How do we cope with our growing digital lives?  How do we manage the ever increasing amounts of digital stuff we create and use?  This is the challenge of Personal Information Management.   

 

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Saturday
Mar052011

Letting go is hard: the challenges of weeding our collections

This week I put my comic book collection up for sale. Started in my boyhood, it was taken over by my brother and hugely expanded. When he died in 1993, it came back into my hands and it has followed me ever since.  2300 in total, the core collection included Thor, Dr. Strange, Master of Kung Fu, and Conan the Barbarian. The Archie and Richie Rich comics were taken by nieces and nephews a long time ago, along with a few X-Men.  But other strange titles remain, including Ren and Stimpy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and various "mature" comic books from Neal Gaiman, Clive Barker and others. Three moves later I have decided it's time to say goodbye. I haven't read one in over 10 years and I need the space because my girlfriend just moved in. 

A few weeks later... 

Now that they're gone I feel better.  I've got more space for things that are part of my future, and am relieved that a decision much delayed has finally been made.  But letting go was hard. Hard because so much effort had gone into creating and caring for the collection; hard because the dreams of my collecting past had not been allowed to die, or at the very least been given a proper burial; hard also, because the task of getting rid of them was a time consuming chore.

I work for a startup that is developing tools to help academic libraries weed their print monograph collections and I can see a similar dynamic at work. There are lots of rational reasons for these libraries to substantially reduce their print collections: huge numbers of titles that aren't being used, an increasing shift to electronic resources, and space and budget pressures that compel action.  Yet here, too, letting go is hard. It takes time for people to let go of existing investments, both emotional and financial.  Helping libraries do this will be part of our work.

  Here are a few old Thor titles, part of the "crown jewels" of the collection