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Delaware State Laws on Optical Images


Howard Lowell, State Archivist & Records Administrator

Delaware State Archives Hall of Records

Dover, DE 19901

302-739-5318 fax: 302-739-2578

Donna Clendaniel, Records Ctr. Services Coordinator


Timothy Slavin, Information Policy & Technology Coordinator



Policy Statement and Guidelines
Policy Statement Long-TermRecords Created on
Optical Imaging Systems

This policy statement defines the requirements for maintaining records on optical imaging systems, and establishes guidelines for agencies to follow when considering application of optical imaging technologies to a records system. It specifically addresses the charge to the Department of State in 29 Delaware Code Sec. 517(c) to "make available, upon request, its standards for quality for methods and materials."


29 Delaware Code Sec. 517(a) mandates that "(a)11 custodians of public records of this State and the political subdivisions thereof, whose duty it shall be to create any public permit to be used for recording purposes, any materials or methods which do not meet the standards of quality established by the Department [of State].


This policy statement applies to all public records created as required by law by all state agencies and all county and municipal government offices for which the Department of State is required to establish records retention and disposition schedules under 29 Delaware Code Sec. 524. "Public record" is defined by 29 Delaware Code Sec. 502(a) as "any document, book, photographic image, electronic data recording, paper, sound recording or other material regardless of received pursuant to the law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any officer of employee of this State or any political subdivision thereof."

Statement of Media Standard:

State and local government officials can maintain public records with an established retention period of ten years or less using an optical imaging system, and can dispose of the originals documents scanned onto optical disks after data verification, provided that this disposition is specifically authorized by retention and disposition schedule; after filing a Destruction Notice with the State Archivist and Records Administrator [B/ARM Form RM 5]; and after receiving his signed authorization.

Public records having an established retention value of more than ten years, and that are scheduled for transfer to the State Archives, can be maintained in an optical imaging system only if the original records are retained for the duration of the established retention period either in hard copy or on microfilm that meets quality standard for microfilm established by the Department of State under authority of 29 Delaware Code Sec. 517.

To further ensure that information stored in an optical imaging system is accessible to users when required, and meets legal evidence requirements for judicial and administrative procedures, the Bureau of Archives and Records Management recommends the following practices. As with all records systems, and especially those using electronic formats, the key to admissibility in evidence is the "trustworthiness" of the information and the system and operating policies and procedures that produce it.

Active Agency Records Management Program:

To ensure the acceptance of government records as legal documents, each state agency and local government office should maintain and dispose of records --including those records maintained by optical imaging systems -- as part of the legally-acceptable records management program mandated by the Delaware Public Records Law.2 This:

Requires that every record and all reproductions of records be scheduled for retention and disposition on a B/ARM-approved Records Retention Schedule. Agency-specific schedules are written for records that are unique to a particular agency, office, or jurisdiction and list the different physical forms of each record separately (e.g. paper, magnetic tape or disk, microfilm, optical disk) as each form may have a unique period requirement. The General Schedule for State Agencies, General Schedule for School Districts, and General Schedule for Local Governments cover categories of records that are common to more than one office. These General schedules typically do not specify a particular physical format. However, the physical format should be taken into consideration when implementing these guidelines and specifically the format for retention of records with a retention period of more than ten years.

Requires that retention and disposition procedures are carried out systematically as part of "the regular course of business."

Requires maintenance of documentation that supports development and implementation of retention schedules in each agency or office.

Requires regular disposition of records when approved retention periods have expired, either through records destruction or transfer utilizing B/ARM destruction and transfer request procedures.

Other Legal Considerations:

The Delaware Freedom of Information Act requires that data in optical imaging systems be maintained so that it is available for public access, unless the information is specifically restricted. State agencies and local government offices should adopt procedures that protect restricted records in optical imaging systems from unauthorized access, ensure the integrity of all data that the optical imaging system holds, and allow for access to records open for public inspection consistent with this mandate.

Selection and Use of Optical Systems:

Optical storage systems require hardware (equipment) and software (computer programs) to retrieve and translate information into a human-readable format. Because the optical storage medium is not permanent, and because hardware and software evolve regularly, state agencies and local government offices must select an appropriate system based on specific information/operational needs and operate it in a manner that allows retention and retrieval of information from the system over time as hardware and software change, technology enhancements come "on-line," and optical disks physically deteriorate.

Since there are few nationally-accepted standards for optical systems available today, the Bureau of Archives and Records Management offers the following suggestions to aid state agencies and local government offices for using this technology in ways that comply with the Delaware Public Records Law and the Freedom of Information Act.

These recommendations represent generally accepted principles and practices, and address issues of particular concern to government archives and records administrators. In this rapidly changing information technology environment, adherence to the recommendations will help keep state agencies and local government offices in conformity with nation and standards as they are developing.

Systems Documentation:

To maintain an effective operation and continue to retrieve data from the optical imaging system as the operating environment changes over time, there must be full documentation of:

Hardware and software, including brand names, version numbers and dates of installation, upgrades, replacements and conversions.

Data structures and content, including the file layout and data dictionaries.

"Enhancement" algorithms.

Operating procedures, including methods for scanning and entering data; revising, updating or expunging records; backing up disks, tapes and files; applying safe guards to prevent tampering and unauthorized access to protected information; and carrying out the disposition of original documents. In addition, there should be documented procedures for logging and tracking to provide a full, "trust worthy" audit trail. Full documentation of systems and procedures is essential and will contribute to the legal acceptability of the records management program and help ensure that data produced from optical disks will be admissible as evidence in legal or administrative proceedings.

Hardware and Software Considerations:

When selecting hardware and software, the following considerations are necessary.

Strongly promote selection of a system with open rather than proprietary designs. Open systems provide the most flexibility when choosing equipment and will support interconnection, information systems integration, and information sharing.

Prepare specifications for hardware and software that will require vendors to continue to support and maintain their products.

Establish performance standards and incorporate them into specifications for hardware and software, requiring vendors to support them with a substantial performance bond.

Select systems that provide sufficient scanning resolution with enough density to produce a high-quality image.5

Seek vendors which use standard rather than proprietary compression algorithms to make future migrations of data more certain and reliable.

Require vendors to supply programs or provide services to test the reliability of your disks periodically.

Consider systems that allow for indexing or incorporation of other retrieval information directly onto the optical disk.

Verification and Inspection:

Operating procedures for the optical imaging system should include visual inspection to verify the completeness and accuracy of the scanning process once documents have been transferred to optical disk.


When information is stored on a medium that is not human-readable, complete and accurate indices are essential. The optical image systems design must include provisions for appropriate indexing. When information will be retrieved for many years -- for records number of years -- the indices must be developed and documented with future users in mind who may need the information for purposes not required by the creating agency. Operating procedures should include an index check for accuracy at the time the index is created.


It is essential to label disks, tapes, and similar storage devices with extreme care since it is impossible to determine content merely by visual inspection. Accurate labeling is even more critical when the information and its index are on different media.

Back-Up and Storage:

Full, frequent, and regular backing up of optical records and magnetic indices are a critical operating procedure to ensure data protection and information "trustworthiness." Storage of these back-ups should be off-site in a secure, fire-safe facility. As the environmental tolerances for storage of optical disks has yet to be established, the manufacturer's specifications should be followed.

Refreshment, Migration and Conversion Plans:

There should be an active procedure to re fresh data and for migrating and converting images and corollary indices to new storage media as needed to preserve records in an accessible form.

Risk Management and Disaster Recovery:

Delaware Code requirements for "vital records" protection include optical formats. Each state agency and local government office should develop and implement a comprehensive risk or disaster prevention and recovery plan for all records formats.

For further information and assistance, contact the B/ARM records assigned to work with your state agency or local government office at

Bureau of Archives and Records Management
Hall of Records
Dover, DE 19901
Tel: (302) 739-5318
Effected by the Administrative Team October 13, 1996



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