Another year is coming to a close, so I find myself turning to the idea of personal information management (PIM) — trying to figure out what I do well and what I could do better in managing the information that flows through my fingers, literally or digitally.  The term itself is somewhat debated, with some emphasizing the personal rather than business, others emphasizing the information management, and others suggesting end user information management is a better term for the stuff that must be managed by people.  There are certain principles that define PIM:

  • search
  • find
  • encounter
  • interpret
  • decide to keep or not
  • file and organize for re-use
  • re-access
  • use

Personally, I find the decide to keep or not keep step to be the most daunting.  And being able to re-access information in a prompt manner is most important to me.

A blogger for Scientific American specified four principles that guide PIM for her:

  1. Identify the types of things you are trying to organize
  2. Keep things simple
  3. Set up automatic tools
  4. Consistency

The Signal blog of the Library of Congress recently highlighted a curriculum for a personal digital archiving workshop that was developed in Georgia.  Such efforts point out not only that PIM is a growing field but that archivists recognize the necessity of providing leadership in the field of PIM.  As long as the archival world is embracing the concept of a continuum model of records, and many records are now being created in born-digital formats, we also must embrace the role of archivists in shepherding people to be good digital stewards who create and maintain items that can be appropriately accessioned into archival collections.

If you need more information on PIM, here are some suggestions:

  • Jan Zastrow provides a simple definition of PIM and includes a great list of other references
  • Purdue University has a good LibGuide (though it’s slanted towards citation management)
  • William Jones wrote an article entitled “Finders, Keepers?” that focuses on the questions of whether and how to keep information
  • for a much more academic approach, the Haystack project out of MIT researches information access, analysis, management, and distribution
  • if you need a term for the stuff you collect that eludes your management systems, try “information scraps” on for size
  • if in the end you decide you prefer your current state of disorganization, take heart in David Weinberger’s Google TechTalk, “Everything is Miscellaneous