“After we implemented a new online record request system, we saw citizens take advantage of this convenient way to order records by using a credit card for payment,” states Gustafson. “One of our staff’s least favorite activities was trying to locate pre- 1977 records archived on the books or microfilm. The books were large (15-20 lbs.) and some were high up on the shelf, requiring a ladder,” continues Gustafson. “Trying to set them on a copying machine was difficult. The microfilm records required dealing with out-of-date reader printers. A staff member could easily find themselves searching for an hour or more.”
Digital ReeL: A Practical, Affordable Microfilm Scanning Solution
Pitkin County had been looking to digitally convert these records, but cost and budget constraints had been an issue. Gustafson states, “When BMI Imaging introduced us to Digital ReeL, we were impressed with its simple, yet practical approach to converting our legacy records. For the first time, we were looking at a solution that would enable us to cost effectively convert our entire physical archive prior to 1977 at once.”
BMI Imaging completed the microfilm conversion at its California facility. Although the book records were used by the public and staff, Pitkin had an archival copy of the books on microfilm that were digitally converted to Digital ReeL by BMI Imaging.
Digital ReeL converts the entire microfilm roll or microfiche. As a result, all of the images are kept together on the microfilm roll or microfiche – just as they existed in a physical state. “Other scanning solutions we looked at would have dissociated the individual images from the microfilm roll or microfiche. One of the nice features of Digital ReeL is that it created a digital, virtual replica of our microfilm rolls and microfiche; we now have a digital backup copy of our records just as they existed on the original microfilm and microfiche,” states Gustafson.
Pitkin County now has Digital ReeL installed on several workstations. Pitkin staff and the public can easily access digital microfilm rolls from a computer rather than hassling with books and physical microfilm. “Occasionally, when we try to find a document and it is not located in the exact spot we thought it would be, we’re able to easily scroll back and forth on the virtual microfilm roll to get some context about the information surrounding the record we are looking for. This would not have been possible with another scanning solution,” states Gustafson.
After records are found in Digital ReeL, users can enhance an image using the adjustable grayscale feature of Digital ReeL prior to saving, printing or emailing the information. Gustafson states, “The only limitation we found with the solution stems from the fact that some of our microfilm and microfiche was very poor quality. Some of our images on microfilm were too poor in quality for the adjustable grayscale to enhance into a readable form. But, overall, the solution has been very well received by our staff and the public.”