How Digitizing Microfilm Adds to the Efficiency of Workflow

This article was written by e-ImageData President, Jim Westoby. It was published in a recent NIRMA newsletter to highlight the topic of automatic scanning for the NIRMA Annual Conference in Las Vegas last week. Westoby explains the purpose of automatic scanning and the important role it plays in microfilm research.

For years, microfilm has been the storage medium of choice for many historical documents and records. It is dependable, easy to care for, and can store a large amount of information in a very small physical space. Since the introduction of digital microfilm scanners, using microfilm has become much simpler for both heavy users of microfilm, like researchers, and the casual library patron who may have a one-time look-up. Being able to send an image directly to the printer or save it as a PDF has allowed seamless integration with the current digital age and speeds the workflow of the user.

While microfilm continues to be an important long-term storage option for data, there are instances where it’s beneficial to digitize microfilm to make it accessible to a wide audience. This is where automatic scanning comes in.

Image result for picture of automatic scanning e-imagedata

What is automatic scanning?

A digital microfilm scanner with automatic scanning capability will scan each document on a roll of microfilm systematically, image-by-image. The user only needs to load the film and set up the scanning software and the microfilm scanner does the rest. While this technology has existed for some time, and there are scanning “houses” that will do this for large bulk orders, the scanning technology has been inconsistent and often would miss images in the automatic scanning process. However, current automatic scanning software has built-in quality control that alerts users to any errors in the process. The user then can review the error and ensure that EVERY image on the roll is properly digitized and none are missed. Today, automatic scanning software exists not just for roll film and image-marked film but also for fiche. High quality, automatic scanning software on today’s microfilm scanners will scan roll film up to 55 pages per minute and even higher speeds for fiche.

What’s the benefit?

Once digitized, microfilm records exist in two places — on the roll of film for an individual user to check out and use when working with a microfilm scanner, and also in digital format. The digital format allows the information to be shared more easily between individuals and also with a larger audience. A digital record can be utilized by a small group on an intranet, or on the internet for a public audience. Also, library staff can easily email digitized historical records to patrons. In addition, the digital files are OCR compatible, allowing users to search them for particular words and subjects and can link to databases for additional information.

While microfilm remains a stable and durable way of storing historical documents, the ability to automatically scan entire rolls of microfilm gives companies and research facilities more flexibility, allowing them to share these documents with people locally and around the world.

For more information about automatic scanning or microfilm innovations visit

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