In a New York Minute – Part 1 – Movies at the Library


This is the first in a series of posts inspired from my time in New York City on Alternative Spring Break (March 3-8, 2013).

Part of my time at SIBL (Science, Industry and Business branch of the New York Public Library) was spent meeting with staff and managers throughout the library. One hour of my time was spent at the circulation reference desk with Chris. SIBL is unique in the NYPL system because it houses both a reference library and a circulation library. As you can imagine, the goals for collection, programming and services for each are markedly different. While I was shadowing Chris at the desk, we started talking about the increased circulation of DVDs at the library.

A lot of libraries are investing in more DVD and CD holdings in order to keep circulation numbers high in the face of digital formats that are skewing the traditional circulation numbers. This lead to two interesting discussions. First, was the role of circulation numbers as an assessment indicator for libraries. I’ll be addressing that in its own post in the upcoming months. Second, we talked about what impact a streaming digital movie service might have and what might be involved in creating that if we artificially inflate circ numbers with DVDs now.

It’s pretty obvious that libraries should be taking user needs into account when considering collection development. Right now, DVDs are in high demand, in fact so high in some cases (we looked up “Argo”; the library system had 200 copies and 10,000 hold requests) that a patron might no longer be interested in seeing the movie they had requested the hold for by the time they were able to get their hands on it. Considering this, and the recent push toward digital formats I asked Chris how long he thought it might be before we see some kind of movie streaming service for libraries.

While neither of us could truly answer that question, we did discuss some of the major hurdles that would stand in the way of a service like that. For example, how would a streaming service be accomplished? If it were a partnership with Netflix or Amazon for instance, what would their incentive be for offering the service or partnering with the libraries? With as many problems as we have with book publishers not understanding the kind of consumer we bring to them, are we doomed to repeat the scenario with other producers and retailers? Speaking of producers, what issues might be encountered from the movie producers or studios regarding intellectual property? These are just the basic questions we considered when talking about the future of movies in the library. It will be interesting to see what develops in the genre as time goes on.

**Update: Finally catching up with my RSS feeds from while I was on break. Low and behold, there was an article about this exact topic from Digital Shift about Hoopla moving into this kind of service space.

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