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Officials serious about preserving documents

Elected officials are becoming increasingly concerned about preserving county documents.
Some of those documents are ‘getting ripped up and some of them are being stolen,’ said Harrison County Commissioner James Goldman.
Officeholders would like to see the documents ‘ some which have historic value ‘ converted to digital images, then stored.
‘You need to have those documents in a form where they can be viewed publicly,’ Goldman said.
Storing them at an off-site location would free up space in the cramped courthouse.
Former Harrison County Historian Frederick P. Griffin of Corydon said some of the documents date to 1808.
‘We have a lot of valuable records,’ he said. Some bear the signature of former President William Henry Harrison, who was at one time Indiana’s governor.
Paul Winstead and Ron Caravan made a presentation June 7 on behalf of Toshiba Business Solutions during a combined special meeting of the county commissioners and council.
Winstead, Toshiba Solutions’ group director, said there are 10 to 15 ways to convert and store documents. A preferred method that he and Caravan presented uses Questyrs software for document storage.
The long-term goal is to have the documents converted in such a way that they can be viewed over the Internet.
‘You can control access all the way down to an individual page,’ Winstead said.
Documents that are not available for public viewing now would remain that way.
‘This is real easy to use,’ Winstead said. ‘It’s one thing we pride ourselves on.’
Once the specific document is located, the viewer can do several things with it ‘ except alter it ‘ such as e-mail to another computer. They could also block out selected portions for security purposes.
Winstead said this feature saves paper, because the document doesn’t have to be printed, and time, because it doesn’t have to be re-entered in a computer.
And research is fast: Winstead said a search for a specific item or word can be done through a million records in 1.5 seconds.
County officials told Winstead and Caravan that they want to hear from one other company before reaching a decision.
Imaging Office Systems Inc. was in town Monday night to pitch its product.
Bill Hartman and Karen Bryant told the three county commissioners plus a couple of county councilmen in the audience that their firm has ‘a relationship’ with the county library and Harrison REMC, among others. It has worked with some county offices, including auditor, treasurer and clerk.
Imaging Office’s proposal was similar to Toshiba’s in that they would archive records and make them accessible to the public. Most of the work would be done at the courthouse. With Imaging Office some of the larger documents would need to be taken to a lab for converting, or the county could purchase a piece of equipment at several thousands of dollars to do the work.
While Imaging Office’s presentation was much briefer than Toshiba’s, possibly due to the late hour that Hartman and Bryant’s turn came up Monday night (about 10:30), one distinct difference stood out. Hartman said each document would be placed on microfilm before it was converted to a digital format. Microfilm, they said, would be readable in 100 years.
‘It’s much easier on your books to film it first,’ Hartman said.
Vi Eckart, director of the Harrison County Public Library, had said during Toshiba’s presentation that microfilm fades over time.
‘It does not last,’ she said, adding that it’s good to have the microfilm, though, for backup purposes.
At the June 7 meeting, Ed Pearcy of Laconia suggested that county officials contact other communities to see what systems they use.
Winstead said Nashville, Tenn., uses Toshiba’s system.
‘What I’m hearing is very exciting,’ said Eckart. ‘We also need to do other records’ besides the ones county officials are considering.
Eckart said the library uses a T1 line and she would be interested in connecting the library to the program so patrons, especially those doing genealogy research, could search documents.

Neither Toshiba nor Imaging Office gave a specific price for the project. Winstead said Toshiba could do a ‘limited’ version for about $40,000. Bryant said Imaging Office’s cost is about $100,000, with an additional fee of about $100 per book that is filmed and digitalized.
Commissioner J.R. Eckart said there will be two projects going on almost simultaneously, as the court-house renovation project gets underway soon.
‘We’re going to have a mass movement of records as we begin the courthouse renovation project,’ he said. ‘This project (of converting records) will take off after that.’