all of their digital records imported into their existing permitting or document management system. This requires (1) scanning and (2) indexing. Most of the expense of a microfiche conversion solution comes at the (2) indexing phase. What if there was a solution that could provide (1) scanning at an affordable price as an initial stepping stone? In that way, your building department could digitize your microfiche records quickly and affordably and then tackle the (2) indexing step later.

BMI’s Digital ReeL building department microfiche conversion solution delivers an affordable solution to accomplish the (1) scanning step and also offers you a stepping stone to (2) indexing and permitting system integration. In addition, any record converted into Digital ReeL is stored in a non-proprietary format (PDF, TIFF) and can easily be imported into any existing system.

How does the Digital ReeL building department microfiche scanning solution work?

Digital ReeL is designed to be affordable (as low as $.90 per microfiche). Your microfiche records are securely transported to our Northern California microfiche conversion facility. We are able to convert the entire microfiche and digitally preserve it as it looked in its original physical state. Very little building department staff oversight required. Because we create digital replicas of each microfiche, there is no requirement to examine individual images for indexing purposes.

If the building records do not go into my permitting or document management system, how do I access them using Digital ReeL?

Digital ReeL offers an easy to use web based retrieval application that resembles a reader printer. With Digital ReeL your physical microfiche are converted to digital replicas. Instead of using legacy, physical readers, you can turn as many computer workstations as you’d like into what looks like a reader printer. Staff and citizens use the same index method for your physical microfiche archive to find information (e.g. APN, address). We also include full text search options to quickly and accurately pull up a record that is needed (e.g. search using a name, date or other keyword).

All records are stored in nonproprietary formats, including PDF, TIFF, JPG and GIF. It is easy to email, print or save documents right from Digital ReeL. Any document can be imported into an existing permitting or document management system.

BMI has the expertise and resources to successfully handle governmental building department microfiche conversion projects. We have worked with city, state and federal government agencies all of the Country. Please call (800) FLY-FILM to discuss how we can achieve your building department microfiche conversion requirements today.

2018-11-26T13:50:12+00:00February 19th, 2015|Microfilm|

Microfilm Conversion Service Partner

10 Questions to Ask When Researching a Microfilm Conversion Partner

So you are trying to Microfilm Reader Replacementtransition your organization from old microfilm cabinets and barely working reader printers to a modern, elegant electronic retrieval application. The process of digitizing your microfilm records is a bit more involved than one might expect. There is project planning, indexing, microfilm preparation and secure transportation of the records to the microfilm conversion partner facility. It is critical that you conduct the proper due diligence when deciding on your microfilm conversion partner. Here are 10 questions that should be asked of every potential microfilm conversion partner during the decision making process:

1) What is their primary business?

2) Do they have references?

3) What was their biggest microfilm scanning project?

4) Will the vendor accommodate your needs, regardless of if you need on- or off-site scanning?

5) Do they have cameras and security clearance at their facilities?

6) Do they conduct background checks before hiring employees?

7) How is their network security and document control?

8) What is their maximum processing capacity?

9) Age of their equipment?

10) Are their employees full time or temporary?

A microfilm conversion project typically takes several months to complete. If done correctly and with the right microfilm conversion service partner, your records will not only be digitally converted, but they’ll also be of higher quality. Technologies like full text indexing make retrieval a lot easier. Selecting the wrong microfilm conversion partner can cause delays, lost records during the microfilm conversion process and implementation problems. Getting answers to the above questions will help ensure that you select the right microfilm scanning partner that can make your project a success.

Call (800) FLY-FILM or email us to learn more about our microfilm conversion solutions!

2018-11-29T08:17:24+00:00December 8th, 2014|Microfilm|

Student Records Microfilm Scanning Solution

Schools and colleges all over the country are learning that microfilm scanning can be affordable!

If you work in a school office, you are probably used to working with thousands of student records, transcripts and other documents that are stored on microfilm (or paper). The law requires that student records be kept and archived for years and years. Filing and retrieving these records is inefficient and the cabinets they are stored intake up valuable space. Microfilm readers are not easy to deal with. Furthermore, what about secondary copies in the event a disaster strikes like a flood or fire?

Ever thought about a student records microfilm scanning solution? Maybe you have looked into converting those microfilm cabinets but found out just how expensive it is. We have developed a student record microfilm scanning solution that will free up all the space that those microfilm cabinets and reader/printers are taking up. Our microfilm conversion solution comes with an easy-to-use web viewer, making it easy to maintain student records and streamline daily retrieval processes.304 Student records that once would take hours, even days to retrieve, can be searched for and retrieved in a matter of minutes or seconds from an Internet browser application. Your student records will be digital and part of your broader IT backup and disaster recovery plan. You’ll no longer have to handle two separate microfilm libraries because secondary digital copies can be backed up off-site to securely protect student records from floods, fires, and other disasters.

Don’t think it could be done? It can and school districts, junior colleges and universities all over the country are learning how easy and affordable it is to finally convert those records from microfilm to digital. Read how Fresno State University solved their student record microfilm challenges with our Digital ReeL microfilm scanning solution.

Call (800) FLY-FILM or email us to get a student records microfilm scanning demo!

2018-11-29T08:38:17+00:00December 2nd, 2014|Microfilm|

Microfilm Reader Replacement Solution

Have an outdated, broken microfilm reader? Think it is too expensive to digitally convert your records? When we work with clients, they are often facing a conundrum – where to find a part to fix a broken microfilm reader or a new microfilm reader. They may have looked at digitally scanning their physical microfilm library in the past but have been accustomed to prices that are just too expensive. Think again!Microfilm Reader Replacement Solution

If you are faced with a poorly performing or broken microfilm reader, now is the perfect time to look at a microfilm reader replacement solution by digitally converting your records. BMI has solutions that are affordable for legacy records on microfilm. Rather than throwing good money at a legacy technology, let us help you eliminate the need for users to hassle with physical microfilm or learn how to use a physical microfilm reader.

We have a variety of microfilm reader replacement solutions to fit your requirements and budget. We have physical devices that let your staff, citizens or customers scan individual rolls into a digital format. If you have a larger archive and want us to convert everything at one time, Digital ReeL is an affordable microfilm reader replacement offering. Maybe you want something fully turnkey? If so, ask us about our hosting service. We’ll not only scan your microfilm, but we’ll also host your digital records at our data center. Simply log-in through a browser to access your records.

2018-11-29T08:21:21+00:00June 9th, 2014|Microfilm|