Most of us are well aware that many industries will be going paperless in the not too distant future. Physical storage of information isn’t as secure, cost effective, accessible, or searchable as digital information.
But there’s still a lot of information being stored on paper, microfiche, and other physical media. It’s become relatively simple to transfer information from physical media to digital formats, thanks to innovation in scanning technology. This in turn makes much of the information in physical storage redundant, and organisations are eager to make use of this newly available space. Of course, that physical media has to go somewhere. Some are taking steps to make sure this material is disposed of in an environmentally conscious manner.
The University of Arkansas Libraries recently did just that. The libraries have been continually searching their microfiche collections for information that is no longer needed. But instead of sending their unwanted microfiche to the landfill, they decided to take a different approach.
Microfiche sheets were once a more efficient way of storing printed information. The information is printed incredibly small on a plastic sheet approximately the size of an index card. These sheets can then be read by inserting them in a special microfiche reader, which magnifies the printed information. Of course, today, digital storage is far more efficient, and it makes sense for libraries to streamline their collections for the eventual shift to digital storage.
In this particular case, the libraries sorted through their collections to remove out of date college catalogues that had been stored on microfiche. They found a bit more than they anticipated: 240 pounds worth of microfiche that is no longer needed.
Members from multiple departments collaborated to find a solution that they could feel good about. In the end, the university opted to have the microfiche recycled by a company that specialises in this service. Although the company did charge a fee for doing so, everyone agrees that this environmentally conscious strategy was the right thing to do.
Moving into a future where most or all data is stored in digital form is exciting. And it’s also great to consider how paperless organisations can have a positive impact on the environment. However, we are in a stage of transition. The vast amounts of information currently being stored on physical media aren’t going anywhere until we decide to do something with it. As we plan to go paperless, we need to figure out how we’re going to go about disposing of it responsibly.