Over the past several years, more municipal governments and agencies have taken strides to digitize their often vast collections of important public records. However, some still lag behind in this effort, despite the numerous ways such a change would provide value.

For one thing, when city and town governments move to digitize their old records with backfile scanning, they can simultaneously set up workflows that ensure all pertinent data is filtered to the exact departments or individual workers who need it on an ongoing basis. But moreover, enacting these measures can improve data security in a number of ways, including by restricting broad access and creating critical backups offsite.

A perfect example
The case for document digitization was clearly made in Michigan over the summer, as flooding in the Wolverine State's Upper Peninsula inundated the basement of Houghton County Courthouse and resulted in the loss of more than 3.6 million legal documents related to the local circuit, family and probate courts, according to Cadillac, Michigan, television station WWTV.

This led the courthouse to invest in hiring a document restoration to try to recover any information in the damaged files, but court clerk Jennifer Lorenz told the station that in a lot of cases, it's likely that the information will be lost if the hard copies are destroyed.

Another benefit
With ever-growing collections of sensitive files to protect, local governments that move to digitize can also do themselves the huge favor of freeing up potentially massive amounts of floor space in government facilities. The town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, recently freed up a lot of space in its relatively small town hall with an archiving project that aimed to sort and centralize all physical documents.

If such a plan includes backfile scanning, towns can likely dispose of large quantities of paper files that would otherwise sit, mostly untouched, in rows of filing cabinets for years or decades to come. That provides even more value for municipal governments as demands for space in their buildings change significantly and square footage is at a premium.