Scanner cuts small town paper problems
Windsor, Conn., a town of 28,000, had the same paper problems many municipalities face. Stacks of documents piled on people’s desks and town workers searched for minutes from long-forgotten council meetings. As long as all those minutes, legal opinions, and other official documents were on paper, there was always the possibility of them being misplaced or damaged.
But recently, Windsor entered its paper-based documents into a computer. When it decided to undertake this project, the town did not hire an expensive outside consultant or hire extra workers, and no one worked overtime, yet the process took less than six months.
Windsor purchased a ScanJet IIcx from Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto, Calif., to convert its documents directly from paper into computer files.
“Some of these documents were pretty old,” says Gary Dowgewicz, a member of the town’s information services team. “Now we can access those documents without ever having to worry if someone will spill coffee on one.”
The software was easy to use, and the staff did not have to put titles on the documents before they filed them into the computer. “Reading through the documents to figure out what they were about would have taken too long,” says Dowgewicz, who explains the scanning software locates keywords, which are indexed by users when trying to locate relevant documents.
Each document is stored in two forms: as an image and as a text file. The text consists of all the words found in the document. This is the form of the document used to perform document searches. The image form is essentially a photocopy of the piece of paper scanned. The computer captures the letterhead and any handwritten notations that might have been made but which could not be picked up by the OCR software as text.
With some documents dating back more than 60 years, the files already comprise about 70 megabytes of storage — about the size of a dictionary — all of which can be contained on a single disk. “Putting everything on computer not only saves space,” Dowgewicz says, “but it also saves time. We can retrieve any document in seconds, which means we spend a lot less time searching for paper and a lot more time serving town residents.
“Scanners are very simple to use and can really make life a lot easier,” he says. “In these days of budget cuts, it’s nice to be able to offer solutions for improved service that also reduce expenses.”