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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 3 years ago

Longboat records go digital

Longboat staff have been digitizing and shredding all of the town's new and old records to save time and space.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

The thousands of decades-old town documents that line the walls of a stuffy room in the back of Town Hall may soon be unnecessary.

That’s because for about five months, Longboat Key has undertaken an ambitious effort to catalog all of these records — and any new ones that it creates — digitally, scanning each page into a database it hopes to one day make available for easy public access, said Town Clerk Trish Granger.

“That’s the way of the future, everybody is digitizing,” Granger said.

It all began in May with the building division in the Planning, Zoning and Building Department, where it started scanning permits and contractor information, said IT Director Jason Keen.

From there, the Finance Department started digitizing invoice documents, and the Town Clerk’s office began downloading all its cataloged agreements, contracts, minutes, agendas and ordinances, Keen said.

“The storage of paper was not only becoming costly, it was a waste of space, and it was hard to find documents,” Keen said.

Laura Adams, a part-time administrative assistant in the Town Clerk’s office, is one of the employees who spends hours flipping through old documents and scanning them, at most, 60 at a time.

Adams comes into Town Hall every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to sit at a desk in front of two computer screens, a keyboard and a Canon digital scanner. It’s part of her job to digitize the contents of folders from the records room, some dating back more than 40 years.

With the touch of a button, her digital scanner whirls into action passing sheets of paper through its machinery one-by-one, reading each individual word and sending the information it gathers to a records-management program on her computer called Laserfiche. The software organizes each digital sheet of paper by year, month or document type, Keen said.

But it’s not always correct.

That’s where Adams comes in. She reads each file to ensure it’s named appropriately, adjusts any images that were scanned improperly and cross references them with the physical copies to make sure the documents were imported completely.

When she’s finished with a file, Adams reorganizes the papers in the manila folder she found them in and marks it with a new identification sticker: “Digitized.”

Administrative Assistant Laura Adams spends countless hours in the town's records room.

“I enjoy it,” Adams said of her work. “It’s going to be perfect someday.”

All of these paper files will eventually be shredded, for the digital file is considered official town record, Keen said. He said the new cataloging system gives town employees the ability to label each document with specific categories, or metadata, like keywords such as “undergrounding,” invoice numbers or addresses.

That means that instead of searching through paper files for a building contract referencing The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, a town employee can search for any document about the resort within seconds.

Although the database is only available to town employees, Keen said he is hoping it will go public sometime next year. He said the project is approximately 20% complete, and will take about two years to finish. Parts of the digitized documents could be available to the public sometime next year.

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