Let’s talk about material which goes out of date. We’ve already talked about health and legal information and the need for awareness when discarding or updating. What other types of material go out of date? Does historical information go out of date? How about fiction? Or art?
There are specific types of information which are dated but do not go out of date. Statistical information may become dated but by its very nature cannot go out of date. Historical information may be dated but it cannot go out of date. Writing styles may be dated, but … you get the picture.
How about information, like directories, which have names and addresses? Here’s where you have to know what your Library is all about. Let’s say you work in a big library with a big genealogy collection, a big government documents section, a big local information section, and a big business section.
Business information, especially directories of businesses, tends to go out of date quickly. Telephone numbers, directors and vice-presidents, and other employees move around too much to remain accurate for long. Naturally, there are some businesses which do not change. In the total universe of business, those which do not change are few and far between. If it’s an international or national directory of businesses, currency is the overriding factor. You better think twice, three and four times, before getting rid of directories of local businesses. Those directories have historical significance. Local information is local history.
Documents are a special problem, especially local documents. I used to work for a moving company (in the 1970’s). We were hired to move a bookcase for the State Department of Water Resources. It took eight of use to move a 40 foot long steel bookcase filed with EIR/EIS’s in the basement of the building. We moved it 4 feet. Eight months later we returned and moved the case back to its original position. My first introduction to documents. At the time the discussion among the guys I was with was “Why the $^&#*! do they need to keep all this ~#$@*& paper?” EIR’s are special. Don’t lump other documents into the same thought or thinking with anything related to an EIR/EIS.
There are two kinds of documents which may be dated but cannot go out of date. They are statistical abstracts and directories of government officials, also known as registers. Historical data does not change. The fact that someone worked somewhere at sometime does not change, either. Don’t just think about a document’s, or any materials, current use. Think about how it might be used in the future.
One final reminder: If you are a branch you are part of a large Library. Just because your branch doesn’t need or want to keep (because of limited space) doesn’t mean the Library doesn’t want it. When in doubt, send it on.
Gerald F. Ward