The Wellington City Council holds more than 10 kilometres of information in paper files, some of which date as far back as the 1840’s. Providing access to the files themselves for research was resulting in wear and damage, in some cases leading to permanent loss.
Two teams within Wellington City Council’s Information Centre – City Archives and City Records – play a key role in providing property information to support LIMs, other internal requests and public information requests.
On average, every month they provide 500+ correspondence files to the LIM team to research and gather information to go into LIM reports, 200+files are requested internally and 1200+ required to meet public requests.
Initially the Council’s focus was on improving access to LIM related material. As the City Archives and Records teams were already scanning the same material for internal purposes and for the public for Building Consent Searches, an opportunity was identified to widen the scope and take advantage of using the same platform.
Preservation of these at risk files and a desire to support online access to its information were the two key drivers for the council.
A ‘digitise once and reuse many times’ approach was agreed and approved.
In March 2015 a successful case was made to the Council’s Executive Leadership Team to establish a Digitisation Hub (DigiHub) at City Archives. Initial funding is for 5 years, recognising it will take much longer but there were two options – make a start or ignore the risk. After a formal procurement process, Desktop Imaging was selected as the partner to provide the hardware, software and process expertise with the Council providing the operating space and personnel.
The Council deliberately chose this model in order to retain the capability and knowledge in-house to deliver the service. It recognised their staff already had the knowledge and expertise around the information with the added benefit of reducing the labour cost associated with a full outsourced solution.
A Master Service Agreement was designed so all of Council can now leverage the favourable rates negotiated during the tender process for any other scanning projects or requirements. This has been utilised with HR for the scanning of the hard copy Payroll files and the Odyssey project for Accounts Payable. It has also supported the Digital Work management programme.
As the one year anniversary approaches we are already reaping tangible benefits from the “digitise once, reuse many times” model – 584 files scanned by the Digi Hub have been used in more than one LIM request.
We anticipate there will be a ‘tipping’ point in time where the reuse of already scanned files starts to make a significant difference, allowing time to focus on digitising files rarely requested.
Making a case for extending the funding for this essential service will be a high priority.