I visited the Washington County Recorder of Deeds office a few weeks ago to research oil and gas documents.
I was immediately assisted by a very friendly and helpful clerk who showed me how to use the computer system to view the digital archive of recorded documents. I told the clerk that after I located what I needed, I would like to have copies. She assured me that she would help me print when I was ready, at 50 cents per page.
Very quickly I located what I needed. And then I thought, why not just use my smartphone to click photos of the documents right off the computer screen. That way, I’d bother no one, and save photocopy charges. I’ve done this many times in the county prothonotary’s office.
I hadn’t snapped more than three photos when a different clerk quickly chastised me, saying that no photography, scanning, or computers were allowed to be used in the office. She pointed to signs posted in the office explaining as such. I hadn’t seen the signs.
The Recorder of Deeds Office is invested in and running state of the art technology for digital storage and retrieval of massive amounts of paper documents. It’s the right thing to do. Digital document storage is fast, convenient, and arguably the green thing to do. I applaud Deborah Bardella and her staff for their efforts.
But when I need copies of documents, I’m forced to pay to have them printed on old-fashioned paper? Now that I’m finished with the pages that cost $9.50 to print, the paper will end up in the trash can. I would rather have simply taken digital images home with me right on my smartphone. I’ve invested in state of the art technology, too, and it fits right in my pocket. Apparently in this county office, however, they can use their technology, but I can’t use mine.
Where else in America do black and white photocopies cost 50 cents each? Maybe only where folks are searching oil and gas documents. Seems to me that this county office is yet another example of everyone trying to get their piece of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom.