[teknoids] Microfiche Readers

Wilhelmina Randtke randtke at gmail.com
Wed Dec 4 17:51:06 EST 2013

There are two things to look for:  (1) Basic quality and usability for
photographing a few frames, and (2) software to autoadvance and detect
frames so that the machine can automatically convert an entire roll of

I am currently at St. Mary's University Law Library.  We have an ST
Viewscan.  The software is pretty intuitive.  When students use it, they
don't need much assistance - just a quick set up.  Image quality is fine (I
have used it for government documents and books only, not newspapers).
Follow up technical support from the company is good.  The one time there
was an issue, the sales rep who initially was in touch quickly passed me
through to the technologist who did troubleshooting in about 5 minutes and
then was available for follow up.  Most companies would have wasted my
time, and had me spend much more time trying to get past the sales rep who
doesn't have background to troubleshoot.  With ST Viewscan the pricing has
a base unit and then an add-on fee for a mechanical part to automatically
advance microfilm.  You should pay the extra for the electrical thing to
advance film.  If you have the full mechanical part, then the driver can do
the autoadvance thing and convert several frames of microfilm without you
needing to line up and photograph each one.

Previously, I was at FSU Libraries which use Scan Pro 2000.  The Scan Pro
2000 was fine to use.  With Scan Pro 2000, you by the hardware, then pay an
additional fee for an expanded driver that lets you do the autoadvance and
convert several frames of microfilm automatically.  So, be careful what
software you are getting if you buy.  FSU did not have the driver upgrade
that allows film to advance and frames to be automatically detected and
photographed by the machine.  That's an add-on that is ballpark 2.5 to 3K
dollars.  I used the Scan Pro 2000 as a student and assisted students in
using it later.  The software is fine for viewing microfilm and
photographing frames.  It's fine to use.  Support from the company appears
to be poor.  The local rep for Tallahassee used the university's model to
do a demo for state government for an agency that wanted to digitize a huge
amount of records for compliance reasons.  He did not come prepared to demo
autoadvance, which was specifically what the state agency had asked for a
demo of and he was aware the university did not have that driver upgrade.
So, he wasted time of everyone involved.  Around 15 government employees
had to find parking near a college campus in the middle of the day and then
walk around in the Florida heat, and then they did not get the promised
demo, because the rep came unprepared.

Personally, I am a fan of Indus MIC.  They are the only company that brings
a working scanner and full drivers to conferences.  It's the only microfilm
scanner for which I have seen a roll of microfilm automatically converted,
and the software works well.  You would be able to feed in a roll of
microfilm and have it converted to a long PDF.  I believe that the
autoadvance and convert frame of microfilm is included in their base price,
so you do not have to pay for additional hardware or software to be able to
access it.  If you do not have a modern scanner, Indus MIC will also let
you mail in a microfilm roll, and then have it digitized for ballpark $45 a
roll plus postage.

All three of the above seem fragile and require being connected to a decent
computer preferably with a video card.  At St. Mary's we have the scanner
behind the Circulation Desk.  Students should get instructed on how to use
a film scanner before viewing fiche or film, because very few people have
done this before.  Keeping the machine behind the desk ensures that the
student gets trained by someone who can use the scanner.  It gets used
maybe a couple of times a month by students, and they don't seem
intimidated.  At FSU, the Scan Pro 2000s were right out there with the
undergrads.  They seem flimsy, but the entire year I was there, not one of
the three units got broken, and they did get some (ham fisted) use.

I see that Canon Microfilm Scanner 800 II was mentioned.  Goodness!  That
is a huge elderly machine.  We have one of those, as well and a Microfilm
Scanner 300.  These are huge; just huge.  Should a public patron want to
look at microfilm, this is what the public patron would use to keep the
circulation desk area secure and free of the public.  We will very likely
get rid of our 800 unit at St. Mary's when we get around to it, so if you
were to drive to San Antonio for this year's AALL and admire these
refrigerator-like monstrosities, then who knows...  The 800 model does not
connect to any computer, to my knowledge, and instead interacts with a
dedicated printer that you also buy from Canon so that you can make prints
of film.  We are no longer able to print with ours due to elderly software
or elderly printer having issues.  The 300 model is connected to a Windows
XP machine so that it can do screen captures, and it is difficult to track
down a driver for it.  Main campus has both these machines, and the
librarians from there visit the law library to use the more modern ST
Viewscan if they need to access fiche.  They upgraded from Windows XP, and
can no longer get their Windows 7 machines to talk to their Canon 300
unit.  I see public libraries currently getting both these models as
discards from academic libraries, so if you just need to get to microfilm
to meet the ABA accreditation requirement of accessing it, then you can
probably get one for free very quickly by getting in touch with libraries
in your city and state.

-Wilhelmina Randtke

On Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 10:39 AM, Simms, Grace <glsimms at samford.edu> wrote:

>  We’re considering purchasing a new microfiche reader as all of our
> readers are old and failing.  Do any of you have a brand/model you’d
> recommend?
> Thanks!
> Grace Simms
> Information Technology Librarian
> Beeson Law Library
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