TECHNOLOGY/System eases city’s document archival, retrieval
Duluth, Minn., was mired in paper. Staff members were spending a lot of time duplicating, distributing, filing and searching for documents to meet departments’ needs and residents’ requests. That changed in September 2000 when the city began rolling out an electronic archiving system that allows personnel to retrieve documents using their desktop computers.
Prior to archiving files electronically, Duluth stored many of its records on paper. Filing cabinets held hard copies of documents, while microfiche stored document images long term.
Those storage methods required staff members to search through the filing cabinets to find the appropriate paperwork and then search through the documents to find the information they needed. It could easily take 15 to 30 minutes to find a single piece of information. Documents that were stored on microfiche took an even longer period of time to access.
“We were spending far too much time and money dealing with paper and microfiche,” says Jackie Morris, manager of payroll and personnel. “But we were under the impression that an electronic solution would cost more than we could afford.”
In April 1996, Duluth personnel visited Olmsted County, Minn., to observe that city’s use of financial software. Staff members noticed how little paper Olmsted had in its offices, and they turned their attention to Olmsted’s document management system.
Returning from that visit, the finance department issued a Request for Proposals for document management software. It specified computer output to laser disk (COLD) storage and electronic archiving of reports generated on the city’s mainframe. The city also wanted to find a program that could handle scanned paper documents, such as incoming correspondence and invoices.
In May 2000, the city purchased Metaviewer software from Rochester, Minn.-based Metafile. The software has a full text search feature that allows staff to find information instantly. Users can search files by invoice number, check number, vendor name, account number or any word to find what they need.
The software has helped the city eliminate many of the paper documents that were taking up valuable storage space in their offices. “We have eliminated tons of paper that used to come in here every week that we had to put away and store,” Morris says. “Plus we can get information immediately rather than having to search through those file cabinets for the right report.”
So far, the finance, personnel, utility and fleet services departments, as well as the assessor’s and treasurer’s offices, are using the system. “The next step will be to implement the few departments that are still using microfiche,” says Robyn Schroeder, MIS manager for the city.