Seeking to protect itself in a business world where paper documents are slowly being replaced by computer files, Bell & Howell Co. announced Monday that it has an agreement to acquire Protocorp International Inc., an imaging software company.

Monroe, N.C.-based Protocorp, which has installed high-capacity document imaging and information management systems at more than 250 banks, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Bell & Howell. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Protocorp will keep its operations in North Carolina, and chief executive Kenneth W. Long will remain after the takeover. Mr. Long will report to James P. Roemer, Bell & Howell's president and chief operating officer.

Skokie, Ill.-based Bell & Howell, whose mail processing systems and microfilm-based imaging equipment is used in the back offices of many banks, sees the acquisition as a way to help its customers move further into electronic imaging, company officials said. Imaging stores documents digitally on computer disks.

"The addition of Protocorp expands Bell & Howell's ability to add value to customers by broadening our wide range of products and services to the worldwide market," said William J. White, Bell & Howell's chairman and chief executive officer.

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