Monday, July 06, 2009

Lost & Found

As my graduating students pack up and move out, they have been finding things. My things.

In some ways, I am a very organized person. Most of these ways involve getting things done and not forgetting (too often) when I have something to accomplish by a certain date. In other ways, I am not an organized person. Most of those ways involve the arrangement of my office and the things in it.

Although much of the scientific literature is available in electronic form these days, some things are not. I lend books and back issues of journals -- as well as assorted other tangible objects -- to my graduate students. And I am not good at keeping track of who has what.

Yes, I have tried check-out lists, but after the first few entries, the lists tend to sit there, unused for both check-out and return. And even if I were diligent about enforcing the sign-out/sign-in system, sometimes students borrow things when I am not around, or one student borrows something and then lends it to someone else. The lists are never accurate, so I have given up on them.

If I can't find something and I'm pretty sure it's not in my office, I just send an email around to the group and say "Does anyone have X?" and either it turns up or it doesn't.

Something interesting about the most recent finding and returning of things by my departing graduate students is that one of them had items borrowed by a student who graduated 4-5 years ago and had given the borrowed items to this other student (his housemate), telling him to give them to me. But he did not give them to me. He forgot he had these things until he graduated and started packing up his office and home. Recently I have been reunited with some very long-lost items.

I have had an unusual number of students graduate this spring/summer, so lately I have been getting a lot of books and other items returned to me. Somehow in the intervening years while these items were in other offices, the space they formerly occupied got filled in with other things, causing me to contemplate in a very serious way the possibility of considering maybe doing some major office organizing this summer.

If I do organize my office, I doubt if this effort will be accompanied by the creation of a system for organizing the lending of books etc., but at least I will be starting almost from scratch, with only a few (?) things already lent to current students and postdocs.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you bitter or angry about your students not returning your things in a timely manner?

Anonymous said...

but at least I will be starting almost from scratch, with only a few (?) things already lent to current students and postdocs.

That is just what they want you to think....

My advisor still has some of my books. Since he is never going to move, I am never going to get them back....

Space Prof said...

FSP said, "I have had an unusual number of students graduate this spring/summer"...this brings up the question of the ideal or maximum number of grad students to have. I found that with 2 assistant research scientists, 3 grad students, and 2 undergrad students, I was in constant "manager mode" and had no first author manuscripts submitted during the school year. Ugh.

female Science Professor said...

not bitter, not angry

Kim said...

Hee! I have that problem, except with undergrads. I think. Sometimes I forget which papers I should have in my files, and which books should be on my shelves...

Aurora said...

I like everything to be organized and in its place sometimes to a fault. I read somewhere that a frequent way small companies go under is when they start some massive overhaul of a product they have. Its never worth the time and money. So I've learned to live with a mess all academic year and do some spring cleaning in the summer months only.

Ms.PhD said...

bar codes! it's cheap and easy now! and students can even do it themselves!

also, maybe some solace that apparently you got by just fine without these things for 4-5 years: maybe you don't really need them anymore?

i'm always pleased when students want a book at all. books are so last-century.

lusenok said...

Given the current state of a job market I wonder why there is an "unusual number of students graduate"?
Where did they find jobs?

Physicow said...

RFID may be your friend. Not sure how much such a solution would cost, but you could then just issue a "tell me who's here" command to your bookshelf and get a list of books siting there. There's a setup time (have to put rfid tag on all of the books and match book->tag in a db somewhere). Afterwards, it's all gravy. (NOTE: I've not (yet?) actually done this myself. ;)