Insight by Kodak Alaris

Understanding FADGI: What agencies need to know in the shift away from paper records

Agencies, in an effort to reduce storage space and improve access to documents, are taking steps to wean themselves off paper records.

The closure of agency facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need to make critical federal records available in a digital format.

Even before the pandemic, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Office of Management set goals for agencies to phase out paper as part of their records management procedures.

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Benefits of the Digitization of Records

“The whole standardization is to really keep everybody on a very consistent scale, in terms of how documents are scanned and retained.”
- Joe Odore, global portfolio marketing manager, Kodak Alaris

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FADGI Best Practices

“When you have it digitized and accessible in a system, you can have information at your fingertips in a matter of seconds, as opposed to a matter of minutes, hours, day or even weeks.”
- Joe Odore, global portfolio marketing manager, Kodak Alaris

Agencies, in an effort to reduce storage space and improve access to documents, are taking steps to wean themselves off paper records.

The closure of agency facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need to make critical federal records available in a digital format.

Even before the pandemic, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Office of Management set goals for agencies to phase out paper as part of their records management procedures.

Under M-19-21, NARA and OMB are requiring agencies to convert all new permanent records to an electronic format.

By the end of this year, NARA will no longer accept paper records from agencies for permanent archiving.

Joe Odore, the global portfolio marketing manager for Kodak Alaris, said agencies will see significant benefits by shifting to electronic records.

“Digitization really removes the dependency on paper in general. Older processes require storage, and trying to retain paper is a challenge. One, it requires space. Two, if you need to retrieve data, it’s very inefficient to retrieve data when it’s in paper form. Most documents will end up in a filing cabinet and somebody has to walk up to a filing cabinet and try and search for documents,” Odore said.

Electronic documents, such as invoices or contracts, are easier to search or reference. Odore said they’re also easier to share or send.

“When you have it digitized and accessible in a system, you can have information at your fingertips in a matter of seconds, as opposed to a matter of minutes, hours, day or even weeks,” he said.

In meeting the goals under M-19-21, agencies have a series of standards to follow, to ensure they’re preserving documents in their original state.

OMB and the Library of Congress in 2007 created Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative, a set of standards agencies should follow when it comes to scanning, processing and cleaning up digital scans of hard-copy records.

“The whole standardization is to really keep everybody on a very consistent scale, in terms of how documents are scanned and retained,” Odore said.

FADGI includes standards for text and still images, as well as audio-visual materials, and include a four-star system to evaluate how accurately a scanner can create an exact replica of hard-copy documents.

“It’s all about keeping documents in their true original state … There may be stamps, special watermarks, little tidbits of information. Most scanners try and filter that information out, or look at it as an artifact it tries to remove, because it doesn’t really flow well with the pure image quality of having really readable text. But when it comes to permanent archiving, that information might be key to that document, so you don’t want to lose that in terms of a permanent archive,” Odore said.

NARA and OMB, under M-19-21, are directing agencies to maintain a FADGI three-star level of preservation for permanent records archived by NARA.

“It doesn’t have [to be a] pure photogenic reproduction, but it’s really designed to make sure that the text is readable and the background is in its original state,” Odore said.

Because FADGI upholds a high standard for controlling image quality, Odore said it also affects the productivity of document scanners.

“What would normally be fed at 100 pages-per-minute could actually be reduced down to 80 pages-per-minute, because there are so many different things that need to be done on the hardware side to support that. It’s key for efficiency to use a sheet-feed scanner that can scan in volumes, but also optimizing the image quality within the device to stay within those specifications,” he said.

Once a physical record – such as a book, manuscript, map or photographic print – has been scanned, agencies under FADGI still have to manage the storage of these digital files.

Agencies should keep permanent records uncompressed, but for everyday public or interagency use, Odore said agencies need to compress those files so that they’re easier to transmit and share.

“While there may be some loss in data, although not physical noticeable to the human eye, there are things that will get removed in there. And that’s ideal for day-to-day use or image accessibility via different systems,” he said.

  • Joseph Odore

    Global Portfolio Marketing Manager, Kodak Alaris

  • Jory Heckman

    Reporter, Federal News Network