I’ve already written about my “archival impulse,” and how it has led me to hold on to so many things… just in case. Well, I recently came across a principle to set me straight–something right out of The Society of American Archivists, in fact: the concept of enduring value.
My problem is that I hold onto stuff on the thought that it might eventually have value. If I were to use a standard of enduring value–it has value now, and I can see its value in the future as well–then maybe I’d have a more sensible reason for holding onto some things and disposing of the rest.
I thought I would test out this standard at the office first, where I have less clutter in general, but certainly less emotional investment. And that’s when I noticed my stacks of professional journals.
I can say in all certainty that the vast majority of these journals haven’t been cracked in years. Because let’s face it–if I’m looking for an academic article, I am far more likely to find it in electronic format these days, available through my own library or through some other network, rather than in some mouldering, bound journal sitting on my shelf.
And some of these journals have been a-mouldering on more than one set of shelves, moved from one office to the next, only to be dutifully stacked on a new set of shelves to remain unopened and unread.
The only value I can think of in these stacked journals is the same value some get in hanging diplomas on the wall (which I don’t): as a visible display of professional identity. And I think by this point in my career I can do without the daily reminder of who I am in my own office….
I am fairly certain that there is no present value in these volumes, not to me at least, and certainly no enduring value either. So off they went, in several tall stacks, lined up next to the recycling containers.
Interestingly enough, quite a few had disappeared by the end of the day. Let’s hope they have found happy homes, sitting on some other shelves for the next dozen or so years!