CHICAGO – Wrestling with the challenges of documents in the digital age, U.S. officials are destroying millions of paper federal court records to save storage costs – and raising the ire of some historians, private detectives and others who heavily rely on the files.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration says at least 10 million bankruptcy case files and several million district court files from 1970 through 1995 will be shredded, pounded to pulp and recycled. Files designated as historically valuable, however, will be kept in storage.

Federal archivists spent years consulting legal scholars, historians and others about which files to purge after realizing that sorting and digitizing just the bankruptcy cases would cost tens of millions of dollars. None of the civil or criminal cases up for destruction went to trial, and docket sheets that list basic information such as names of defendants and plaintiffs will be saved from each case.

Such reassurances haven’t allayed concerns of some of those whose work relies on the paper documents.

Cornell Law School professor Theodore Eisenberg said it’s precisely the mundane, every day records with no clear historical significance that, when looked at as a whole, are critical to establishing legal trends upon which court policy is often based.

“Something really important will be lost here,” said Eisenberg, a former clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court for the late Justice Earl Warren.

“We would lose any ability to assess trends over time. This is not just a matter of history, it is a matter of influencing basic policy today.”

Marvin Kabakoff, a senior analyst with the NARA who himself holds a Ph.D. in history, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he sympathizes and ideally would want all the records digitized, “but keeping everything is just not realistic.”