By the end of 2022, federal agencies must comply with a 2019 directive1 from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to transition to electronic records.
The directive states that the following must happen by December 31, 2022:
- Federal agencies will manage all permanent records in an electronic format and with appropriate metadata.
- Federal agencies will manage all temporary records in an electronic format or store them in commercial records storage facilities.
- NARA will no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata.
With this impending digitization of federal records, state, county, and local governments may also want to consider preparing plans for the future of their paper records, if they haven’t already. The most important thing an organization can do to secure their paper records is to digitize them. Some important benefits of digitizing government documents include:
Improved efficiency. State, county, and local governments are often doubly burdened with limited resources and abundant caches of paper documents. The time and money that is spent on the production, retention, and retrieval of paper records is time and money that is wasted.
Compliance. Complying with federal and state guidelines regarding maintenance, accessibility, and retention of government documents is made simpler through digitization.
Increased control. Documents and contracts can be updated more easily once they are scanned and indexed, streamlining workflow.
Preservation and sharing. Digitizing historical documents, records, and archives limits wear from overhandling, expands access for historians, officials, and interested citizens, and may also offer remote access.
Space. The expense and physical space invested in housing filing cabinets and storage containers filled with paper documents is wasted when all of those records could be digitized and cease to exist in the physical world.
Protection from disaster. Fires, floods, and other natural disasters are looming threats to paper records.
Safety and security. Having records electronically stored in secure digital environments protects them from data breaches, misfiling, duplication, damage, and loss.
The EPA put forth a Digitization (Scanning) Procedure to prepare for their digitization process which includes the following steps2:
- Determine records status and digitization candidacy
- Assess quality and context, and determine whether duplicate documents exist
- Establish and track custody
- Identify special handling concerns and requirements
- Perform preliminary cataloguing and indexing of documents
- Prepare documents for digitization
- Digitize (scan) the document
- Verify, perform quality assurance (QA) and validate
- Release to production environment
1 NARA & OMB, 2019, M-19-21, “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies”
2 EPA, 2020, Directive CIO 2155-P-05.1, “Digitization (Scanning) Procedures”