Automating the Preservation of Records
The City of La Mesa was formed in 1912 by a group of pioneering Californians in a rural area centrally located in the rolling hills of San Diego County and is known as the Jewel of the Hills. With a one-hundred year history and a population of nearly 60,000 residents, the City of La Mesa has undergone a significant transformation.
As a City with a long history, one of the biggest challenges was the preservation and availability of historical city documents, some of which dated back 100 years. La Mesa was using a decades old filing system that required many cross-references to locate records. Additionally, the integrity of the paper documents was compromised each time they were retrieved.
When the City Clerk became aware of Laserfiche as a viable solution to manage the city’s documents, they turned to ECS Imaging for assistance. In 1998 we installed and configured a 2-user Laserfiche system that would enable the city to store, archive, and easily retrieve not only historical records but current documents as well. La Mesa was one of the first cities in San Diego County to acquire a Laserfiche system.
After ECS upgraded their system to Avante in 2013, the city expanded their usage by adding additional modules and us-ers. The system is now comprised of an Avante Server, 15 full access users, Distributed Computing Cluster, Web Access (secure access to Laserfiche via a web browser), Import Agent (monitors and automatically pulls documents from a net-work folder into Laserfiche), Plus Plug-in (for archiving and sharing documents) Quick Fields, and Zone OCR (for auto-mating data capture).
Laserfiche is currently being used by the City Clerk’s Office, the Community Development Department and the Engi-neering Department. The Engineering Department has integrated Laserfiche with their GIS system.
The Engineering Department also uses Quick Fields Zone OCR to locate and read information from a predefined zone or region on the maps/drawings which is then used to automatically populate index fields on the document template. In the image below, the street name is extracted from the drawing and automatically inserted into the index field with the name “Street”.
This is accomplished by creating a box around the information to be extracted. Since the information always appears in the same location on the drawing this can be done for all drawings without having to reconfigure the process in any way.
The City is now moving forward with a comprehensive records management plan that addresses the City-wide need for policies and procedures that would improve access to records. With that, there are several projects in the works that involve the expanded use of Laserfiche. The Engineering Department wants to speed up the process of getting maps and drawings into the repository along with indexing. The Community Development Department is looking into the most cost effective way of getting building plans, permits, project files, and microfiche documents into Laserfiche. And the Clerk’s Office is inputting City Council agenda packets starting from 2010 to present.
What Laserfiche has done for the city is reduce the amount of time staff spend retrieving documents. It has freed up staff time to accomplish other needs for the city. Additionally, it has become somewhat of a standard to have documents avail-able electronically and being able to respond to document requests via email has become a common expectation by the public. Laserfiche makes it a lot easier to do that.
When implementing your Laserfiche Document Management System, “Have a plan first”, said Nancy Neufeld, Deputy City Clerk for La Mesa, “where do you want to invest the time to maximize the return”? Make sure you are imaging the records according to an adopted policy adhering to records management principals. She recommends knowing what and why the records should be in your repository, avoid duplication or records, customize the tools available in the suite of products that Laserfiche offers to suit your organization’s needs, and above all, “train, train, and train your staff”, she added.
“ECS is a great company to work with”, said Nancy. “Our account reps are very responsive and their support staff has an amazing wealth of technical knowledge”.