Friday, 22 January 2010

Scotlands People Centre - fiche and film access

There have recently been rumours concerning changes to be implemented at the ScotlandsPeople Centre with regard to the access of microfilm and microfiche records (as mentioned in this blog on January 11th), which have until now successfully acted as a back up to the digitised records available at the facility. To clarify the proposals to be implemented, the Deputy Registrar General for Scotland, Paul Parr, has issued a welcome letter on the subject following a recent consultation. The full text will soon be made available on the ScotlandsPeople Centre website (, but the following is a summary:

1) A new system is to be implemented for resolving problems created by a digitised image found to be of inferior quality. When such an image is identified, the GROS will make a new digital image directly from the original register entry which will be provided within half an hour of a request on both the old DIGROS system in the Dundas Room and the main system in the rest of the centre. Customers should alert a member of the centre's staff if an image is illegible, and a new image can be commissioned immediately if that staff member cannot read it either. The GROS states that when an image cannot be so sorted (e.g. because the original register is not available because of use elsewhere) the customer will be informed. As such, microfiche access for the statutory records will be withdrawn.

2) Access to OPR and open census (1841-1901) microfilms will continue to be made available, in lieu of certain indexing errors still to be resolved. Access to microfiche will continue only for the Minor Records and the English and Welsh BMD indexes. To save film and fiche ordering time, all such materials will be relocated to the ground floor of New Register House.

3) To resolve problems with incorrect links between original register entries and those in the RCEs, a project is being put in place to improve these links. As such, the centre's staff encourages people to report problems on this front when they are discovered, and a new images will again be created directly from the original records.

The bottom line is that the majority of microfiche are going (not to be destroyed, as claimed by some, but to be stored elsewhere in the centre), whilst the microfilms will remain for the time being. The system will be introduced on a trial basis from Monday, February 1st, in the Reid Room (the letter states in the Matheson Dome, but this has been subsequently changed).

From a personal point of view, the potential loss of fiche is not a problem for me so long as an equivalent system is in place when this is enacted. As such, this announcement would appear to satisfactorily resolve my own particular concern - so long as the new system works! In particular, microfilm access in particular to the 1851 census, which is to be retained, is particularly welcome, as due to the nature of this census (basically it was written in blue ink on blue paper!), it did not digitise well.

A further change to come soon to the system in the next few months is a new search year by year facility, i.e. to step up or down a year at a time - as available on DIGROS - to replace the 5 years search range parameter currently available, with further developments also to be announced in the next few months.

One other development, especially welcome, is the forthcoming provision of digital images of the indexes prepared by the registrars which appear at the end of each of the statutory register volumes - in other words, if there is an index issue, this provides a second bite at the cherry to find the record in question.

(With many thanks to both Paul Parr and Dee Williams).

Scotland's Greatest Story

No comments: