Don’t Attempt a Microfilm or Microfiche Scanning Project on Your Own—Here’s Why

by | Dec 16, 2019

Libraries and other organizations have significant collections of historical data stored on microfilm and microfiche. These systems have long been considered ideal for their durability over decades, even centuries. But with digital scanning now becoming much faster and more cost efficient, organizations are reconsidering how they store their historical data. But what are the costs and considerations of a microfiche and microfilm scanning project, and what does the process involve? In this new post, we’ll explore the benefits of a microfiche scanning service vs. trying to complete such a project on your own.

Why Outsourced Scanning Is More Cost-Effective

Many companies consider taking on the microfilm or microfiche scanning process in-house. This is likely not the ideal solution for your organization for the following reasons:

  • Equipment Costs: The equipment costs alone are a key reason to outsource the project. Microfilm scanning equipment can run well into the thousands of dollars.
  • Training: Your staff will have to be trained to use the scanning equipment. And one small error during the scanning process can not only set the process back several days, but could also damage the film.
  • High-Volume Work: Specialized vendors can complete a higher volume of scanning work than you might be able to achieve within your own offices.

Factors Affecting the Price of Scanning

So, if you make the smart choice of not attempting a large-scale scanning project on your own, a number of factors will impact the total cost of outsourcing the project—all should be considered when assessing feasibility.

Type of Film

Generally, there are two types of microfilm, and each has different specifications and costs for conversion.

  • 35mm: 35mm microfilm is provided in 100-foot rolls and used when larger frames are required due to large source documents such as newspapers, engineering drawings, or architectural drawings.
  • 16mm: 16mm microfilm comes in rolls of 100 and 215 feet long and is widely used for office documents or A4-sized financial records.

Number of Rolls

The number of rolls to be converted is another major factor in the cost of scanning microfilm. Most companies charge a per-roll fee—an important consideration for a large scanning project.

Many firms will offer a discount rate for high-volume projects. Especially if budget is a concern, consider the per-roll price before agreeing to the project. Bear in mind it’s far more cost-effective to scan a large number of rolls at once. Doing it stages just doesn’t make financial sense—you’ll definitely pay more per-roll with separate, smaller batches.

Condition of Microfiche Materials

Microfilm is a delicate material and must be kept in a controlled environment designed for such storage. If you’ve been unable to maintain the proper storage environment, you might have to repair the microfilm or microfiche before it is scannable. This additional work will add to the total cost of your project.

Indexing the Data

One of the biggest benefits of the digitization of data is it become searchable—but only if the data is competently indexed during the scanning stage. Adding searchable metadata to a scan makes data easier to search and discover. However, it requires extra time and will likely add to the total cost of the project.

Storage and Delivery Needs

One further consideration is the storage and delivery needs for the digital files resulting from a scanning project. Many companies choose to migrate their digitized microfilm and microfiche data to a secure cloud-hosted online portal that allows key stakeholders direct access to the data. The total cost for this type of storage may depend on the level of security required and the style of cloud storage used.

Who Does the Work Matters a Lot!

Working with a trusted, experienced scanning service provider can help ensure your microfiche and microfilm content is digitized with exceptional clarity and quality…and that the data is migrated into a useful form for the digital era.