It seems that these invaluable references were not as valuable as they appeared. While we plan to someday flip through them, we seldom do. In the age of Google and some kick-ass blogs, we tend to turn to the mighty web for information. What is the point of keeping 600 reference items if you seldom refer to them?
When Reference Items are Used Well
However, there was one book that had no dust and was centrally located in our office. “Take-Out Menus” was a compilation of restaurants in the area. It seems that the title for this collection of reference items was specific enough to make the collection useful. If we had titled the collection “Random Mailings” and included the other coupons and marginally helpful items we receive in the mail, then we would probably refer to the collection less frequently. The lesson: tag or title each reference file with a SPECIFIC name, rather than something generic.
Reference Items for Inspiration
The only counter-point is that references often serve as cross-pollination in their randomness and tendency to surface unexpectedly. When you stumble upon an old reference item, you may be reminded of an old idea or become inspired by something you had almost forgotten. Of course, in this capacity references are also serving as a distraction. At best, the reference is serving as helpful cross-pollination for the projects you are currently working on. At worst, the reference item takes you completely off track.