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

Reference Question of the Week – 12/6/09

   December 12th, 2009 Brian Herzog

100 Million BC coverA patron called and asked,

Can you tell me what I'm watching?

Sigh. After an initial pause on my part, he explained that he had turned his television on in the middle a movie. He didn't have a TV Guide, so he called us to look up the online television listings.

One of the subject guides on the library's website is for Entertainment Resources, and for this question I used the Boston.com's TV Listings - perfect.

We knew the time and channel, so this was easy to find - it turns out the movie was 100 Million BC. He said it was good, and asked if the library had it in case he had to leave and thus miss the end. When I told him it wasn't in our catalog, he said,

Well, now I'll have to stay to watch the ending, but I guess I'll never get to see how it starts.

Perhaps it'll appear on Hulu.com soon.

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Reference Question of the Week – 5/18/08

   May 24th, 2008 Brian Herzog

UHF logoA patron called in and asked for a listing of all the public access television stations in Massachusetts. She said she had an idea for a show, and wanted to see about getting it on the air.

In our reference collection, we have the Directory of Massachusetts Broadcasters, from the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association, but it didn't seem to list public access stations. I called them and spoke with someone who checked with their assistant director. The word was that they do not deal with public access, and they suggested calling a local station and asking if they had a directory.

We do have a local cable station in town, Chelmsford Telemedia, but they patron said she had tried calling them but couldn't get through. We've got a pretty good relationship with them since they film lots of programs at the library, but when I called everyone was out of the office, too - those are four hard working guys.

So, continuing on, I tried the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, which is also in our reference collection. This looked like it had what the patron wanted, but also listed a lot besides public access stations and seemed difficult to sift through.

Next I tried the FCC and Massachusetts State government websites, thinking they might provide a list, but couldn't find a simple list. Then it was onto the general internet, using searches like "list of public access stations" and "public access television massachusetts," and found:

All of these listed more or less the same stations. I called the patron back to let her know what I found, and she was happy to hear about the online lists. I sent her all the urls in an email, and also said that if she comes to the library we can help her look through the Gale directory.

I never heard back, so I take that as a good sign - the online lists got her off and running on her project, and she was just too busy to reply (whereas I usually hear back right away if the information is not helpful).

I still feel like there should be an official government source for this type of listing, but I still have yet to find it through any official channels.

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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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Online Movie and TV Resources

   March 27th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Tele-puterSomething I've been seeing a lot of lately are websites with free television shows and movies. I mentioned hulu.com on a previous post, and it's also been talked about elsewhere.

(I tried it out this weekend, and watched quite a few shows and a couple feature movies - all for free, with no problems, and very minimal commercial interruptions. This is the first time I've watched television or movies online, so I guess this is something for my Tech-YES list. But it did occur to me that, come Feb 17th, 2009, instead of buying a new set or digital cable box, I might just get rid of my television entirely and rely on the internet for shows and movies [then I could add "no television set" to my Tech-NO list])

Another free source, reported on Boing Boing, is the South Park Studios website. They just announced they are making all South Park episodes available free (but I noticed a few are not, due to contractual issues). According to creator Matt Stone, they're doing this because "we just got really sick of having to download our own show illegally all the time. So we gave ourselves a legal alternative."

A slightly different approach is AnyTV, discussed by LibrarianInBlack. I haven't tried this, but it looks like you download and install their AnyTVplayer on your computer, and then can stream a large number television channels, radio stations and video clips - free. Sarah also bring up the idea of installing this software on public library computers, to allow people to use their internet time to watch television. Hmm.

Finally, LifeHacker offers a long list of free online resources for online videos. I checked out a couple, but none seemed as easy to use as Hulu.com. http://tv-video.net did seem to have more episodes of certain shows, but that might just be because Hulu.com is still new.

Of course, this is all in addition to what the networks themselves off on their websites: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS. These, like the South Park guys, have the edge because they are the source. If all information is free and legal, the only reason to go to the middlemen aggregators (like Hulu.com, et. al.) is ease of use of the interface.

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