Mark Goldberg

Archival papers in a digital age

Last week, I wrote about one of the most useful books in my personal library (Engineering Economy), a book I received when I was a Member of Technical Staff at Bell Labs in the mid 1980s. I have some other printed books that I go to regularly, such as an autographed copy of the 2006 report of the Telecom Policy Review Panel, telecom law books, such as McCarthy’s “Canadian Telecommunications Regulatory Handbook”, by Grant Buchanan and Hank Intven and even a copy of Michael Ryan’s looseleaf “Canadian Telecommunications Law and Regulation.”

Books have been figuring prominently in my thinking these days. As we spend so much time in our homes, many of us are cleaning rooms, clearing spaces, going through old papers. Much of what we read today, we read online. Obviously, it wasn’t always that way. Nearly 25 years ago, in the early days of my consulting practice, I would receive regulatory filings via almost daily deliveries from various courier services. We were recently reminiscing about the way our family dog had a particular affinity for the Fedex guy. He would hear the truck from a mile away, and stand guard at the door with his tail wagging, knowing his buddy was just a minute or two away.

A number of years ago, under tremendous pressure, I donated a batch of my telecom related books to a university engineering program. I know the day is coming soon that will pressure me to release a second wave of archival materials.

But I started to wonder: will anyone want to take my old printed books and papers? Have electronic texts and digital libraries made my archival materials obsolete and better suited for recycling?

Like some old Nortel stock certificates, did I hold on to these papers too long?

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