Scanning Records - Should I Scan?

Guidance on scanning records.


Scanning Records - Should I Scan?

Like their paper counterparts, electronic records must be authentic, reliable, have integrity, and be usable regardless of the file format or the media on which they are recorded. An 'original' is not automatically regarded as better evidence than a copy, including those made and kept by electronic means. However, the value of a record as evidence will depend on how reliably it has been created and maintained. 

Before beginning a records scanning project, RIMS recommends that you consider this Scanning Decision Tree to decide if scanning is the right choice for your records.  There are many questions to consider before making your decision and we've included some below:

  1. Can the files be disposed of now? If the files have no further operational value, they may be eligible for disposal and unnecessary to scan. Non-records can be disposed of without State approval. To request State approval to dispose of records or for more information, please contact RIMS.
  2. Are the files being scanned primarily to save space? Storage costs in a commercial records center generally are far less than the cost to scan a large volume of files, even for very long-term storage of over 100 years. In addition, State approval is required to dispose of original records in favor of digital surrogates. The process to receive approval for a new scanning process can take 6-12 months or longer.
  3. Will the files be infrequently accessed or accessed for less than 5 years? If the files are not regularly accessed or will be eligible for disposal within a few years, it is not likely to be worth the cost to scan the files.
  4. Are there fewer than 100 pages to scan?  Small scans are often just for convenience and can be accomplished with little risk using existing resources in between regular duties. 
  5. Does the historic, disaster recovery, or business value exceed the cost to scan? The use of scanning to preserve multiple, geographically redundant copies of at risk historical or business critical records as part of business continuity planning may be appropriate to protect against disasters, water, fire, theft, pests, and other threats. Costs to prepare files for scanning such as removal of staples, creation of cover sheets, and formatting irregularly shaped documents affect the cost of scanning, however. Long-term digital preservation factors such as file format obsolescence must also be considered. In addition, duplicate copies may already exist in electronic or paper form and limit the need for scanning.
  6. Is access needed rapidly, remotely, or by multiple people simultaneously?  Electronic access is often the best method for fast retrieval, full text search capabilities, and cross-reference metadata. Indexing costs increase as metadata is increased, however. Access can often be extended to distributed locations for “in the field” use. Collaboration is also enhanced by electronic access.


Below is a list of examples of records that may be appropriate for scanning either because they have enduring or archival value or because a digital image of the records will help streamline business operations.  

YES: Records that have operational value:

    • Financial records such as requisitions, purchase orders, invoices, bank data, and ledgers or journals  

YES but Seek Help: Records that have enduring or archival value:

    • Meeting minutes and proceedings
    • Student transcripts, theses and dissertations
    • Lists of officers of the University 
    • Historical files documenting policies, decisions, committee and task force reports, and questionnaires 
    • Personal papers of students, faculty, and staff which relate to the university's work
    • Administrative records such as correspondence, reports, policy statements and related items sent and received 
    • Minutes of all University boards, committees and other groups  
    • Publications and other items issued by the University  

MAYBE but Seek Help: Records that may have enduring or archival value:

    • Unit policy and procedure manuals
    • Office files including correspondence and memoranda (incoming and outgoing)
    • Subject files concerning projects, activities, functions, and the unit's relationships with student, professional, and community organizations 

Records having enduring or archival value have special requirements regarding their digitization and should not be scanned by units without first consulting with the appropriate University Archivist for guidance.

Units should also contact the appropriate University Archivist prior to scanning any materials where the age, physical attributes or the content of the records (due to unique nature, comprehensiveness or other factors) might contribute to the records’ enduring or archival value.


Additional resources: Should I Scan? Decision Tree 

Have a question that isn't answered here or need more specialized guidance? Please contact us!

Records and Information Management Services 


Urbana Office: Rm. 450 HAB M/C 359

Chicago Office: AOB B11, M/C 817

Keywordsscanning, records management, AITS   Doc ID92902
OwnerMargaret N.GroupUniversity of Illinois System
Created2019-07-08 10:01:32Updated2023-08-21 15:20:43
SitesUniversity of Illinois System
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