Town of Reading, MA

Town Records Dating to 1600s get 21st Century Overhaul

When Laura Gemme arrived as Town Clerk in Reading, Mass., three years ago her two decades of experience as a software trainer allowed her to immediately assess two important things.

The first was that the town’s labor intensive paper-dependent records management system could be streamlined greatly by replacing the manila folders and filing cabinets with digital document software and computers. Multiple paper copies of this or that document—some in filing cabinets accessible only by six-foot ladder—were requested by residents and/or multiple Town Hall offices every day. Her reaction was predictable: “It drove me crazy.”

Fortunately, there was the second important thing. She recognized an old friend, already streamlining paperwork in one town department: Laserfiche digital document management software. That’s when her previous years of training paid off for Reading and Gemme started talking to the other department heads.

“I know it would not be difficult to get the other department using Laserfiche,” she said. “Out of all the software I’ve trained folks on it is one of the easiest to use and easiest for folks to get adapted to.”

Job No. 1 was reaching out to General Code, in Rochester, NY, which sold Reading its Laserfiche system, and get its recommendations for the roll out. Then the town started back scanning the paper files, starting with the vital records which went from the filing cabinets into a Laserfiche records repository now saving the clerk’s office hours out of every week providing these documents to residents.

“We just put the name requested into the computer and print the documents out,” Gemme said. “Once the Town Clerk’s office started using it, and then everybody started seeing how it didn’t need to take a whole lot of extra work to make life a whole lot easier, and they jumped on board.”

Gemme does not want to lose the momentum she’s built warming staff to a technological overhaul she’s planning for Town Hall and, eventually, school district operations. She will be integrating the town’s permitting software ViewPermit with Laserfiche so typing in a parcel id number will access all the town’s land development records—data and images—instantly. A similar integration is also planned for property tax records in the assessor’s office using Patriot Properties software and Laserfiche. Down the road Gemme wants to integrate Laserfiche with government administration software called Munis which will leverage Laserfiche’s powerful search engine with a software platform specifically designed around municipal human resources, financial and resident service records needs.

At the same time Gemme is working with the school district which also recently started using Laserfiche for its administration and financial records. Like the staff in Town Hall, Gemme expects school district employees to jump onboard as they see the benefits of bringing Laserfiche into their lives. “Once the schools see the benefit of placing the district’s administration and financial records on Laserfiche, I’m going to push for that to be done with students records as well,” Gemme said. “How long that’s going to take I don’t know, but it’s going to happen.”

Eventually, Gemme hopes to get both the town and district using Laserfiche’s Workflow software suite. That will automate various administrative processes, like alerting by email town planning agencies the moment development proposals are filed with the building department. Town employees won’t be the only ones enjoying the benefits of all this automation. Laserfiche’s Weblink will allow the public easy, online access to records—including meeting minutes dating back to the 1600s. Until then, Gemme is just glad she no longer needs a ladder to do her job.

“People used to ask for records and if I didn’t have them, I had to hunt them down,” recalls Gemme. “I don’t have to do that now, and it’s indescribable how much time that saves.”

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