Boone County Considers Spending Tax Dollars on Microfilm

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BOONE COUNTY - Boone County Commissioners considered a proposal Tuesday that may cost taxpayers nearly $9,000.

The Boone County Recorder's Office asked the commission for money to purchase a microfilm viewer and scanner. The technology seems outdated, but Boone County Recorder Bettie Johnson said it is the only equipment that meets archival standards. Because certain records must be kept indefinitely by law, documents from as far back as 1820 are kept on microfilm. 

Johnson explained that the microfilm is kept offsite in Pennsylvania and Kansas, and the purchase of the equipment will allow for a "disaster backup." If something were to happen to the physical documents in Boone County, the Recorder's office could retrieve the microfilm versions of the documents, and recover the lost data using the microfilm scanner. 

In the long term, the Recorder's office hopes to use the scanner as part of a "back conversion" process, to convert microfilm records to their online database. The current database only goes back a few decades, and Johnson said the previous imaging process can be expanded through the use of microfilm technology. 

Johnson said that because the technology for consumer use changes, like from cassette to compact disc to iPod, having an archival system such as microfilm allows the records to be kept for much longer without falling victim to changing times.

Librarian Karen Witt said the microfilm archives are an asset to county record keeping.

"With a medium like microfilm and microfiche, these formats are stable. They can last up to five hundred years if they're taken care of properly, and no matter how technology changes, all you need is magnification and a light source, and you can look at your documents," Witt said.

Tuesday was the first time commissioners heard the proposal. The issue will be discussed again Thursday, July 18.