Top 10 tales of microfilm misery


Sometimes it takes the ability to step back from a problem in order to see a simple solution. Especially when the cause of the problem is quiet, often tucked away in the basement or back room, and holds the distinction of being revolutionary.

Revolutionary in 1839.

We are talking about microfilm and microfiche here…a useful medium that enables us to create a permanent archive for fragile documents. It still serves us well in that capacity. But it was never intended for the daily transactional procedures depending on it today. And it’s heavily used in a surprising number of organizations in higher education, government and commercial spaces.

At Hyland, creator of OnBase, we feel like superheroes when we uncover discreet areas of inefficiency that require only a small process/technology adjustment to yield great benefits for our customers. These areas are often hard to see up close, especially when the processes supporting them have been entrenched for decades. But with the 10,000 foot view afforded by analyzing discovery and project findings, we’ve uncovered a recurring theme of misery.

Here are the Top 10 user anecdotes that illuminate why using microfilm/microfiche for daily, service-oriented tasks does not make sense:

10. Every machine we have is different and they all have slightly different personalities. After all these years, every so often, I still manage to load it incorrectly, and the film explodes from the reader when I’m in a hurry.

9. On one of our busiest days last fall, the old machine I had to work with suddenly would only go forward at warp speed. So I had to search from back to front in order to get what I needed.

8. New employees always have trouble figuring out how to work it, and veteran employees don’t want to work with it.

7. Many people who need documents expect the option of a digital copy. So we spend all of this time having to find their document and print it, and the quality of the printout is usually not that good. Then we have to scan it and email it to them. It takes so much time.

6. Basically, no one likes using microfilm. Holed up in a hot room with no windows and the constant roar of those machines.

5. Working on the older of our two machines, the microfilm was so dark that I couldn’t print the only page I needed. I had to wait for the other machine to become available, and that meant several other people waiting on me.

4. It was a very human, time-consuming process to find those documents, and that is putting it delicately. There was only one microfiche machine. And then one day we couldn’t print anymore because we ran out of toner. We found out they weren’t making the cartridge any longer.

3. I guess it’s a necessary evil, but I hate the microfilm machine. There is nothing like getting a paper cut trying to load the film and bleeding all over the machine.

2. Last week after spending a ton of time trying to get a record to print (the printer kept stopping after every page) I discovered that I had the wrong record. So I had to unload the film, box it back up and put it back in the proper drawer, and then pull the correct one. The whole process is infuriating.

And finally, but definitely not easily forgotten.

1. It makes me seasick!! I have literally had to walk away from the machine in a cold sweat, afraid I’m going to throw up in the waste basket.

Your day at work doesn’t have to make you sick.

Every day, our Imaging Services experts eliminate this frustrating process for organizations like yours by converting your paper, film and fiche records to PDF, jpg or any number of electronic document types that fit your needs. This enables you to retrieve documents in an instant, right-click to email them to the requestor, and keep them digitally and securely with the case file or record they support, even across disperse campuses or organizational sites.

With one simple change, your employees are happier, your customers have vastly improved service, and your organization gains a giant step forward in modernizing its technology and processes.

And you and your staff don’t have to rage against the machines anymore. Which makes everyone happy.


Sarah Stoner

As a Content Strategist for Hyland’s Global Services, Sarah has a background in business and technical writing and has worked in several areas of the organization since 2003. She has... read more about: Sarah Stoner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.