To be honest, this is not a lesson learned from the library, but one that I learned from our library never throwing anything out. Last week, my friend Ralph responded to my post, noting that he had a routine of throwing out one paper from his files for every paper that went in. A former boyfriend of mine did the same thing with books. I try also to do that with shoes and clothes; for every new item I buy, an old one has to leave my closet.
But like many people, I am hesitant to throw out papers, assuming that if they were important at one time, they must still be. So as I started going through my own files in my office this week, I came upon some startling discoveries:
- a box full of index cards that I used to study for my doctoral qualifying exam ten years ago,
- grade sheets from when I was still teaching full-time,
- leave forms from past years, and
- individual faculty survey responses from past semesters.
None of this stuff is any good any more, but I had not thrown anything away. So now I’m taking my friend Ralph’s advice. Each time, I add a piece of paper to a file, I’m going to try to make sure I throw something else out. Even if I don’t, I will at least checked the accuracy and currency of the papers I leave there. I’m also going to ask the staff to do the same thing with our library archives.
I’m going to establish order, one discarded piece of paper at a time.