When storing documents on film or fiche does not make sense
While chopping garlic in the kitchen last week, I looked up in disbelief as my Bose Sound Dock caught on fire just a few feet away. Adrenaline in high gear, I threw some water on it, took it outside, and then sighed as I watched it smolder on the back patio. I loved that MP3 player, and I considered the potential conversation with my husband about replacing it.
I was pretty sure his thought would be along the lines of, “Do we really need to replace it?” while mine was, “I wonder if the next one should be wireless?”
Listening to music in the kitchen while I work…well, it makes me very happy, even while doing the dishes. But since we do have a stereo in the living room, complete with turntable, cassette deck and CD player, I gave the no-music kitchen a try while we decided on a replacement.
It was not good.
Despite my delight at rediscovering old live-music shows in a trunk full of cassettes and records, I became frustrated pretty quickly at the clunky-ness of those old mediums. Let alone trying to locate the album, tape or CD I actually wanted to listen to.
Now, if the reverse had happened and it was our stereo that caught fire, I’m pretty sure I would have swiftly stepped into the new world where I’m able to select any song, album or playlist with the swipe of a finger and instantly have exactly the music I want, for as many hours as I want.
I recently learned something that surprised me about a different type of old medium—microfiche and microfilm—that affects nearly every industry. Aside from the growing recognition that the process to store, find and print records retained on fiche or film is not keeping up with the benefits of storing them digitally, aging microfiche and microfilm readers are putting organizations at risk. Antiquated parts are increasingly hard to find, and when a machine goes down, it can be weeks before it’s back up and running. This is a real concern when your business is serving people who need access to those critical documents.
To learn more about this, I reached out to one of our Imaging Services customers, Cynthia McCurtis, membership supervisor at the Michigan Education Association (MEA). The organization recently moved away from fiche and converted millions of images to PDF to be able to service its members as quickly as possible.
Here’s what McCurtis had to say about working with fiche in an increasingly digital age, where instant fulfillment is the new norm.
Can you give me a little background?
Michigan Education Association has served its members over 150 years. We have more than 100,000 members and dozens of field offices serving them throughout the state. As you can imagine, we have a lot of archives, including our membership forms. When a member submits a membership form to their local office, we have a process that gets those forms—legal contracts between the member and MEA—here to headquarters where they are stored.
I can’t overstate the need for being able to produce those forms in a timely manner when needed. …[T]imely document retrieval is critical to us for member service.
What was your process like to retrieve documents from fiche?
For many, many years we kept the forms here in paper form and then we went to fiche. It was a very manual, time consuming process to find those documents, and that is putting it delicately. There was only one microfiche machine. And then one day we couldn’t print anymore because we ran out of toner. We found out they weren’t making the cartridge any longer.
And now? What is the process like since those fiche records were converted to PDF?
Now, we have all of the converted information banked in a shared, secure electronic area so instead of one person having to go and physically retrieve it from fiche, when we get a request, it goes to our departmental mailbox. Whoever in the department gets to it first just goes to the shared area, searches by folder, then by year, and in minutes we can say – “Got it.” We send that information electronically back to the member in email, so it saves so much time. We’ve been getting so much wonderful feedback.
Going to digital for these records made us a much more efficient organization, and that is so important. Especially when you are service oriented and your revenue stream comes from your members. If we’re not spending time finding those forms on micro fiche, we’re able to service our members better. People want to get their request taken care of as soon as possible.
It’s kind of the same with the replacement for our kitchen music. We are back up and running with a digital speaker that—while not wireless—allows me to find what I need in seconds, and not become frustrated by the process. I can happily do the important things—like bringing my family together every Sunday for dinner.