One of the local television stations in Boston, WHDH 7, just aired an investigative story into libraries:
Theaters and video stores usually require an age of 17 or older to see or rent an R-Rated release, unless there is parental permission. But something altogether different is going on in some local libraries. 7News' Jonathan Hall investigates.
This is similar to the situation we had here a little while ago (except without the undercover investigators), which prompted us to put label ratings on VHS and DVDs when possible. And it looks like the Boston Public Library, "in line with American Library Association guidelines," is on the same page as us.
Libraries do not raise children, we provide access to information. Parents raise children, and we do what we can to support that need - while at the same time supporting the informational and educational needs of everyone else in the community.
I found this news report interesting, but a bit sensationalized. I'm sure as long as there are parents and children (and news outlets in need of ratings), issues like this will never die.
A librarian in Maine recently posted to MELIBS-L that one of their local patrons was a finalist for the 2008 StoryTubes contest. I had never heard of this contest, but I like projects where patrons get involved, so I checked it out. I loved it.
Kids make a video of themselves reviewing a book on a particular theme (that week's was "Facts, Fads and Phenoms") and submit it to StoryTubes. Finalists get posted on the website (via YouTube), website visitors vote, and four winner win $500 in books (and their sponsoring school or library receives $1,000 in books).
This year's contest is winding down, and I'm sorry I missed it. It's sponsored by publishers and libraries, and the finalist videos are great (my two favorite are below, and more here).
But even outside this contest, I think this would be a fun thing to do in the library. All it would take is a basic digital camera and a YouTube account, and I can see parents, kids and librarians getting really into it. It gives kids an opportunity to create, and in a public way. You always hear the phrase, "it'll be something to tell your grandkids about." This gives kids something to be proud of and tell their grandparents about.
Your Chickens: A Kids Guide to Raising and Showing
However, most of the usual ways require more access to the computer than we allow the public to have. Patrons cannot install software or get to Windows Sound Recorder, so he wanted something easier.
An internet search lead us to the website vixy.net, which is exactly what he wanted. Enter the url of the online video you'd like to record, choose the output file type (mp3 is an option), click start, wait, and then download the audio file. Nice.
The system is still in beta, and lists right on their homepage some of the errors you might encounter (after working with it awhile, the patron said he got an error on about one in three attempts). But when it works, it works, and it gave the patron exactly what he was looking for - mp3 files he could save to his flash drive.
But let me leave you with what I told him: just because something is possible doesn't mean it is legal. It is up to you to check to make sure the copyright on published work allows for this type of recording.
Something 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.