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From his column Church Tech

church-tech-03-14-1Despite calls for a paperless office as far back as 1975, paper continues to proliferate. I think it must somehow be self-propagating because every time I reach into my jacket I find a pocketful of profligate pieces of paper. I empty it in the morning and by night it has replenished, just like the widow’s jar of oil.

One piece of equipment that can help staunch this pulpy takeover is already in your hand, the smartphone. Let’s take a look at how you can reduce your need for paper with a few helpful apps.

Meeting Notes

One place where paper persists is for taking notes. These are great because the only technology you need is a pen, and bringing along a backup is pretty inexpensive. The downside is that at the close of the meeting you have one or more pieces of paper to file, hopefully in such a way you can locate them when needed. But what if you want to access the information while away from your office? A great alternative is to get a Bluetooth keyboard and take notes with your phone or tablet. It is less obtrusive (compared to a laptop computer) and there are free apps such as Evernote to access easily. Once you switch to digital notes, your filing cabinet goes with you everywhere. And you can file carelessly, since you can search through all your notes in a second. Evernote also allows you to snap pictures and include them in your notes. So after you sketch out your brilliant plans for a new church building in the shape of a Celtic Cross, you can take a photo and toss the coffee-stained napkin original.

Receipts and References

Copiers are complicit culprits in the spread of the papyrus. They are often used to copy material from a book or perhaps to reduce a large version of a smaller item, such as a receipt. Instead of replicating the original onto more paper, you could use a scanning app like Scanner Pro. This app allows you to quickly and automatically straighten and crop an original and convert it into a document. Then, best of all, it can be set to automatically file the resulting PDF in your Dropbox, Google Drive or other form of storage. Now your research materials or expense report documents are available whenever and wherever you need them.

Fax

The most egregious, unnecessary continuing use of paper has to be the fax. The trail of travesty goes like this: you type a document on your computer; you create, review and edit it on your screen; you convert it from digital to physical by printing it for the purpose of re-digitizing in your fax machine’s scanner, so that you can transmit it via screeching modem to another fax machine which prints it out on barely readable curling paper for someone to type it back into a digital document on the other side. The next time you are tempted to travel this onerous road of redundancy, ask the recipient if you could either send them an email attachment or share a Dropbox or Google Drive document instead.

Of course, we are not going to get rid of paper anytime soon, but perhaps we can use the technology we already have to make our lives more efficient by taming the paper monster.

You can learn more about the “Office of the Future” here.

Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.

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