Deans Update: Toward a Clutter-Free New Year

Deans Update: Toward a Clutter-Free New Year
Jenny James Lee
January 8, 2014

[The Dean's Update is a column introducing each issue of the Libraries' monthly e-newsletter In Circulation.]

We prepare this issue of In Circulation after coming in from the bitter cold, grateful to have kept those old long johns, hats and coats that might be unfashionable but keep us really warm. The notion of keeping things in case of a future need – or perhaps for nostalgia – causes many of us to hold onto stuff we may no longer use. If not managed well, it is easy to let our “just in case” stuff overtake our closets, basements, desks, as well as our inboxes and hard drives.

The question of what to keep is shared among academics whose work generates “research stuff” as well as administrators whose documents reflect the operations of a University to enroll or hire people, purchases equipment, or license software for example. Some of us might remember keeping boxes of returned questionnaires decades after our dissertations were complete, thinking they might have some value for future research. Now, researchers create large amounts of digital data that might not require movers to lug around, but does raise questions about preservation, organization and space. The Libraries has developed and is applying expertise in both records management and data curation to help the University deal with the question of what has to be kept and preserved, and what we can let go.

In the Libraries, we also tackled some of our visual clutter over the winter break, removing the old signage designed to help direct users to materials and suggest behaviors for different spaces. We hope that you’ll welcome the new and significantly fewer signs that provide guidance through color coded zones and icons. At the Center City Library we also removed the reference desk, streamlining visitor contacts to a single point of service at the Circulation Desk. Perhaps the planning for new ways of doing what libraries have done for years – preserving and organizing what is projected to have future value – is a winter task, something to tackle personally before we each begin our spring cleaning.

Happy 2014!

Danuta A. Nitecki, Ph.D.
Dean of Libraries