Guidelines for Federal Records Management Offer Best Practices for All Record Digitization

As the federal government moves to implement the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) rules for digitizing documents for long-term record keeping, state governments and commercial entities can reap the benefits by using NARA guidelines as best practices.

As one of only 34 contractors certified in NARA-Compliant Digitization Services for Federal Records on the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS), TDEC already uses these best practices, reflecting the professionalism and quality we provide to all customers needing digitization.

NARA’s processes for project planning and quality control drive high accuracy combined with metadata and formatting that make it easy to search and retrieve files—the desired outcome for every digitization project.

Project Planning

Best practices require planning before starting the actual digitization work. By defining a clear objective and the resources needed for success before launching into full production, TDEC uses planning to help control costs and lower risk.

NARA requires that the project plan define:

  • The records: volume, type, estimated date range, and condition
  • Indexing and metadata requirements
  • Digitization process
  • Digitization parameters such as black and white or greyscale vs. color, file format, and required dots per inch (DPI)
  • Quality management
  • Project risks and mitigation strategies
  • Equipment needed

NARA defines the required file formats for federal records. For commercial projects, TDEC works with our clients to recommend the best format, depending on their goals. Considerations include:

  • Intended use of the images: Will the images be referenced or kept ‘just in case?’
  • Desired Image Quality
  • File Storage Capacity
  • Metadata Requirements
  • Security and Encryption Needs

Quality Assurance

To avoid errors, it’s imperative to be proactive about quality. NARA recommends creating a Quality Management Plan, which defines the Quality Assurance (QA), Quality Control (QC), and Quality Improvement (QI) practices used. QA focuses on preventing quality departures by establishing digital specifications and requirements, along with a QC process to test and inspect defects.

QA also emphasizes pre-process testing, including equipment conformance and validation.

At TDEC, we perform a digitization pilot or “test” to inform our quality planning. By digitizing a small set of documents before we go into full production, we establish the nuances of each project and provide a concrete example of our work. The pilot also allows the customer to make any necessary changes before full production, ensuring we have the right people, processes, and technology needed for success.

Quality Control and Improvement

QC testing is an essential part of the NARA guidelines. Using a technique to sample the files randomly, TDEC can determine the quality of our work against the scale defined in the QA plan. NARA recommends reviewing at least 10 files or 10% of each batch, whichever is greater. Additionally, we build QC testing into each step of our digitization process, ensuring errors are caught in real time. If a quality departure is identified during QC testing, we will re-work the files to ensure all deliverables meet quality standards.

The results of QC tests help improve the digitization process. Using the information gathered during testing, we identify the root cause of the issue and fine-tune the processes to minimize the risk of future errors.

Measurable Results

With decades of experience, we know that focusing on quality reduces costs and promotes the exceptional 99.95% accuracy results TDEC achieves. We encourage anyone considering record digitization to talk with TDEC about our services and learn more about the recent NARA rule. With planning and attention to quality, the records digitized today can last forever.

July 2, 2024