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Author: Alan Kong
Since 2013, PROV has conducted a number of surveys to determine the volumes, locations and costs of physical records storage held by Victorian Government agencies and within commercial storage facilities.
Although our research is ongoing, there are already some emerging observations we can share.
The growth of physical records is not in decline
Despite the increasing efforts to digitise, we are still seeing a steady growth in the storage of physical records. In fact, we estimate Victorian Government to hold around 800km of records, costing millions of dollars each year in storage costs.
We also hear anecdotal evidence as to why agencies aren’t carrying out much records disposal. One example is because of the high upfront cost of destroying a standard archive box of records stored in a commercial facility, which is equivalent to the cost of one year of storage (of that same archival box).
However, implementing a disposal program not only ensures the agency fulfill its record-keeping obligations, but in the long term will actually save money, and reduce administrative burden and growth of physical records.
Digitised and source paper records are being unnecessarily stored at the same time
Another agency shared with us that in many instances, after the completion of a digitisation project, the source paper record and the digitised record are both stored by the agency.
Not only does this create a disincentive for the agency to conduct further digitisation projects, it also creates further administrative burden. At times, there are legitimate reasons to do this, such as the source paper record has value as a physical artefact or there is a requirement imposed upon the agency to keep the records in a particular format. However, in many instances, there is some confusion as to when the source records can be disposed of after conversion to another format.
According to PROS 10/01 G1 Guide to the GDA for converted Source Records, it is advisable for agencies to gain experience on low risk conversions before attempting large scale high risk conversions.
It is likely you will need to build a business case to gain endorsement and resources for your digitisation and storage projects. PROV has a useful Writing a Business Case Guideline which can be used to present your case and to seek endorsement and funding to a particular project or initiative.