Questions I received (from Jenn Burwell) about my plan to make an online digital library of church corporate records:
How are you going to digitize? Scan each document or take pictures?
Where are you going to store these documents? Server, PC, Cloud (Dropbox)? I would suggest DropBox in the cloud if this is going to the congregation. Depending on the size, you could get a church account for little to no cost.
How will you catalog them? Or how will others find them easily? By subject, by Dewey decimal based on subject, by title?
Who is going to be reading these documents in the future? Staff, students, congregation?
Good questions, Jenn:
Just putting files in a drop-box might be like using a fifty-gallon oil drum for a filing cabinet. The objects in the collection must be findable by average people to be useful.
Cold Feed About Open Access To Church Records
Presently we have older folks on the Board who are squeamish about publishing church records. I am 62 and most people who show up on Sunday seem to be my age or older. By state law all members have an absolute right to access all non-exempt records in whatever form they exist and to make copies or digitize them. The church may charge a reasonable fee. After studying the Bylaws, I see that they promote open access. Some members have cited privacy and security concerns. However, putting nonexempt documents online is not a compromise of privacy, as all this material is already public.
The Slowpoke Method
A church member could get permission to look at church documents, set a time when this could be accomplished, and go with someone and look. For decades the church’s corporate documents have been for all practical purposes not available, absent an embarrassing and intimidating and time-consuming ordeal. This should not be necessary in the 21st Century.
Even before computers were so prevalent, and before the Internet, corporate material could have been organized in notebooks and lined up on a bookshelf and open during regular business hours. But this was not so. I cannot imagine this being a heck-of-a-lot of trouble. It is not difficult to have the originals in one place and duplicates in another. In any event, church leaders should have access to this sort of information, in a reasonable office environment, in the process of doing what I suppose would be their jobs.
Meanwhile the members of the congregation have been expected to give tithes and offerings in order to finance a corporation that continues, through one contrivance or another, not to have the corporate records reasonably available absent an embarrassing and intimidating and time-consuming ordeal.
Online Library Begun
I have uploaded digital material to the Internet Archive (archive.org), so there is now an online digital library, albeit rather incomplete. I have several years of newsletters, over two years of meeting minutes, and my correspondences with the Board. I have Bylaws and some other such material. I do not have any of the committee reports. You should be able to see a listing of it all here. http://archive.org/search.php?query=Oaks.Christian.Church.Houston
Upon the completion of this project any one with Internet connection will be able to access almost all church records. Once the material is on the Internet, people can enhance their research with the Archive’s Advanced Search http://archive.org/advancedsearch.php .
No New Equipment Needed
Our church has all the equipment it needs; people just do not know it yet. For a nominal fee I could acquire an Internet fax number. Someone could fax me the records to be digitized. If the online fax service will not impose OCR, I have that capability on my computer.