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Thinking of scanning records?

Scanning, if undertaken properly, and for the right reasons, can make information more accessible and reduce the amount of physical space taken up by paper records.  But it can also have serious cost and legal implications.

The following guidance sets out the advantages and disadvantages of scanning and provides a checklist for any School/Department considering scanning their paper records to help them decide whether it is the appropriate solution for them.

Once you’ve worked through this checklist, and are sure that scanning is suitable for your situation, it is important to carry out the scanning in such a way that the scanned images can be relied upon as true copies of the original paper records.  An effective way of doing this is to ensure that your scanning process complies with the British Standard specification for evidential weight and legal admissibility of electronic information (BSI0008:2008) and one of its supporting Codes of Practice concerning information stored electronically (BIP0008-1).  For further guidance on carrying out scanning locally, please contact Sarah Phillips, University Records Manager (phillipssj7@cardiff.ac.uk ext. 79403).

The Information Governance Team oversees the University’s contract with an external scanning service provider.  This provider is competitively priced and has been certificated against BS10008:2008.  The Information Governance Team audits the provider regularly.  For more details on the provider, please see the GeM system, or contact Sarah Phillips, University Records Manager (phillipssj7@cardiff.ac.uk ext. 79403).  It is advisable when setting up a new job with the scanning service provider that you prepare a job specification in association with them, for further guidance please see our leaflet on Setting up a job specification with the University’s Scanning Service Provider.

The advantages of scanning

Scanning can provide significant benefits if done properly and for the right reasons.  It can:

  • increase the security of information;
  • make it easier and quicker to access information;
  • reduce the amount of office space taken up storing records;
  • make it easier to transmit paper records by electronic means, whilst still allowing you to print a hard copy.

Scanning can also be used as a means of duplicating and dispersing a School/Department’s vital records, for further information please see the Information Governance Team’s advice on vital records.

However…

Scanning is not a substitute for developing good records management practices.  Problems caused by messy record keeping systems will not be resolved by scanning the records – they will just become digital problems with additional issues to address.  If introduced, scanning should be implemented as one part of a larger information management strategy which should be addressed by Schools/Departments.

The disadvantages of scanning

  • Scanning is costly(if the records are rarely referred to, off site storage can be a cheaper option – for information on the University’s off site storage service see the GOVRN webpages);
  • It is unsuitable for a series of records which you are still adding to;
  • It may make records less reliable as a source of evidence (a scan is a copy and not the original document).  It is a good idea to consider who you may need to present the scanned documents to and whether they would accept scanned copies as evidence of a transaction before commencing on a scanning project;
  • It makes it harder to access records for a long period of time (continued access to digital records is not a guarantee and requires additional time and expenditure for checking media and migrating records);
  • It can be expensive to make scanned records accessible (indexing increases accessibility to your records but is one of the most costly aspects of scanning work).

To establish whether the advantages of using scanning for your set of records outweighs the disadvantages work through the checklist below:

Checklist

1. Is the records series closed, or will records continue to be inserted into it?

Yes

No

Scanning may be an option, continue to question 2.Scanning is unsuitable for these records.
2. How long do the records need to be kept?  (if you’re unsure check the University’s record retention schedule)

2-5 years

6-7 years

Over 7 years

Scanning is unlikely to be cost effective, consider storing the records off site.Scanning may be an appropriate option, continue to question 3.Scanning could be an option BUT you will need to seriously consider digital preservation issues and factor in additional costs, continue to question 3.
3. Are the records duplicated elsewhere in hardcopy or electronically?

Yes

No

It is unlikely that scanning will be a cost effective solution as the records are already accessible elsewhere.Scanning may be an option, continue to question 4.
4. How often are the records looked at?

Rarely

Sometimes –  frequently

Scanning is unlikely to be cost effective, consider storing the records off site.Scanning may be an option, continue to question 5.
5. Will these records need much indexing to make them retrievable?

Yes

No, they are already in a sequential order

Scanning may be an option, but the cost of extensive indexing should be factored in, continue to question 6.Scanning may be an option, continue to question 6.
6. Will the records need to be produced as evidence of the University’s activities to sponsors/external auditors who will not accept electronic copies?

Yes

No

Scanning is not an option.Scanning may be an option.

If you have read through the checklist and are sure that scanning is the appropriate solution for you, as mentioned, it is advisable to comply with the British Standard specification for evidential weight and legal admissibility of electronic information (BSI0008:2008) and one of its supporting Codes of Practice concerning information stored electronically (BIP0008-1).  For further guidance on scanning locally, please contact Sian Collins, University Records Manager (CollinsS8@cardiff.ac.uk or ext. 79403).  For details of the University’s scanning service provider, please see the GeM system.

 

Sian Collins
University Records Manager
Tel: (029) 208 79403
Email: CollinsS8@cf.ac.uk