I am coming closer to terms with the speed at which health science materials travel. The urgency for new information and the rapid turnover of theories, studies, and reports in the professional literature creates an environment with little regard for historical perspectives. Who has time to look at all this “old stuff” when the review of incoming material is beyond the limitations of any individual. Aggregators and literature review services are the only means available for health science professionals to be aware of the enormous amount of information passing through their periphery.
The speed of information coupled with the space limitations of departments and divisions operating in facilities designed in an era that could not anticipate their current needs creates a hazardous environment for institutional documentation and the personal papers of faculty. The time/space pressure results in a clean sweep after the retirement or death of faculty and administrators.
The loss is happening in real time. On any given day I can walk through the various buildings and see material piled next to trash containers or left for janitors outside of office doors. Or, as in a recent case, it comes to me through an email notifying me that it is all gone. Usually, it is tendered with a “wish I had known…” or “I didn’t realize someone would want this old stuff.”
Obviously, I cannot change the established environment, but, hopefully through a few upcoming events, word of the project and the value of the material can begin to seep into the consciousness of those I am working to document.