or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Circulating a Roku for Streaming Videos

   October 21st, 2015 Brian Herzog

rokulogoRecently, my Library bought a Roku to start circulating to patrons. I loved this idea, because it solved a problem that has been annoying me for years.

Awhile ago, sometimes when we bought DVDs, they would come with an "ultraviolet" version in addition to the physical disc. The ultraviolet version was a digital copy - which of course the library couldn't really use, because it could only be downloaded to one device. So we'd get the codes for ultraviolet copies, and just throw them away. It wasn't really costing the library money, but I did not like that we were just throwing away a resource.

Then another nearby library got the idea to use a Roku to offer these videos to patrons. Their method was to create a Vudu library of all their ultraviolet movies, and then connect the Roku to that account. That way, patrons could check out the one Roku device, and use it on their home wi-fi network to have access to all of the movies we had ultraviolet licenses to stream. Nice.

Since they already had worked out the details, we just bought our own Roku and copied what they did. We're also adding all the ultraviolet titles to the catalog record, so the Roku shows up if someone searches for Still Alice or Paul Blart Mall Cop.

Our Roku circulates for one week, cannot be renewed, but can be requested. We're also circulating it in a padded case that comes with a remote control, various cables to connect it to the patron's television or digital projector, power supply, and instructions:


We, and a few other libraries, are only using it to stream our ultraviolet titles. But another library paid for a Netflix subscription with a gift card, so patrons can stream anything from that Netflix subscription. They've set up additional channels as well, which we haven't done (yet?).

We need to do a better job of promoting it's available, but I don't know that any patron would check this out just for the sake of watching movies on a Roku. Unlike checking out a telescope to use the telescope, I see this as more like a Playaway - patrons will check it out to get access to the content it contains, not for the experience of using this format. And at only $50 for the device, it's a great way to stop throwing away the ultraviolet titles.

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Reference Question of the Week – 4/28/13

   May 4th, 2013 Brian Herzog

Movie set signI have no idea how many patrons librarians help over the course of a day or year, but it's true that every single one of them has a unique story.

A few months ago a patron asked for help uploading photos of himself to a website. It turned out it was an actor's auditioning website, and the photos were head shots and full body shots for casting agents to pick from for extras in movies. Uploading the photos wasn't too difficult, but it took some doing to get them right-side-up and sorted correctly. I helped the patron for maybe ten minutes, he thanked me and left, and I didn't think any more about it.

This past Wednesday the patron came back in to thank me. He was excited, saying he got the part in the movie, filmed three scenes, and it was a magical experience. I don't know if he came straight from the set or what, but he was clearly still on cloud nine.

The film is American Hustle - there's not much information on IMBD, other than it has a bunch of big names in it and it's due to be a Christmas blockbuster. Apparently it was filming in Philadelphia but had to find a new location, so they came up to Boston and Worcester - hence the need for more local extras.

The patron said he shot scenes with Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper. The film is loaded with stars, but I can't wait to see it just to try to spot this patron.

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Reference Question of the Week – 10/28/12

   November 3rd, 2012 Brian Herzog

Carrotblanca movie posterMy coworkers know I'm always on the lookout for unusual reference questions. I was sitting at the desk with a coworker yesterday, when she answered the phone - of course, I could only hear her side of the conversation, but it was enough:

[ring ring]
Coworker: Reference desk, can I help you?
Coworker: [turns towards me] You're looking for a version of the movie Casablanca that stars Bugs Bunny, but you don't know the title? Sure, let me check.
[she searches online for casablanca bugs bunny]
Okay, that version is called "Carrotblanca" and [searches our catalog] it looks like we have it, on a DVD called "The essential Bugs Bunny."

She put the DVD on hold for the patron, and everyone was happy. Especially me - patron gets what he wants, and I think "a version of the movie Casablanca that stars Bugs Bunny" is absurdly funny.

Interesting post-script: when I looked up the DVD record while writing this post, I noticed that "The essential Bugs Bunny" also includes Hare and loathing in Las Vegas - now that is something I've got to see.

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What Does “Video” Mean Today?

   April 18th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Internet Killed the Video Store? signHere's a topic that I've heard come up multiple times recently in different contexts, and I'm curious if there is any kind of wider consensus on it. The question is, what does the word "video" mean to people?

We're redesigning our catalog, and in the process of coming up with format description, we had a discussion (and disagreement) on whether "video" means just VHS tapes, or if it refers to to DVDs and other formats as well (like "music" is a generic term for anything on CD, tape, etc). We're also redesigning our website, and in that context, we weren't sure if the word "video" means physical tapes/discs, or if people would presume it means online clips/episodes/tutorials/etc - or both.

So I thought I'd take a quick poll - please make a selection, but also leave a comment below on why, or if I've missed an option entirely.

[poll link]

And a question for another time: in light of this, does the "video" in "video game" make sense?

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The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

   February 2nd, 2012 Brian Herzog

Wow, and then there's this video - try to carve 15 minutes out of your day to watch and enjoy:

[video link]

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
by Moonbot Studios

Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

The only criticism I could make is this: scotch tape?!?!

Thanks for sharing @echoyouback.

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How to Frighten Young Books

   December 13th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This comic made me laugh:

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic

Thanks Chris.

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