Will We Be Generation “Lost”?

As the New Year approaches, I’m reminded to clean out my paper file cabinet, putting the 2007 documents in archive boxes and starting new folders for 2008.

But … I realize that I don’t think as much about digital file management.  Which is something that the Geeks.com Tech Tips email I received today (available here or on the Tech Tips blog here) brings up.

[C]ountless digital photos of family and friends have been snapped over the course of the last week or two. What if you lost all of those photos? What if 20 years from now you lost every digital photo you had taken over the course of the last two decades? …

Not lost in the classic sense, but lost in the sense that my children and my grandchildren may not be able to look back on the history of our family during this time, because as a generation, we are in a transitional state of technology where our ability to manage and store data has not kept up with out ability to produce it.

Sure, I do periodic backups, but I haven’t spent much time thinking about how to preserve things like photos for the long-term.   While my photos of my niece and nephew are precious to me now, will those photos be accessible for the next generation? Will updated technology still be able to interpret today’s JPEG files stored on today’s CDs?  (I carried around my undergraduate floppy disks — yes, some 5-1/4″ ones, not just the square ones! — for nearly 15 years post-graduation before dumping them and their obsolete contents.)

Just a word about my personal affinity for Geeks.com.  It has a lot of closeout technology tools — good if you need a lot of mp3 players for school and it’s OK if they’re a year or two old.  And also a great model for us.

Instead of just selling technology stuff, they create added value by publishing weekly articles.  Tips for podcasting, choosing a digital camera, and more are written with accessible language that make their customers smarter and savvier.  Much as we can do as school library media specialists: we don’t just provide services and a collection.  We can add value when we keep our staffs updated with how those collections and services can be used.

Another interesting thought for consideration … I get the Tech Tips by email and have often referred friends to the Web version.  But now they offer their articles in a third format — a blog.  I like that they are reaching people in a variety of ways, depending on their customers’ personal preference.

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