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




Watching Movies on Netflix and Copyright Issues

   August 11th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Pull quote from WBUR storyOn my drive to work this morning, I heard a story on the radio on how people are upset about the holes in Netflix's collection.

I've been hearing this same thing from friends, that more and more often lately the movies they want are just not available through Netflix - either as a DVD or streaming. The story attributes this to the changing contracts concerning entertainment producers and online delivery, and a related story also covered broadband issues.

The main thrust of the story seemed to be just informational - sort of, "this is happening, get used to it."

Sadly, they didn't mention public libraries as a resource for DVDs - we have lots of movies and shows not legally available to borrow elsewhere. I left a quick comment on their story:

As a public librarian, I always encourage people to check out their local library's DVD collection. If they don't have what you want, ask your librarian to order it!

I tried not to be glib, but happily, the holes in a library's collection are usually* due just to selection oversights (of which I am guilty) - which is easily remedied by being responsive patron requests.

At least, for now. Copyright battles are raging, as media companies try every tact they can to protect their revenue streams - including changing existing laws, which could affect first sale doctrine and fair use rights.

I don't have any direct links to these issues, but I would encourage everyone to pay attention to the issues the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is tracking, especially those dealing with Intellectual Property. When a copyright-related bill is making its way through Congress, the EFF details what effects it will have, and what action can be taken to protect access to information.

Another great copyright resource to follow is the Copyfight blog - it's not strictly library issues, but it is all about copyright.

Funny how a short story on the radio can have an impact on your entire day.


 

*In addition to the movies we missed purchasing, another source of holes in the collection is always theft.



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C-SPAN Documentary on the Library of Congress

   July 28th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Library of Congress signIf you've already seen the new Harry Potter and Captain America movies and thus have run out of things to watch, never fear - C-SPAN to the rescue!

C-SPAN has a new documentary on the Library of Congress, which is definitely worth watching (if you're interested in the history and function of the LoC, that is). I think it originally aired on Monday, July 18, 2011, and it kept me interested for the full hour and thirty minutes.

I've toured the LoC twice, and yet almost everything in this documentary was new to me. My favorite parts were the murals depicting good and bad forms of government (as a result of embracing or rejecting knowledge), and the tour of the preservation area, including the "document bath."

Not that you need it, but here are more teasers from their website:

“The Library of Congress” reveals details of:

  • The Great Hall, Reading Room , and exterior of the Jefferson Building
  • Some of the treasures among its books, maps, photos, and presidential papers
  • The History of the Library of Congress and its Jefferson Building
  • The Jefferson Library and other treasures of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division
  • The painstaking care of the Library’s collections
  • The use of technology to reveal new information about historical documents

About the Library of Congress:

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with nearly 150 million items. It was started in 1800. Its first books were bought from England with a $5,000 appropriation from Congress. Housed in the U.S. Capitol, the library was destroyed in 1814 when British soldiers burned the building. Hearing of the fire, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell Congress his book collection. After much debate, Congress agreed to buy the collection for just under $24,000. In 1851, another fire destroyed 2/3 of the library’s holdings. In 1870, Congress passed copyright legislation that required two copies of every book published be sent to the Library of Congress. Subsequently, the holdings of the library grew extensively. Congress debated whether to give the library its own building. That didn’t happen until much later. The library moved out of the Capitol building and into the Jefferson building in 1897. Today, the Library of Congress spans over a total of 8 buildings.

Something I just noticed: The Jefferson building of the Library of Congress was built in 1897, and the Chelmsford Library was built in 1894 - that was a good decade for libraries.



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Reference Question of the Week – 1/9/11

   January 15th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Movie Suggestion FAILThis week's question wasn't difficult, and isn't particularly unusual, but I'm sharing it because I like the resource we ultimately found to answer it.

An older patron walked up to the desk and said,

I don't really follow popular culture, but I think I should start watching more movies. Can you tell me which movies were the most popular in each of the last five or so years?

My first suggestion was to check the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, but he felt that winning an award didn't necessarily mean it was popular. Besides, he said, he didn't just want a list, he also wanted to read summaries of the movies.

When he said that, I walked him back to where the film and movie books are (791.4375). I showed him Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and a few others. None of the books on the shelve arranged films by year, but he did like all the reviews and ratings, and he especially liked 1001 Movies... because it listed movies by genre.

The patron took those over to a table while I went back to the desk to find a chronological list. At the desk I told my coworker about the question I was working on, and just then the phone rang. I answered it, helped the caller with their question, and by the time I hung up my coworker had already searched online and found the perfect resource for this question.

The website is Films101.com, and it lets you see lists of movies in all kinds of different ways - by rating, year, gross revenues, genre, award winners, and on and on. Clicking on any movie led to reviews, and the website's layout was uncluttered and easy to navigate.

The listing that best fit this question was their Yearly Top 10. Since the website format was clean with no sidebars full of ads, I was able to print a double-sided list all the way back to 2003 on a single sheet of paper. I brought this over to the patron, and his face lit up - he said it was exactly what he was looking for.

He came by the desk a few minutes later, saying he was checking out Leonard Maltin's latest book, so he could go down the list and look up each one. He also pointed out that he was happy foreign films were included, because "there's a lot going on outside this country."

Any kind of movie suggestions (or readers advisory) can be tough because once you get beyond award winners, everything is so subjective. Something else I liked about this website was that it continually took in new data, so rankings sometimes changed based on new review sources.

Yay for giving a patron what he wanted, and for teamwork.



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Reference Question of the Week – 7/18/10

   July 24th, 2010 Brian Herzog

In honor of Thursday's Libraries in Videos post, I thought I'd do this week's reference question video-style.

My brother-in-law turned me on to Xtranormal.com, a text-to-movie website - you type in your script, select actors, animations, camera angles, etc., and then it builds a little video for you. It's worth it to read about their free and paid options before you spend two hours fine-tuning the perfect video, only to learn it's going to cost you $5 to post it (oops).

This is a made-up reference question, but one I think everyone will recognize. I'm the one on the right - enjoy:

Alright, I admit it's dorky, but it was fun to make, and what can I say - I used all the free options. But this would be a cool way to make instructional library videos, because editing is super-quick, no cameras or mics needed, and is a boon to the camera-shy.

By the way, I chose to upload this video to YouTube and embed it from there, but the Xtranormal video page allows embedding and lots of other sharing options.

Thanks, Mike!



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Coraline: The Movie

   February 10th, 2009 Brian Herzog

coraline movie posterI'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman, and subscribe to his blog feed.

It was through his blog, in fact, that I learned about his book Coraline, and purchased it for the library so I could read it.

Then, more recently, he's been talking about the movie release. After watching this trailer on the blog, featuring him, I went to see the movie.

It goes without saying that Neil is just cool. But on top of that, how great is it to have an author talk about and promote his work, not only in a very personal way through the blog, but also in a very personal way through the very impersonal medium of movies? To wit:

Not that this movie would need much promotion, but a library could do a movie-to-book-to-other-books-by-this-author tie-in quite easily by embedding this trailer into a page on their website and also including an annotated listing of his other books, and link to those books in their catalog.

Oh yeah, and the movie was great. Different than the book (from what I remember), but great in its own right.



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MacGyver Movie In The Works?

   May 6th, 2008 Brian Herzog

MacGyver television logoThis isn't library-related, but he was one of my childhood heros, such just bear with me.

Slashdot is reporting there might be a MacGyver movie. Of course, it was MacGyver who started me down the Swiss Army Knife path, and I'd wager he was one of the most influential people on boys growing up in the 80's.

The movie seems just in the rumor stage right now, so who knows. In the meantime, we can all take advantage of CBS providing MacGyver episodes free in their website archive.

Also, enjoy some MacGyver-related products:



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