2017-09-21 / Editorial

Save me the aisle seat

Library Links
by Melanie Taylor Coombs

Libraries seem to always be surrounded by controversy. Back in the dark ages, i.e., when I started in libraries, there was quite a brouhaha over collecting VHS tapes. Luddites felt bringing non-book items into the collection was appalling. VHS tapes were considered coveted items and were often kept under lock and key. Customers had to promise first born children, pets and cars prior to checking them out of the library. Five years later, video recordings became commonplace collection items, even in the smallest libraries. In fact, they quickly became very, very popular, circulating far more than their counterpart books.

Let’s fast forward to today. Last year I made the very difficult decision of deleting old worn, superseded VHS tapes from our adult collections. There were only a handful remaining and they did not circulate well. Copyright guidelines are very specific about changing formats of recordings, so we cannot just copy them over onto DVDs. I decided to keep five tapes that seemed to be of historical value. They are “The ’47 Fire,” produced by the Brick Store Museum, “Fish Restoration on the Saco River,” “Franco-Americans We Remember” and two French language titles.

Last year DVDs and Blu-rays represented more than 35 percent of our total circulation. Many of our library visitors come in just for our wonderful video collection. What we don’t own we can often borrow very quickly from other libraries. Clearly, this is something that is very popular in our community. Developing collections of DVDs and Blu-rays can be very challenging. We have many patrons who rely on us for BBC television programs and others that only want to watch horror films. Like readers, viewers have preferences, so how does the staff select items for the collections?

For years, I worked closely with interns from the University of Maine system. One thing I always, always told future librarians is this – public libraries exist to provide services to the community they serve. Period. So, our collection at McArthur Library has developed largely based on what people request. This morning I took a request for the third season of the television show “Empire” which was released Sept. 12, 2017. According to our library computer system, we have holds on everything from “Guardians of the Galaxy II” (both Blu-ray and DVD) to “Dunkirk” to “My Cousin Rachel.” Several people are eagerly awaiting “Wonder Woman.”

Taking video requests from people is very interesting. My experience has shown me that requested items are often items others are looking for as well, but they have not gotten the courage up to ask for them. A few weeks ago I took a request from an art enthusiast for a documentary called “Peggy Guggenheim, Art Addict.” It came out in 2015 and I thought it would have a limited audience. Saturday a patron brought it up to me and asked “Did you ORDER this? I’m so happy; I can’t wait to watch it!”

So, to all you film enthusiasts and television buffs, why not stop by, check out our collection and let us know what you are looking for. In the meantime, save me an aisle seat (seriously, I really like the aisle seat).

Melanie Taylor Coombs is adult services supervisor/ librarian at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford.

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