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.

Big Apple Dreams

English: Science,Industry and Business library...

English: Science,Industry and Business library. New York city. NYPL. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the reasons I chose to go to grad school at the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) was their obvious commitment to service.  One of the primary examples of that commitment is Alternative Spring Break (ASB).  ASB is an opportunity for UMSI (holy alphabet soup Batman) students to utilize the skills they are learning in the program on a project for a non-profit or public sector organization.  Here’s how UMSI puts it:

The University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) annually hosts an Alternative Spring Break program that matches our very capable students with non-profit, cultural, government, and educational institutions in Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Washington, D.C. The students that participate are both Master of Science in Information candidates and Bachelor of Science/Arts in Informatics candidates. The students spend a week working on professional projects for the benefit of your organization.

The 2013 ASB program will take place from Monday, March 4 through Friday, March 8, 2013.  As part of the program, students start work on Monday morning and work approximately 35 to 40 hours until Friday afternoon.

As students, we had to apply for the program and choose five projects that we felt would best utilize our abilities while also providing us with an enriching experience.

I was lucky enough to get matched with my top choice.  I’ll get to spend the week of Spring Break working at the Science, Industry and Business (SIBL) branch of New York Public Library (I’ll post pictures of me in front of the lions even though this branch is a few blocks away!).  I was ecstatic to get the news that I had been matched 1) to NYPL, 2) to a reference style project, and 3) to New York!  Of all the locations available for ASB, New York City was the only one I had not visited previously.  Here is a link to the full description of project.

So, the next part will be a fundraiser to pay for the expenses.  Be on the lookout soon for a Crowdrise campaign (or, if you are local, Penny Wars).  Students are being asked to raise $500 each to cover the cost of the program including our transportation and lodging.  If we meet our goal, then our only expenses will be related to meals, local transportation like cabs and buses, and souvenirs.  I can’t wait to go on my great adventure to the Big Apple!  I’ll keep you all posted on ways you can help.