UO Records Management, in partnership with UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, works with a vendor to offer storage and scanning services. To start the conversation, please complete the Records Management Service Request form.
Offices scan paper to digital formats to save space and improve access. While the benefits seem undeniable, digital material actually have shorter life spans relative to paper, as hardware and software change about every 3 – 5 years. Because digital material are also records, and because some records have retention periods that exceed the lifespan of the technology required to display and use them, it is essential that offices ask themselves these 4 questions before starting scanning projects.
This page presents guidelines for reformatting records. If the material being scanned falls under the definition of records as detailed in the University of Oregon Records Management Policy, and offices wish to dispose of the paper original and retain only the digital version as the record copy, then certain precautions should be taken to assure that these remain accessible and readable for the entire duration of their retention period as defined by UO policy.
Before digitizing records, ask these 4 questions
Prior to engaging in digital scanning projects, first consider the following questions. If the answer to any of the following is “no,” then scanning may not be the best use of resources:
- Is the office planning to carry out the scanning the office of record? Check the University Records Retention Schedule for more information.
- Is there less than 1 year left on the clock before the material is to be disposed of in accordance with the retention schedule?
- Is there certainty that there are no other digital versions available?
- Is the material historically unique and/or material in formats other than paper related to digital scholarship? If so, then visit the library's Digital Scholarship Services and consult the Media Digitization Guidelines for Faculty.
Units must create and retain, as part of their Records Management files, a plan that documents the scanning project’s scope, personnel, and process, and answers the following questions:
- Do the persons authorizing and carrying out the scanning understand their responsibilities under the UO Data Classification standards (Policy Number IV.06.02 (2016))?
- What will the newly created digital files be named and how will they be organized? How will you describe the files so you and your team will be able to find them later?
- Where will you store the newly created files?
- What file formats will you choose?
- How will you manage exceptions (for example: stapled and/or bound and/or multicolor documents)?
- What will you do with the original hardcopy from which scans are made?
- When and how will quality control be conducted during and after the scanning project?
Appropriate Storage and Security
Digital records should never be retained exclusively on removable media or non-networked locations, such as the desktop or local drive (usually called the “(C:)” drive). Minimum requirements are listed on the Creating and Retaining section of this site.
Technical Specifications and File Formats
Regulations in Oregon (OAR 166-017-0035) dictate the following minimum requirements for scanner settings
- Documents containing fonts ten-point or larger, and containing no signatures, must be scanned at a minimum density of 200 DPI (dots per inch), when converting paper or microfilm records to electronic records.
- Documents containing fonts smaller than ten-point, signatures, architectural and engineering drawings, maps and line art must be scanned at a minimum density of 300 DPI.
- Cancelled checks must be scanned at a minimum density of 240 DPI grayscale and meet the requirements of ANSI X9.100-140 — Specifications for an Image Replacement Document.
Best practices for file formats
- Minimum scan settings: 300 dpi
- Preferred file formats: .pdf/a or .tiff
- Acceptable file formats: .pdf
- Unacceptable file formats: .jpg
- If the material has “permanent” retention listed on the retention schedule, then best practices promulgates the use of lossless compression and non-proprietary formats – additional background and details are available on the Library of Congress site.
Naming and Organizing Conventions
- There are many options for file naming and organizing. Whatever options are exercised, the conventions used must be documented and used consistently.
- Do not rely on file naming alone as an indicator of information about the content of file, such as the date, persons involved, or topics covered
- Do create a spreadsheet that lists the file name; description; a couple of keywords; bulk start and end date of the content
- Do use a file plan to indicate which entire caches of the same kind of material are being kept; request a file plan template by emailing email@example.com
Managing the Originals
- Conduct quality control of the digital files prior to destroying the paper from which scans were made; learn more in the "Best Practices for Quality Assurance" section below
- Do use a destruction log to create a record of what has been destroyed; request a destruction log template by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do destroy in a manner appropriate to the sensitivity of the records content
Destroying the Original
Regulations in Oregon (OAR 166-017-0035) require the following conditions be met before paper originals are disposed of:
- Digitized documents must be verified for accuracy and completeness after digitization and prior to the destruction of the paper or microfilm original.
- Scanners must be monitored for quality control.
Best Practices: Quality Assurance and Managing the Original Documents
In order to address any errors that may have occurred during imaging (also called scanning) of records, Records Management recommends a phased process for purging the original paper based material as detailed below. The following best practices are adopted from the UO Office of the Registrar.
1. Before beginning a scanning project, determine where the office will keep the physical materials; this acts as a designated staging area for temporarily keeping paper originals long enough for the office to inspect the scans and verify completeness, accuracy, and legibility.
Tip: For small projects: designate 6 hanging file folders, each labeled week 1 through 6 in a file drawer that will act as a staging area for material that has been scanned but not yet quality assured. For larger volume projects: dedicate multiple file folders for each week, or a file drawer for each week.
2. At the time of capture (also known as imaging or scanning) check to make sure the number of image pages match the number of physical pages.
Tip: For added quality assurance, once document or set of documents are scanned, mark (for example, using a stamp or other marking tool) the front and back to indicate the document has been processed.
Tip: The use of displayed thumbnails can help identify any "false" pages, such as the backs of single-sided documents.
3. Once scanning (typically of a batch of documents) is complete, move physical documents from which scans were just made to designated area (described in step 1, above). Documents scanned during the week will be placed in the "Week 1" folder or file drawer.
Tip: The documents scanned on a particular day should be affixed together, with the date included on a post-it. This can be achieved using binder clips or rubber bands. Staples should not be used.
4. Retention of the paper originals should be long enough for the scanned documents to go through Indexing (adding metadata to the document) or sorting and storage steps that include a quality assurance check of each page for clarity.
Tip: Retain the filing order as the office may need to access any of them for rescans in the event of errors encountered during the process as described in the next step.
5. If no problems are not found, then proceed to the next step. If a problem is found during the Quality Assurance process, then retrieve the paper originals and rescan as necessary.
6. At the start of each week, transfer the contents of "Week 6" folder to confidential destruction/shred and move the contents for each remaining week up (5 to 6, 4 to 5, etc.). This allows for a rolling destruction while permitting time for quality control.