Since we have been in the microfilm recording, scanning and printing business for nearly 40 years, our interest in microfilm and its viability is constantly on our minds. Tameran recently conducted a survey of Ohio county and state officials to gather information regarding the current use of microfilm within government. The microfilm survey results are described below and summarized in our infographic.

The Role of Microfilm

Tameran was built by filling a need to disseminate and share information more readily, especially in the construction and architectural realm where, at the time, there was no digital system for publishing and distributing documents. For decades microfilm was not only an easier way to store and share engineering and technical documents, but documents and records that are critical to our country’s history and infrastructure as well.

Today, as we know, things have changed. Microfilm still exists, yet plays a different role. No longer is microfilm the most widely recognized method for distributing information; digital has long taken over. Yet, the reputation of microfilm as the safest method for preserving critical documents remains in tack.

Microfilm Survey Results

We wanted to see if actual practices matched with current perceptions of microfilm and its place in protecting information, most especially vital records that are crucial to present and future business applications or personal transactions. According to the results of our survey, microfilm is alive and kicking. Not only did the survey reveal that microfilm is still being recorded for preservation purposes by the majority of Ohio government organizations, but it is still referenced frequently with projected long-term use anticipated. Our findings have been summarized in the following infographic and can be downloaded below.

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2015 Microfilm Use in Ohio Government Survey Infographic

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Key Findings from Microfilm Survey

Key points about microfilm usage among Ohio county and state government offices include:

  1. Approximately 70 % of responding county organizations currently uses microfilm to preserve vital records.
  2. All responding county government organizations that are currently recording critical documents on microfilm plan to continue for the foreseeable future. 54 % indicated continuing anywhere from 4+ years to forever in the future. The remaining 46 % indicated continuing until the law changes, as long as microfilm is considered permanent or until digital storage is guaranteed to be permanent.
  3. All responding county government organizations reference microfilm either daily, weekly, monthly or annually with 60 % accessing them on a daily or weekly basis.
  4. Fifty-nine percent of respondents make two copies of microfilm to be stored either internally or at a third-party storage facility. Of those making two copies, the microfilm is usually stored in two locations.
  5. Although 83 % of organizations reported maintaining digital files, microfilm is also accessed and referenced internally on a frequent basis.
  6. The majority (58%) of microfilmed documents are also available online in a digital format.
  7. Fifteen percent of counties in Ohio are relying exclusively on redundant digital servers to preserve vital records.

Implications for our Future

Understanding the practical choice of microfilm as a preservation safeguard for critical records is important for the microfilm industry, all levels of government, and many industries including manufacturing, construction and utilities as well as the population as a whole. Although the survey was directed to Ohio government, it can be assumed that results are similar in county and state government organizations throughout the country.

For a large percentage of government organizations, the requirement to comply with government mandates drives the necessity for microfilm; an eye-readable, analog format. The fragile nature of digital documents due to the reoccurrence of cloud hacking, security breaches and problems with technical migration is evidence for the necessity of microfilm now and well into the future. Permanent land records, plat maps, probate records and legal documents, to name a few, are all pertinent to a properly functioning society. If paper or digital documents are lost or ruined, fundamental infrastructure and operations can become jeopardized.

For official or vital records, a hybrid solution to document management can provide a cost effective and practical solution. Basically, digitize and store for reference access in a digital world and microfilm for long term preservation or safekeeping. Government organizations, whether at the federal, state or local level, and businesses that use documents long term, should have a plan for disaster preparedness that includes microfilm stored in an off-site location. The the vast majority of our respondents believe that microfilm is the best way to preserve and safeguard user-readable official and/or vital records.

The good news is that it is relatively inexpensive to integrate a process for microfilm creation at the same time documents are processed for digital access.

Are your critical documents preserved on microfilm? Or are they only stored digitally or on paper? Let us know by commenting below.

Who We Surveyed

The majority of survey respondents was from Ohio county government and affiliated with the office of County Recorder or Common Pleas Courts. Half of respondents held the titles of County Recorder, County Auditor or Clerk of Courts.

For the full report, you are invited to download: A Report on the Current and Future Use of Microfilm in State and County Government—Ohio.