Sometimes, it’s the simplest of things that can become the greatest burden. In the mid 2000’s, a flurry of articles in journals appeared about the virtues of Personal Information Management (PIM), and how librarians could help with that. The idea being that as the amount of information in our lives continued to increase at a seemingly exponential rate, the anxiety faced to organise it effectively also increases until we are left with disorganised files, badly named files, and a lot of time wasted on trying to find things. We librarians often joke that the irony is that as much as we might seek to help others overcome this problem, we are ourselves amongst the worst at effectively naming and storing information – take a look at any librarian’s desk or files. In the last half-decade, PIM has become an industry of its own, with every new mobile phone announcement focusing on to do apps, reminder tools, personal information assistants (Siri), calendar apps, alerts, project charting tools and more.

The notion that a human professional can help you with that seems to have faded away. I’m not entirely sure why that is, when more and more people find themselves with thousands of digital photos that have no metadata whatsoever, to give just one example.

Yes, it’s easy to get carried away with productivity and organisation advice, and to procrastinate on actually working in favour of checking out the latest app or to do method (and I’ve been guilty of this too many times to mention) but there has been many a time when I would have sought out such a service at a library, if it existed. Libraries already offer a range of hands-on lab sessions, geek out days, petting zoos and more for a variety of topics including cooking, crafts, digital photography and computers – why not for productivity and getting organised (online and offline) too?

Does your library offer anything like this?

As for me, after spending several years battling document management and version control, I am both interested in and wary of the shift to app-based file management, most significantly seen in Apple’s iCloud. I travel over 100 days a year, and in the past few months the iPad has become my go-to device on the road. Buying it has forced a shift in how I store information. Below is a screen capture of the apps I use for work. Using these apps, I can access all my notes, calendar (Agenda app is on a different screen), to-do lists, email, professional development reading, reference articles, bookmarks, documents and colleagues. There are many things that the iPad cannot do (writing complex documents or long emails with lots of attachments? Forget it), and things I need to workaround. However, this approach has forced decisions about where to store information (almost everything on this screen syncs via a cloud-based service) and started me on the path of dull but necessary tasks such as getting better at organising my email since Mail can only display a limited number of messages in the inbox.

iPad @ work

One of the best meetings I have taken part in recently involved sitting down and deciding together how best to manage our folder schema and file naming. Basic, records management stuff, but it can so easily be forgotten. But incredibly helpful in deciding what and how to share files, and how to manage version control in lieu of a version control system. Have you had this conversation with your colleagues lately? If not, you might be surprised at how useful it is.

Originally published on the semanticlibrary.net blog