December 30, 2013 by Jean
As I prepare to return to Pennsylvania for my last semester of teaching at Gettysburg College, I’m starting to make concrete plans for packing up and moving out. Like any faculty member leaving at the end of a long career, I have decades of accumulated academic books and papers that need to be sorted, given away, thrown away, or moved.
Chief among the items to be moved are books – but not all of my books. My academic office has more than 100 linear feet of (mostly full) bookshelves, and there are more academic books on shelves in my study at home. My new at-home study for my post-retirement years will have one wall of floor-to-ceiling bookcases, with about 60 linear feet of shelves, and about half of these will be designated for academic books. This means that I will only be able to keep about 1/4 to 1/3 of my academic books. I have already begun to think about which ones will make the cut. They tend to fall into four categories: much-loved books that I want to own and re-read, books that I have always meant to read but never found time for, a few classics and reference works that I can’t imagine being without, and books related to research that I hope to continue with after my retirement. Most of the remainder will be given away. I plan to spend a half day each week sorting through all the material in my office. As I do so, I’ll put books that I am not keeping out on currently empty bookshelves in the public area of my department and invite students and colleagues to take any that they want.
Dealing with all the paper files in my office will be made much easier by the digital revolution that has happened during my academic career. Several book shelves in my office are filled with paper copies of academic journals that I’ve subscribed to over the years – journals that are now readily available in full-text databases and no longer need to be kept in paper. I would like to keep copies of recent teaching materials (syllabi, assignments, class notes, grade books, etc.). I know from retired colleagues that I will be fielding requests from former students for letters of recommendation for about 5 years after I retire, and I’ll need records of those students’ work in my courses to write those recommendations. In addition, I want to allow for the possibility that I may teach some of this material again. Happily, all of the academic material that I need to keep can be stored on a single flash drive, and paper copies can go into the recycling bin.
Some material from my office will probably go to the College archives (either in paper or electronic form). Because I was the founding director of my college’s Women’s Studies (now Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies) program, I have quite a bit of material documenting the history of that program that is probably not available elsewhere. I plan to get in touch with the archivist at the college library as early in the process as possible to find out what kinds of material they are and are not interested in.
Cleaning out my office will be the easy part of this process. Packing up and moving out of my 6-room Gettysburg townhouse will be a much bigger job. But that is a subject for another post.