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How to Comply with FADGI

Image quality has always been important to the information management profession. 

But the topic of image quality has taken on greater urgency with new U.S. federal government requirements for digitizing and archiving historical records and cultural heritage materials.

Starting January 1, 2023, any digitized document submitted to the National Archives and the Library of Congress must meet minimum image quality standards and guidelines set by the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiatives (FADGI).  The image quality requirements are part of a larger initiative by U.S. federal government agencies to migrate away from paper records to digital recordkeeping.  

After 2022, federal agencies such as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will no longer accept paper documents, and any documents submitted to these agencies electronically must meet minimum image quality standards.

With the FADGI deadline looming, there’s never been a better time to rethink your image quality. 

Why is image quality important to federal agencies?

Ensuring optimum image quality is important to any information management professional. 

Poor image quality can result in downstream errors, customer service issues, and compliance issues.  

But for federal government agencies charged with the permanent safekeeping of historical records and other documents of cultural value, ensuring image quality couldn’t be of greater importance.  

Establishing minimum image quality requirements for all newly created government records and any archived materials submitted to NARA and OMB after 2022 will help ensure they are well preserved. 

What is FADGI?

FADGI is a nod to the ever-increasing role that digitization plays in historical preservation.  

Established in 2007, FADGI sets standards for federal agencies to hit when processing digitized and born-digital historical, archival, and cultural documents and other content.  FADGI’s goal is to ensure that federal agencies can effectively collaborate using digital records and documents and that records held in the public trust are faithfully reproduced.  Working groups within FADGI also have made recommendations for digitization best practices.  FADGI standards have taken on more urgency with initiatives by NARA and OMB to stop the flow of paper documents after December 2022.  

Document processing organizations have little time left to comply with FADGI standards.  Over time, it is expected that all federal agencies will require documents to be submitted electronically.  

FADGI Guidelines Overview and Update

FADGI sets technical specifications and best practices for U.S. federal agencies that digitize and archive historical records and cultural heritage materials such as documents, maps, and prints. 

The FADGI standards and guidelines are also of critical importance to service bureaus and other organizations that plan, manage and approve digitization projects on behalf of federal agencies.

FADGI spells out an unbiased 4-star ranking system for grading digital image quality. 

The higher the number of stars an image receives, the higher the digital image quality. 

  • One-star rating: Should be considered informational, in that images are not of a sufficient quality to be useful for optical character recognition (OCR). 
  • Two-star rating: Images may or may not be suitable for OCR
  • Three-star rating: A very good professional image capable of serving for almost all uses. 
  • Four-star rating: Images represent the state-of-the-art in image capture and are suitable for almost any use. 

The 4-star ranking system acknowledges that not every product requires perfect image quality.  But it sets a clear standard for federal agencies and service bureaus and other organizations that serve them. 

A minimum 3-star ranking will be required for records submitted to NARA, the Library of Congress, NARA, and OMB starting January 1, 2023.  Several characteristics are used to calculate the rating: 

  • Sampling frequency
  • Tonal response
  • White balance error
  • Lightness uniformity
  • Color accuracy
  • Color channel misregistration
  • Spatial frequency response
  • Reproduction scale accuracy
  • Sharpening
  • Noise
  • Geometric distortion
  • Field artifacts
  • Color management
  • File format and compression

Clearly, image analysis is an essential part of ensuring compliance with FADGI guidelines

Who must comply with FADGI?

If your organization manages government or federal projects, it must find ways to comply with the new FADGI requirements for digital image quality.  The FADGI standards and guidelines cover: 

  • Federal agencies
  • Service bureaus and other organizations that digitize records on behalf of federal agencies
  • Service bureaus and other organizations that digitize records that will be sent to the National Archives or the Library of Congress
  • Service bureaus and other organizations that store digital records that will be sent to the National Archives or the Library of Congress

While not every organization is covered by the FADGI requirements, the looming deadline is an opportunity for any information management operation to reevaluate the quality of its document imaging processes.  The 3-star FADGI standards are comparable to International Organization for Standardization ISO 19264-1 Level B international standards.  As such, international organizations can benefit by using them to meet and measure high-quality imaging standards in their operations.

How to ensure FADGI compliance 

Document scanning hardware and software can help organizations comply with the FADGI rules. 

Some capture solutions offer a FADGI verification module designed to allow operators to check for image quality consistency.  System administrators can enforce the intervals in which operators need to run and pass the image quality test before continuing with production work.  The software retains images and the results from the integrated FADGI verification process as an audit trail if needed.   

Leading document scanners also make it easy for organizations to scan and achieve the necessary image quality to scale, in the volumes that they need, without compromising image quality.  

Together, these technologies make it easy and effective to measure FADGI image quality standards, maintain an audit trail of all scanned documents, and record which documents pass or fail.  

Automating the process of verifying image quality also provides organizations with peace of mind to destroy physical documents and free up valuable office space for other higher-value activities.

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