As I sat on the tarmac at Boston Logan for over an hour yesterday afternoon, I flipped through SkyMall and saw a charming little scanner for business travel called Neat Receipts. Install their software, scan all of your business travel paper, and store the information in categories like receipts, business cards, and so forth.

That sounds like a great idea. But, allow me to make a (stereotypically librarian) argument for keeping the paper business cards.

by Meg, held just so, so the spammers don’t find him

As soon as I get home, I gather all of the cards I’ve received, and I write on the back how I met the person, plus something that will jog my memory about their work, their personality, at a later date.


by Meg, with special thanks to Mitch for being a gentleman

For tactile learners like myself, the way that the card felt in your hand, plus the note about how you received it, will mean much more than a tidy data file in three weeks’ time. The chivalry of paper is not yet dead with respect to business cards. A hearty stock, an unusual shape, an illustration, a font all say something about the card’s bearer, or at least the institution that sent them to the conference.

My cards are not stored in a very scientific way. I rubber band together cards from a particular event, like AALL annual meeting, and label the banded pile with the event name and year. Before I go to the same event next year, I flip through the cards. If I’m thinking of starting a new project, or writing an article, I flip through. If I see something that makes me think of someone I met at a conference during the year, I flip through, find their contact info, and tell them about it. But, the act of flipping through lets me think about people in a way that’s very different than scanning names on a screen.

Holding a card is like shaking a hand again. You wouldn’t refuse someone’s outstretched hand in a face to face meeting. This year, try treating business cards with the same respect. I hope you’ll be pleased with outcome, even though it’s a bit more work.