Optical Imaging: Systems and Planning

By H. R. Lange for the Colorado Preservation Alliance

Optical imaging is increasingly used as a means to manage the rapidly expanding files of paper that continue to accumulate even in this electronic age. In an imaging system a document is scanned or digitized, stored — perhaps on an optical disk, and retrieved at a workstation, with the potential to be reproduced in printed form. Imaging technologies are constantly being developed and improved, and a number of journals regularly report on this progress. Technical details and developments are frequently included in journals such as: Byte, Datamation, PC Magazine, PC World, and Computerworld. Examples of how imaging systems are used may be found in: INFORM, Records Management Quarterly, Library Hi Tech, and the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, as well as in other business-related journals. The following is only a sampling of the current, non-technical literature available on the subject.

Ash, Neville. “Document Image Processing: Who Needs It?” Accountancy 108 (August 1991):80-82.

Ashe describes a DIP (document image processing) system, which consists of a scanner, workstation, high-resolution display, server, optical disk, and laser printer.

Attinger, Monique L. “Imaging Systems and Records Management.” Records Management Quarterly 24 (Jan. 1990):9-11.

How do you decide if you need an imaging system? First you must have, use, and retain a high volume of paper documents, and second you must be aware of the potential legal problems in using imaged documents. Benefits of imaging systems include improved security and access.

Black, David. “Is On-Line Enough?” INFORM 6(January 1992):10, 12-13, 47.

Imaging systems allow documents to be retrieved on-line, but Black notes there are several types of retrieval that vary in access speed and cost. They are: on-line, near-line, far-line and off-line access. He notes: “you can pay the price you want to pay if only you’ll accept slower response

Clark, John M. “Using Image Scanners to Create and Access Electronically Stored Documents.” Records Management Quarterly 25(July 1991): 9-10, 12-13, 16.

Clark reviews use of scanners in document creation and access for: code scanning, image scanning or bit-mapping, and optical character recognition. He also touches on legal issues surrounding use of scanned images, and notes their role in preserving originals.

Courtot, Marilyn E. “Electronic Imaging Standards: A Status Check.” INFORM 5(October 1991): 32-36.

This article, based on Courtot’s testimony at hearings on the proposed IRS electronic imaging system, provides a summary of present standards in electronic imaging, including: image character recognition, scanning, image compression, imaged document management, optical disks,
permanence of data on optical disks, and legal admissibility of such records.

Gnerre, William. “The Scanning Process.” International Journal of Micrographics & Optical Technology 10 (no. 1, 1992):5-10.

Gnerre presents a brief overview of the scanning process, including discussion of the feeding mechanism, the camera, conversion, scanner interface, and image enhancement.

Goodman, K. Allison. “Turning Toys into Tools.” Records Management Quarterly 25(October 1991):28-31.

Before adopting an imaging system, a business must consider impact on the work environment as well as on customer service, and seek specifics from a vendor. Vendors should provide information on: Cost, processing methodology, document management, potential for a pilot project, ability to produce needed applications, product services, and training. among the benefits of imaging are: increased access speed, simultaneous document use, no need for copies, multiple task processing, convenient printing or faxing, quality unaffected by use, restricted access, audit trails, and saves space.

Greenhalgh, Howard N. Mary S. Nelson. “Imagery Storage Counters Growing Paper Avalanche.” Signal 46(Feb.1992):45-47.

This overview of the scanning/imaging process stresses the need for planning in order to integrate imaging into an organization, and covers the basics of scanning, compressed images, indexing, and storage.

Harer, John B. and Rachel Robbins. “OCR Technology and Imaging Hardware and Software: A Selected Annotated Bibliography.” Library Hi-Tech Bibliography, v.5. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Pierian Press, 1990. pp.137-144.

Harer and Robbins include articles (1987-1989) dealing with automatic identification (bar codes, OCR, optical scanning), and image processing (hardware, software, page and text recognition systems), and list selected journals that frequently have information on the technologies.

Hawk, Kathleen. “When Paper-Handling Jobs Go Away.” INFORM 6(February 1992):18-21.

Once you begin imaging documents, not only will the way you access materials change, but personnel needs will be altered as well. Hawk address some of the staff changes that may result from adoption of this new technology.

Leavitt, Judith A. “CD-ROM: Applications, Standards, and Technology, Part V.” Library Hi-Tech Bibliography, v.6. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Pierian Press, 1991. pp. 271.

In this annotated bibliography, Leavitt includes articles on current applications of CD-ROM, evolving standards, and the technology itself.

Lesk, Michael. “Image Formats for Preservation and Access.” Washington: Commission on Preservation and Access, 1991.

This report summarizes several preservation alternatives: deacidification, microformat, digital imaging, and ASCII conversion. Lesk also mentions the various types of storage media: magnetic disk, optical WORM, digital video tape, digital audio tape, conventional magnetic tape, CD-ROM, magneto-optical erasable disk, and digital papers. Information on comparative costs of various approaches to preservation is also included.

Lynch, Clifford A. and Lois F. Lunin, eds. “Perspectives on. . . Imaging Advanced Applications.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science 42(September 1991):576-620.

This collection of articles presents background information on imaging systems and examples of selected applications. Articles include: Technologies of Electronic Imaging (CA. Lynch); Information Retrieval of More than Text (M. K.Buckland); Imaging Fine Arts (H. Besser); A User’s Application of Imaging Techniques: The University of Maryland Historic Textile Database (C.S. Anderson); Computer Human Interaction for Image Information Systems (D.V. Beard); Virtual Reality Advanced Imaging Special Effects Let You Roam in Cyberspace (W.R. Nugent);
Whither Cyberspace? (J. Romkey).

Newcombe, Tod. “Will the IRC Build the Largest Imaging System Ever?” INFORM 6(March 1992):14-16, 18-19.

Plans are underway at the IRS to convert tax returns to an image and image character recognition (ICR) system. While the system will be costly to implement, the main benefit will be improved productivity and response time.

Phillips, John T. “Fields, Text, and Images.” Records Management Quarterly 25(October 1991):48, 50, 52, 62.

Phillips reviews the available automated systems now used in records management: traditional computer file systems; full text files and retrieval; and image files. He notes the importance of planning to determine if imaging is appropriate prior to adopting such a system.

Sherron, Gene. “Imaging Systems: An Overview of Management.” Educom Review 27(January/7 February 1992) 34-38.

Imaging systems are in use at: Florida’s Dept-of Education for public school teacher certification documents; the University of Southern California for admissions records; the United Services Automobile Association for incoming mail and Florida’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System for fingerprint images. Following these examples, Sherron provides a brief overview of the imaging process and the components of an imaging system: optical disks, image-display workstations, printers, image management systems, and computers–mainframes and servers. He also notes cost ranges, touches on legal issues, and mentions several vendors in the imaging business.

Skupsky, Donald S. “Legality of Optical Disk: An Update” Records Management Quarterly 24(July 1990) 46, 48, 50-52.

Skupsky categorizes the legal issues involved in use of optical records systems as: admissibility in evidence; submission to government agencies; use by government agencies; and law in countries outside the U.S. Included are excerpts from recent laws regarding optical disk records in
Missouri, Loliisiana, and Virginia.

Waters, Donald J. “From Microfilm to Digital Imagery.” Washington: Commission on Preservation and Access, 1991.

This report from the Yale University Library comments on the feasibility of converting library materials now preserved on microfilm to a digital format. Waters presents information on digital imaging, as well as on the proposed plan for their project to convert 10,000 volumes to digital

Wing, Patricia and James F. Van Hecke. “The Optical Disk Solution.” Personnel Journal 70(April 1991):92, 94-96.

Using the Los Alamos National Laboratory as their example, the authors describe the planning process in developing a request for bids for an optical disk system. Important considerations were: the vendor’s technical excellence, single-vendor responsibility, basic and optional features, currently availability of equipment and system components, interconnectivity with existing system, ability to read a variety of typefaces, scanner flexibility, speed, system training, disk life, and a test demonstration of the pilot system.

From: Colorado Preservation Alert, June 1992, Vol 2, No. 2