Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bright Ideas

In our library, we collect almost 40 different newspapers, from all over Oregon, in addition to the New York Times, the Seattle Times, and the Wall Street Journal. The retention varies for some, but we generally keep a year’s worth of papers in our stacks. These papers are stacked in piles on the outer wall of one of our tiers of stacks. Every month, it is necessary to weed the oldest issues. It is a rather exhausting task, especially when you have to lift up piles of heavy newspapers again and again to check the dates. Finding where the oldest month ends can be rather difficult, especially when each newspaper puts the issue date in a different area of the cover. It is almost as if newspaper businesses made a pact to keep things interesting for people in libraries! Personally, when I am completing a task that requires a lot of exertion, my mind constantly thinks of ways to make it easier. I thought, “What is the most difficult part of this?” Shifting the piles takes physical effort, but there is not a lot of struggling involved. Lifting stacks of issues over and over, however, can be very frustrating.

Then it hit me! Why not turn the newspapers sideways, alternating direction for each month? This would work with daily papers and those published less frequently. I would simply turn every four issues a different way for a weekly, every 30 or so for a monthly, etc. This made it much easier to grab the entire pile. Of course, I double check the issue date on the top and bottom, but I don’t have to “guess and check” to find where one month ends and the other one starts. Genius! Of course, I didn’t personally come up with this pile alternating procedure, as you see it with stacks of paperwork all the time. But the idea of applying it to the newspaper stacks did come to me (eventually…). So I am not trying to “toot my own horn” but simply to say, even if it takes a while to think of it, a good idea is still a good idea. And now, I often have someone else to do the big monthly weeding, so it is even easier for me (because I don’t have to do it very often!) Regardless, when I do perform this task, it will be much easier than it was before. Does anyone else have a bright idea that you or your organization have put into practice?

Jessica Rondema

Oregon State Library

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