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Why do the libraries carry DVDs?

Original post made by David, Professorville, on Oct 24, 2006

Let us assume that stocking DVDs is a proper function of public libraries.

(I strongly disagree with that since supplying popular movies has nothing to do with literacy, education, citizenship, etc., and there are multiple low cost rental possibilities available to anyone. But, for the sake of argument let's assume that it is proper.)

A subscription to Netflix is available for six dollars a month (two disks per month for unlimited time).

There are 20,000 residential units in Palo Alto. If the city were to buy a Netflix subscription for all of them the cost would be 1.44 million dollars per year.

But since Netflix would pick up 20,000 subscribers with zero marketing expense, would not have any deadbeat problems and would have the opportunity to upgrade all of those subscribers to higher level plans, it is likely that a discount of 50 percent would be in order.

I don't know how much it costs the city to buy, shelve, track, check in, check out, DVDs. Consider also the very large space required. It wouldn't surprise me that the city could save money and provide better service by outsourcing DVDs

David

Comments (51)

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Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2006 at 10:51 am

I would like to hear your rationale, and assumptions, about why it is that you think DVD's have "nothing to do with literacy, education, citizenship, etc., and there are multiple low cost rental possibilities available to anyone.".

This is the argument that underlies your point, please defend it.


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Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2006 at 12:25 pm

Dear Periwinkle,

Quite the contrary. I think I made it clear that my feelings about DVD distribution by the library is my personal opinion. I will acknowledge that it is probably a minority opinion. It certainly is NOT "the argument that underlies your point..."

What I attempted to do is to point out that there may well be better ways of doing it.

I assume you are in favor of DVD availability through the library. If it were possible to provide better service, larger selection and reduced cost to the library system would you oppose it because it involves "outsourcing?"

In the interests of full disclosure I should have added to my original posting that I am not an employee of Netflix. I do not own stock in Netflix. I am not even a subscriber to Netflix. And I have never checked out a DVD from the library.


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Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 24, 2006 at 1:24 pm

Personally, I would rather the libraries not stock dvds. I have taken my children over the years to the library to get books. The whole point of the library is to get them to read rather than watch tv which they do plenty of. It was good in the children's library when the dvds and videos were in a separate room and they did not know about them. Then came the fateful day when they met a friend there who showed them the Aladin's cave they knew nothing about. Since then we have always checked out one dvd or video but it had to be educational. For myself, I have never checked out a movie and would never expect the library to have a good selection. I want the library to have a good selection of books. I go there for books. If I want a movie I rent one elsewhere. I think the money should be spent on books, not the latest movies.


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Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2006 at 1:49 pm

David, On its face, your DVD subscription model fails. First, there are well over 60,000 people in Palo Alto. Anyone with a library card would be eligible for subscriptions from the outsourcer. That's WAY more than the 20,000 you propose. [also, there are more than 26,000 household in Palo Alto].

How do you gugarantee Netflix no deadbeats? How do you manage the administrative costs of the partnership? What about choice of materials? How do you manage that? How much does it cost Netflix to change it algorithms to manage pubic library patronage? What happens to the lost opportunity to browse DVD's in a library, and discover by "walking around" - one of the primary ways people use libraries?

These and many other constraints doom your idea.


Carol, What about that portion of the population that has a cultural preference to access the spoken word, film, or classical/jazz/modern music? It has been public library tradition to serve this group from the beginning of the introduction of recorded media.

Are you saying that a DVD of Shakepeare's "Othello", or a jazz performance by Duke Ellington, or an archived performance of sir Richard Solti conducting Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, as pure entertainment, education, or whatever, is less valuable than the experience to be gained from a book?

The library is there to serve EVERYONE. That's why it's called a PUBLIC Library.


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Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 24, 2006 at 1:56 pm

Periwinkle (I love the name)

I do get your point about dvds. However, I don't think I am talking about the hard to find elsewhere dvds you are talking about. I have seen many dvds in the children's section which are not in that category and I have not had cause to look in the adult section. It is something that had not occurred to me I admit. I amend my opinion accordingly and the next time I visit the library I will browse in that section and see what they have to offer. Personally, I would love to see the Last Night of the Proms or the Queen's Silver Jubilee concert, so I will try and find them.


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Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 24, 2006 at 4:23 pm

Periwinkle:

"First, there are well over 60,000 people in Palo Alto. Anyone with a library card would be eligible for subscriptions from the outsourcer. That's WAY more than the 20,000 you propose"

My assumption was one membership per household.

"How do you gugarantee Netflix no deadbeats? "

The payment would be made by the city, not the individual household.

"How do you manage the administrative costs of the partnership?"

Netflix bills the city for 20,000 memberships. Everything else remains exactly as it is now as far as Netflix and the members are concerned.

"What about choice of materials? How do you manage that?"

Netflix has a huge catalog of available material, far greater that the Palo Alto or any municipal library could possibly afford. They manage it for several million subscribers. They don't have to change anything.

"How much does it cost Netflix to change it algorithms to manage pubic library patronage?"

They don't have to change anything. Netflix IS a library. it works by subscription, an online catalog and the mail.

"What happens to the lost opportunity to browse DVD's in a library, and discover by "walking around" "

You walk around in the web catalog. It is a change and somewhat difficult to get used to but it has distinct advanatages in terms of categorization, user comments, etc.

"Are you saying that a DVD of Shakepeare's "Othello", or a jazz performance by Duke Ellington, or an archived performance of sir Richard Solti conducting Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, as pure entertainment, education, or whatever, is less valuable than the experience to be gained from a book?"

As a collector of cultural DVDs, mainly Opera and concert, I agree with you. But the avialability of that material is far greater through Netflix than through the public library. And don't kid yourself; the DVD traffic at the library is for the latest Hollywood special effects, car chase, explosion laced blockbuster.

David



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Posted by netflixisgreat
a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2006 at 6:34 pm

i like your idea except i doubt your library spends more than 50,000 a year on dvds
so its a bit of a leap from 50,000$ to over a million
but the library could have its own subcription from netflix...3 out plan is about 200$ a year so 750 out at a time would be in the range of 50,000 a year
so the library would in fact subcontract to netflix
and everyone would have access to netflix's 65,000 choices
now there is an idea i like......
unfortunately library dvd users are notoriously rough on dvds (not that the ave netflix user is all that great either)
but librarians are often left scratching their heads trying to figure out what someone used that dvd for....

in conclusion...perhaps there is a role for netflix in providing dvds for libraries

wonder if netflix would be enthusiastic?

believe it or not i offered to completely subsidize a one year experiment for a public library. I did not get a response from the librarian that received my proposal.

regards...netflixisgreat@aol.com




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Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 24, 2006 at 8:38 pm

We have a Netflix subscription AND check out library DVDs (county library, though, better lending policies for kids' materials). At the library, we are able to locate and try out an array of educational materials that would be hard to locate through Netflix. Plus, the way it is with kids, you kind of have to have a few DVDs on hand over a period of time to get to watch them.

I'll give an example: we've watched the video of Ralph S. Mouse from the library, and this spurred my son's interest in having the Beverly Cleary chapter book series read to him - when he was 2 years old. That video isn't even sold in traditional retail, it's only sold through library vendors. Unless Netflix acquired it recently, they don't have it either.

Don't forget that the libraries have a whole lot of videotapes that haven't been made into DVD's -- I went and bought a cheap used VCR at Goodwill, cleaned the heads, and use it to watch the videos from the library. This way, I have access to a huge videotape library -- that doesn't have nearly the same competition as with DVD's -- and don't have to worry if an occasional tape from the library isn't in good condition. Actually, these days I'm finding the tapes are in better condition than most of the DVD's. We can watch episodes of Between the Lions (reading literacy show) and all kinds of independently produced small-time but wonderful educational shows that aren't available on library DVD (or on DVD at all).


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Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2006 at 10:30 pm

a few things:

David, I doubt that Netflix has the kind of specialized material that many libraries want to have in their collection. Also, patrons will not easily "just get used to" pursuing their DVD explorations in the Netflix catalogue. There is a HUGE leap in behavior to be made by library patrons in the case you describe. Further, by extension of your argument, one could say that many books could be "borrowed" from an outsourced third party. By extension, one could say "why even bother with the library - why have libraries at all?", as one could theoretically get everything online.

Libraries are **places**, they have a demeanor, they *live* in a way that online catalogues don't. Libraries are places where one can use one's pursuit of wonder to discover, and get *immediate* satisfaction. I don't want to disintermnediate the library *expeience* - that's priceless, and goes far beyond the talk of various efficiencies and economies.

This is one of the things that most difficult to transmit to early adopter types who strongly resonate with getting most of what they need from the Internet - clothes, relationships, music, books, general culture, incidental entertainment, sex, competitive interation (gaming), communication (email, social networking) etc. etc.

About popular material being made available through the library. Why shouldn't that be? Hasn't that always been the case with books and magazines, and recorded music, etc. etc? Why should it be any different with DVD's.

Our culture is evolving to use different media - libraries simply reflect those changes.

Lastly, Netflix billing for 20,000 memberships, for a theoretical limit of 66,000 users just doesn't make financial sense. I know people at Netflix, and I'll bet that they HAVE considered library outsourcing. The fact that we haven't seen it yet is probably another indicator that it doesn't make sense in terms of the bottom line, for Netflix.

I have to agree with A.J.- in terms of understood USE and patron BEHAVIOR. I have looked on Netflix for classical titles, including spoken word stuff - and no cigar. I don't think the Netflix idea would fly, from an organizational efficiency or patron benefit perspective.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2006 at 11:08 pm

"And don't kid yourself; the DVD traffic at the library is for the latest Hollywood special effects, car chase, explosion laced blockbuster."

Well even if that were true and I'm not sure it is, what's wrong with checking out a popcorn movie from the library?

Do you really want whats available at the library to be censored and not serve the average patron?

I assume thats why the library shelves most of the magazines that they do. Not because they are examples of great literature, but because they are what the patrons want and they can be shared.

Now using the example of DVDs are available elsewhere cheaply so why have them at the library. The same argument could be made about a Jane Austen Novel. They are cheap to buy, the full texts are available online for free, so why should a library have them. I bet Dickens and Shakespeare fall in the same catagory.

I think a library is about a community sharing media.


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Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 25, 2006 at 2:36 am

I would prefer that the library DVD materials focus more on education and less on entertainment. Things that people are less likely to get from NetFlix.


Here are some examples:

PBS - Nova series
Magnetic Storm
Galileo's Battle for the Heavens

Frontline
The Lost Year in Iraq
The Man Who Knew
The Merchants of Cool

Origin series by Neil deGrasse Tyson

History Channel
Lost Worlds series

Discovery/BBC
Walking with ... series


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Posted by Betamax
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2006 at 5:13 am

Does David work for Netflix?


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Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 6:31 am

Libraries typically don't stock very many entertainment DVDs. The vast majority are educational. Moreover, a typical public library doesn't have a budget of $1.44 million to spend on books in a year, or even half of that to spend on DVDs. That's a truly massive ammount of money to a library.


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Posted by Question
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2006 at 6:39 am

Do you work for Netflix ?


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Posted by sarlat
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2006 at 7:48 am

some of the dvd's in the library are of hard to find wonderful foreign movies and independent american movies. many of them are educational movies, documentaries, nature movies,foreign language instruction, etc. often, my kids go to the library in order to look for dvd's and return with books. many seniors and others with limited budgets have the opprtunity to check out movies for free. great books are available cheaply in used book stores, is that a reason why libraries shouldn't carry books? i find david's argument bizarre, nonsensical and a total waste of space.


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of University South
on Oct 25, 2006 at 8:13 am

Public libraries exist to serve everyone, including those who can not afford books/DVDs and those who can not read books.

My sister can not read. Not because she is stupid, but because she is blind in one eye and can not focus on the printed page for a long period of time. Does her disability mean that the library should not purchase materials for her?

As for whether the library should purchase entertainment DVDs I wonder who gets to decide what is appropriate. I read Danielle Steele once and thought that was total trash. Should the library only purchase "morally uplifting" or educational books? Based on what criteria? What is considered a "trashy" movie or "trashy" book by some are enjoyed by others. What is considered "trashy" today may be studied by future researchers as an important novel/movie in future. My point is there is no objective way to determine what should be purchased and no one should impose their definition of a "good" book or movie on someone else. The joy is that we all contribute equally.


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Posted by Michael
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 9:30 am

I'm a public librarian in Charlotte, NC and I find this discussion very intriguing. I'd just like to say that public libraries are not necessarily opposed to "outsourcing". In fact public libraries have been outsourcing cataloging functions for years to our vendors to that materials arrive stickered, security tagged, these days even RFID tagged. The cataloging is also included so that only obscure or local interest items not widely held can be cataloged before they arrive at the library. This has led to smaller technical services/cataloging depts. in most library systems nationwide. Many public libraries are not opposed to home delivery of items as more and more libraries are offering books by mail services in a cost effective, efficient manner. If Netflix or any other vendor for that matter had a compelling distribution model for DVDs I'm sure libraries would take a hard look at it. We are always striving for continuous improvement to stretch our resources in the most meaningful ways to deliver the best possible services to our users. In fact you'd probably be pleasantly surprised at how your local library stacks up with our governmental agencies and services for customer service satisfaction and impact on the local economy. It is a little known real estate fact that neighborhoods with a local community library have higher property values (not as important in P. Alto) and some studies have shown a pretty decent ROI for local economies by public libraries.

If you, Joe Citizen, have a concrete proposal for improving service, then take it to your local library board and/or library director. Check with Netflix and see what kind of commercial vendor plans they have available for public libraries and maybe you'll get a finder's fee for suggesting another revenue stream ;)

Finally public libraries provide free and open access to information in a wide variety of formats for broad interest. Some of you may not like feature films in your collections but your neighbors may love them. Popular culture has always been a staple of our collections and in the absence of a groundswell of community feedback to remove them, they will still be there for everyone's enjoyment. Who is to say that the Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD is more valuable than stocking Proust in book form? Is Eric Jerome Dickey's latest bestseller more important than having To Kill a Mockingbird on DVD? Food for thought...


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Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2006 at 9:42 am

Michael

I love what you say and I am sure more of my Palo Altans would love to have your library here. Unfortunately, we have a problematic library service and two schools of thought on how to improve it. The big obstacle of course is money, or lack of it, and how any improvement in one direction will of course mean cutbacks in another. I would be very interested in hearing whether your library is adequately funded, whether it closes in hot weather, what the hours of opening are, whether the buildings are outdated, and how you manage to buy all the materials suggested by your patrons. We know there are better library systems about and we feel quite jealous, but your comments would be welcome.


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Posted by hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 9:50 am

"The proper function of public libraries" is to provide materials to the public. The problem is the use of the word "proper" and who gets to decide that. You should not think it appropriate to limit (censor) information simply based upon the type of media it is delivered: electronic (e-books, Internet), audio, microfilm/microfiche, print, braille, VHS, DVD, cassette, et cetera. Public libraries are about facilitating access to information in all forms to all people. We are not in competition with Netflix. We are not Netflix. We have missions and mentalities that are not commercial or biased by corporate affiliations and business models. We exist for the have-nots. Ironically, it is the Haves that seem very comfortable to question why libraries exist or offer certain services that could be had elsewhere, for a price of course. We are about free, freedom, freeing people to do what they could not if they had to otherwise purchase their knowledge and materials from third parties. Consider it from an economically-disadvantaged person's point of view: someone who can easily afford a Netflix subscription is recommending that one of the services your library provides is optional at best and might be better handled by a business. There are more things to libraries than dollar figures, more than materials. We are community centers. For some people we are all that they have, all that exists between them and the streets that would otherwise consume them. We fight for everyone's right to access materials in all forms and cannot shrink from that responsibility. A better-educated society is more productive and less prone to violence and other maladies afflicting the world in so many ways and places today. Libraries do infinitely more good for the world than most people realize, and I mean also people within the library community. It is obvious we need to step up our efforts and re-educate people as to why we exist, what we do, why we do what we do, and why we must continue. The work we do, for the relative little pay we do it for, enhances in many uncountable ways (that do not show up on spreadsheets) the socioeconomic conditions of any given community. Ask us to do less, to provide less, to atrophy, and you will do yourself and your community and your world a disservice you never would have intended if you truly understood the integral nature of all these components and the daily dynamics we have to face each day with very little money and staff. We love what we do for communities and hope to see more people come to understand why libraries are essential, and in some cases the only hope a community might have for betterment. Thank you for considering these words.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 25, 2006 at 12:52 pm

The Palo Alto Library has a better selection of kid's videos than Netflix. I would like to see some statistics on what kinds of DVD's are actually borrowed.


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Posted by MovieLover2
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 25, 2006 at 1:28 pm

Why Netflix? How does a city justify giving city money to one company over another? It is a sticky situation.

I personally wish the libraries would buy movies based on reviews and awards, similar to how they buy books. Just because a movie is "popular" doesn't make it timeless or classic. But I am a movie snob. And the previous comment about Danielle Steel novels is a good one.

And I am all for buying more educational DVDs than currently bought.

Alas, the retail model is what is driving most library services these days - defeating the whole idea of a free public library designed to keep citizens informed and educated regardless of class.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2006 at 1:41 pm

Many of the DVD's in our library system are so rare and obscure that even if Netflix carried them, most people wouldn't even know they existed. I have watched a DVD of wonderful Brazilian film that even my Brazilian friends didn't know about. naother point:many of the DVD'S in our library system have been donated by patrons. I often receive DVD'S as a present and after watching then once or more I donate them to the library. Many other people do the same. My daughter has used a library cd-om and DVD to prepare a school assignment about black holes, the death of stars and glaxy formation. The visual aspect of these particular media forms, in addition to books, had helped her a great deal in comprehending and perceiving those very complicated topics and she received an A. If David had his way, such media materials wouldn't be available in the library since they aren't books. Many of the books in the library would be considered trashy by most Palo Alto library patrons and way below the level of many of the brillian, rare and innovative movies on DVD, but patrons like me, who check out many wonderful books AND wonderful movies on DVD, would never dream of suggesting that the library stop purchasing them. I find David's suggestion not only extremely arrogant but also very silly.


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Posted by False Prophet
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 2:16 pm

Netflix's cataloguing is not up to the standards of your typical public library. The search engine of the site seems to only search titles, directors and actors, not descriptions or subject matter. This does not help the library user who asks for "a movie about class conflict" or "biopics of civil rights leaders", for example.

Not to say Netflix isn't a good video-rental service; I'm sure it is. But it is a video-rental service, not a catalogued collection.


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Posted by Libraryuser
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2006 at 2:58 pm

>Alas, the retail model is what is driving most library services these days - defeating the >whole idea of a free public library designed to keep citizens informed and educated regardless of class.

I agree; the libraries seem to be competing with Borders, and that's a losing propositiion. About DVDs, I don't think they should buy TV programs like Seinfeld and Six Feet Under and such. Lots and lots of copies. Popularity on TV shouldn't guide library purchases.
Of course libraries have to choose what they buy, it's silly to call it censorship. It's called judgement and good sense. You couldn't possibly buy everything that is for sale and why would you even want to.

David's Netflix idea may not be practical, but at least he is thinking and not just saying I want, I want, I want.


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Posted by Baffled Librarian
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 3:00 pm

"I strongly disagree with that since supplying popular movies has nothing to do with literacy, education, citizenship, etc., and there are multiple low cost rental possibilities available to anyone."

I am baffled as to how you think that some people can even afford a low cost rental possibility. Some people simply can't.


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Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2006 at 3:29 pm

1. Betamax asks "Does David work for Netflix?"

If Betamax will look at the second comment above he will see the following:

'In the interests of full disclosure I should have added to my original posting that I am not an employee of Netflix. I do not own stock in Netflix. I am not even a subscriber to Netflix. And I have never checked out a DVD from the library.'

2. Movielover2 asks a legitimate question: "Why Netflix? How does a city justify giving city money to one company over another? It is a sticky situation."

I chose Netflix as an example because it is well known. Certainly if the library were to outsource DVD distribution it should solicit all service providers and contract for the best service at the best price.

3. Sarah writes: "My point is there is no objective way to determine what should be purchased and no one should impose their definition of a "good" book or movie on someone else."

I agree completely. My suggestion was simply to indicate that there may be more cost effective ways for the city library to provide the services it currently does. Nowhere do I suggest cutting those services.

The situation in Palo Alto is as follows: The City Manager has stated repeatedly that the city has a major financial problem. It must cut services or institute fees for them. He has said that efficiencies are not possible because all of the efficiencies have been rung out over the last several years.

I disagree. I think that major efficiencies are possible if new models of service delivery are investigated. And my suggestion to investigate outsourcing of video material is in that vein. Of course, I could be wrong. But the tendency of any organization is to continue doing things the way they have always been done because that is the way they have always been done.

If better ways of doing things are NOT done then you will be paying for library videos or there will not be any.

4. Ken writes: "If David had his way, such media materials wouldn't be available in the library since they aren't books."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Please read my response to the previous item.

5. Sarlat writes: "i find david's argument bizarre, nonsensical and a total waste of space."

Thank you. I admire your open mindedness and I am dazzled by your certitude. Now if you could only read.

David


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Posted by Librarian in another state
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 4:05 pm

I don't understand why you single out DVDs as not being part of the library's mission which you have determined to be literacy, education & citizenship. Libraries carry other popular materials that fall more into the entertainment category than they do into any of those you have mentioned. But you should be aware that each library decides its own mission and some may include entertainment and/or recreation--hence some of the popular fiction titles, CDs, the aforementioned VHS tapes, etc. Rather than pick at the details of having a DVD collection, it seems that you should be discussing whether tax dollars should be paying for entertainment/recreation.


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Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 25, 2006 at 5:29 pm

Librarian in another state writes:

" it seems that you should be discussing whether tax dollars should be paying for entertainment/recreation."

I'm sure it would be a lively discussion but I'm not going there. It always comes down to personal opinion and, as they say in France, chacun son gout. If you want to discuss it, go ahead and make a new post but be sure to put on flame proof underwear.

As you indicate each community has to decide on the mission of its library and obviously Palo Alto and most other libraries have included entertainment within their purview.

But how that mission gets fulfilled is also a question of resources. As a professional you certainly know that choices must be made. Resources are never infinite.

Perhaps Jane Austen and Spiderman Returns Again and Again Part II both belong in the library. But what if you can only afford one?

All very interesting but way off my purpose which was to discuss the possibility of more efficient service models.

Regards

David


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Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2006 at 5:48 pm

David thinks that " major efficiencies are possible if new models of [library] service delivery are investigated" and that "the tendency of any organization is to continue doing things the way they have always been done because that is the way they have always been done"


First, we have a dedicated, educated, savvy library staff. They are a great bunch of people who provide exemplary service, and are ALWYS looking for faster, smarter, cheaper, more comprehensive ways to serve their patrons.

It's easy to say 'new models are possible" if viewing the operation from the outside. It's presumptuous to say that these things are NOT being done, or have NOT been considered. This is not to belittle attempts to think outside the box. It's just that the DVD idea doesn't seem to hold water, no matter which way you tip the cup.

As far as the tendency of organization to think conservatively- along traditional lines - that's true. Ironically, that tendency also often applies to the kind of critical thinking applied by those who don't like the way traditional organizations are run.

I think our libraries and librarians do their very best with what they have; the library needs more money if it's going to continue at just its current pace. If it doesn't get that kind of help, our library model will have to change.

Reducing collections, and outsourcing this-and-that isn't the way forward - community support and committment IS the way forward. That's what our library needs, and what we, as Palo Altans who want a better library, are going to make happen.


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Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2006 at 7:58 pm

Periwinkle writes:

"It's easy to say 'new models are possible' if viewing the operation from the outside. It's presumptuous to say that these things are NOT being done, or have NOT been considered. This is not to belittle attempts to think outside the box. It's just that the DVD idea doesn't seem to hold water, no matter which way you tip the cup."

Aren't you the presumptuous one? David suggested whatever he suggested. You don't like it. Fine. How does it make him presumptuous? He did not presume that our "dedicated, educated, savvy library staff" already thought about his idea, while you did presume that they did. Who is presumptuous here?

If you know that the librarians thought about it and rejected it, please provide the details and reasons rather than presume. If you don't know that and have nothing to say, please don't say it.

The DVD idea was floated because there is a cheap commercial model available. No such model exists for books or for VHS tapes -- too heavy for cheap and fast mail service. There were good arguments on both sides. What's wrong with exploring them?


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Posted by Lisa
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 9:16 pm

As a librarian (who lives in another state), let me posit that when a city/county government pays for parks and public pools and sponsors sports leagues, it is paying for recreation and entertainment. As a rule, there will be a much better return on the investment in a library.


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Posted by circulation clerk
a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2006 at 9:20 pm

I don't think the debate about entertainment vs. education/literacy really is relevant, even though David did include his personal opinion. It's his right to believe that, and even though I don't agree, I respect his opinion. I won't debate that issue. It doesn't matter what kind of DVDs are being bought if you look at the outsourcing idea from a financial standpoint.

Does David know any statistics or particular procedures regarding the purchasing of materials? I ask because my library receives a majority of our videos/DVDs by donation from patrons and local businesses. We also lease a certain number of DVDs per month from a popular library vendor, with the option of purchasing at a later date. We use a similar service for some of our books, the McNaughton lease service. We can send them back at any time without purchase. When we do purchase DVDs, we look for sales and particular titles that have been suggested by our patrons. I figured the cost for my city to use Netflix according to David's six dollar a month scale and one membership per household. It comes to $10,000 more than we currently have in our book budget. That's just for residents of our city. We serve the entire county and all bordering counties as well. The Netflix outsourcing is not feasible, at least in our situation.

Please check out the library's website, particularly the page with their annual report. Also keep in mind that there are several library branches included in these figures. The figures do not separate books and other library materials, but I would wager that more is spent on books. Perhaps David or other concerned citizens could ask the director or library board for more information. Web Link

Low cost for one person is still too expensive for another person. One thing I have noticed about libraries is that they are frequented by everyone, the rich and the poor. If the library no longer carried popular movies and the city could/would not outsource to Netflix, what would the poorer citizens do? Could they use Netflix on their own? Netflix requires credit/debit cards. Many people do not have credit cards or have bad credit. Some are just afraid to order anything off the internet because of potential identity theft. Local rental services can be expensive, even with their own Netflix-modeled services.

Libraries are for everyone, not just those who can afford alternative options. Some simply cannot. Libraries are their only source for many things (internet, movies, audiobooks, CDs, newspapers/magazines, books, shelter during the day, study space, children's activities, a friendly face and someone to talk to, etc). Books are just one aspect of the everchanging library.



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Posted by Libraryuser
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2006 at 10:27 pm

The Palo Alto Library just published its Annual Report to the public
for fiscal yr 2005-06. The revenue it received is $ 5,913,906 for the
year from the City and the State. So that doesn't include
what they receive from big donors.

How does that compare with your cities, you out of towners?
Our population is just over 60,000 people.


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Posted by Periwinkle
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2006 at 10:37 pm

Wolf, David's clear implication, and presumption, was that the library doesn't look into these things, and that public institutions are not trying to outdo time-worn, inefficient ways, that the library should try new models, etc. etc. Please, do try reading his post again; that might help you see things my way.

Many rejoinders - all quite reasonable, fact-based, or hard questions - were brought to bear on David's suggestions. Once it was apparent that DVD's could probably not be outsourced efficiently by the library, David's "out" was to write the following:
" I think that major efficiencies are possible if new models of service delivery are investigated. And my suggestion to investigate outsourcing of video material is in that vein. Of course, I could be wrong. But the tendency of any organization is to continue doing things the way they have always been done because that is the way they have always been done."

Read that last sentence to yourself a few times, so that it sinks in, and then tell us David isn't making a universal presumption - a presumption that does NOT hold, universally. I'm interested in your argument to the contrary.

On another note, the kind of advice I see coming from many citizens regarding government in general, not just for the library, is too-often "one-note-Johnny" , Monday-morning-querterback stuff. Most of these ideas, wlthough well-meaning, fail to take into consideration that there are people on the ground, doing the job every day, who do their darndest to get it right. I and many others in Palo Alto are getting tired of the old saw around here that says "people in government 1) have it easy; 2) are overpaid; 3) don't do their job". Are you one of those?

Perhaps David should put his idea into a suggestion box at the library. Did he? Has he asked the librarians about his idea? Frankly, it's not a good idea, period. I even asked a friend of mine at Netflix about it. She agrees. So, maybe just leave it at that, and move on.

Frankly, I think a little more humility is in order around here, with citizens realizing that they may NOT know how to do it better, just because they THINK they can. That kind of thinking - along with prior Council's catering to it - is what has gotten this city into the fiscal, housing, commercial, and infrastructure mess that it's currently in.


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Posted by circulation clerk
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2006 at 5:59 am

Libraryuser points out the total revenue the library receives from the city and state. Don't think all that money can be spent on books or movies. Much of that money pays the salaries of library employees. There is also the cost of office and library supplies, paper for the printers and copy machines, furniture, computers, cost for materials to mend books, maintenance/purchasing money for the library catalog and automation system, materials for children's and adult programs, money for staff to attend training workshops, etc.

My town is just over 22,000 people with one library. As I previously stated, we serve the entire county and surrounding counties. We are considered rural in that aspect. We have 21,000 registered borrowers. Our total income was $366,000. Salaries were 251,000. Books/Materials was 45,000. Other operating expenses, such as the ones listed in the above paragraph were 66,000. The average across our state (not California) is approx. 60% of budget goes to salary 10-20% for books and other materials for checkout.

I would agree with Periwinkle and urge any concerned citizens of Palo Alto to talk with the director or to attend a library board meeting. At the very least, put a suggestion in writing and give it to the director. It's great to have suggestions, even if they do not work out. As I stated in my previous post, we do leasing from sources that frequently work with libraries. Maybe library management can consider other sources besides Netflix that already serve libraries specifically.


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Posted by V
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2006 at 6:14 am

Some popular movies are taught in classes. When I was a senior in HS my highly educated AP Composition teacher (who had 6 masters degrees at the time) taught THE LION KING, which we watched in class and wrote papers about afterward. When I was in college I took a very popular film class where Shakespeare was viewed and discussed alongside Scorcese. I prefer to read (yes, serious literature) but also check out dvds from my local library and appreciate that they offer popular films as well as educational ones. Libraries serve communities and their needs, and not everyones needs are the same.


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Posted by Amy
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 26, 2006 at 7:45 am

Periwinkle is so right and not just in regards to libraries but to other items that have come up before the City Council in the past few years when she writes "Frankly, I think a little more humility is in order around here, with citizens realizing that they may NOT know how to do it better, just because they THINK they can. That kind of thinking - along with prior Council's catering to it - is what has gotten this city into the fiscal, housing, commercial, and infrastructure mess that it's currently in." Hopefully, our current council will view the broader needs of the city and not just the group(s) rallying in front of them.


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Posted by DownwithNetflix
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2006 at 7:50 am

David seems to [portion deleted by Palo Alto Online staff] believe that the marketplace can solve everything and that everybody can afford a low cost Netflix subscription. I suppose that to him a trashy novel is a much superior library material than a great movie on DVD. He decides what is popular material vs educational. He just knows which material kills brain cells and which aids in literacy, education and civic awarness. David knows what's good for us, just like the Home Security Administration, which performed so wonderfully during Katrina.


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Posted by Librarian
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2006 at 8:53 am

I'm a librarian in Houston, TX. A year or so ago I emailed
Netflix about the possibility of this type of service and they were absolutely not interested in our market. Netflix could do everything we do AND provide a better solution for securing the collection--which is our major problem with DVDs.




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Posted by MovieLover2
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 26, 2006 at 12:54 pm

The Netflix model is one that is very successful and is giving Blockbuster and others a run for their money. Why? Because they did away with late fees and delivered to our homes. This model is being carefully reviewed by many public libraries because of its success. The "come into our business" model is not working in the new world order of everything - all the time - right now (born in part because of the Internet and the instant gratification you get there.)

The idea first suggested here is an interesting one, and I hope to see more out of the box suggestions from the community. I don't necessarily agree with the proposal, but I am enjoying the discussion. And I hope we stop attacking the person with the idea, and discuss the idea instead.


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Posted by Wolf
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 26, 2006 at 4:22 pm

To Periwinkle,

"David's clear implication, and presumption, was that the library doesn't look into these things, and that public institutions are not trying to outdo time-worn, inefficient ways, that the library should try new models, etc. etc. Please, do try reading his post again; that might help you see things my way."

I tried. It didn't.

Then you quote David:

"I think that major efficiencies are possible if new models of service delivery are investigated. [...] But the tendency of any organization is to continue doing things the way they have always been done because that is the way they have always been done."

And then you continue:

"Read that last sentence to yourself a few times, so that it sinks in, and then tell us David isn't making a universal presumption - a presumption that does NOT hold, universally. I'm interested in your argument to the contrary."

I re-read it. You may want to re-read it yourself. David is not making a universal presumption. David clearly describes a universal *tendency* of organizations; a widely known one, and a widely documented one, that organizations tend to have a large inertia. Do you truly believe that Palo Alto bureaucracy -- pick any part of it! -- is not largely driven by inertia?

Unfortunately I keep seeing only your presumptions in your message: that David is presumptuous; that David didn't check with the librarians; that our librarians do not experience institutional inertia; that anyone who comments on the system from outside is a Monday-morning-quarterback.

In any case, this is really getting to be too personal. I will not return to this issue anymore.


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Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2006 at 4:51 pm

DownwithNetflix writes: "David seems to [portion deleted by Palo Alto Online staff]believe that the marketplace can solve everything and that everybody can afford a low cost Netflix subscription. I suppose that to him a trashy novel is a much superior library material than a great movie on DVD. He decides what is popular material vs educational. He just knows which material kills brain cells and which aids in literacy, education and civic awarness. David knows what's good for us, just like the Home Security Administration, which performed so wonderfully during Katrina."

Why don't you try reading my original posting which proposed that the city buy a basic Netflix subscription for all residents.

Really, reading is a very useful skill. Perhaps you will acquire it in later life.

David


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Posted by circulation clerk
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2006 at 5:12 pm

Wolf does make a good point. There are a lot of presumptions being made by several commentors. Why have most people presumed that David works for Netflix? Because that was the only company he mentioned as a possible outsourcing option. It seems to promote one company over another, but it could just be a reference to an popular style of business operation. Why have most people presumed that David hasn't contacted library or city personnel? Because David did not mention that. In his original post, he said, "I don't know how much it costs the city to buy, shelve, track, check in, check out, DVDs." This leads me to believe that he did not talk to anyone, or if he did they did not give him any helpful information. I also noticed David mentioned that Netflix wouldn't have to change anything about their catalog listings or their algorithms. This also leads me to believe that he isn't familiar with particular search capabilities that library catalogs or library automation systems have that Netflix simply does not. Yes, I am makes presumptions, but they are based on things that David has said. If I am wrong, please correct me.

I also agree with Lisa that cities do pay for various recreational activities (parks, lakes, pools, local events, Fourth of July celebrations, etc.) The debate for Palo Alto and its citizens (and every community with a library) is how they define their library.


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Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2006 at 5:18 pm

Circulation Clerk writes: "Low cost for one person is still too expensive for another person. One thing I have noticed about libraries is that they are frequented by everyone, the rich and the poor. If the library no longer carried popular movies and the city could/would not outsource to Netflix, what would the poorer citizens do?"

Several others also make the "what about the poor" argument.

As I have reiterated several times my original proposal was for the city to look into buying a basic Netflix subscription for everyone. So I don't see how "the poor" or anybody else, would be disadvantaged.

But let's talk about "the poor."

1. Since Palo Alto is funded largely by sales taxes and property taxes, both highly regressive it seems likely that "the poor" are inordinately taxed to pay for services for the middle class and the wealthy.

2. It is my experience that people who ask "what about the poor" are almost always quite comfortable and what they really mean is "what about me" but are two embarrassed to say that.

3. As someone who has had direct, first hand knowledge of poverty I find the use of "the poor" as an excuse to defend middle class entitlements insulting.

David


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Posted by circulation clerk
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2006 at 9:03 pm

If David had read what I typed, I simply asked the question, "What if libraries no longer carried movies?" That was the reference I was making to "the poor". I understand perfectly that his point was to make the city pay for the services. I and other commentors have pointed out that was not economically smart for the city, since the library's books/materials budget wouldn't even begin to cover the cost for Netflix subscriptions. If that is not a good option, and considering David's personal opinion of popular movies, I was just pointing out the consequences of cutting those selections from the library. If you do that, many library patrons do not have any other options available. That was the point I was trying to make.

Do not presume that "most" people that talk about the poor are really saying "what about me?" I have attempted to make no direct or indirect comments about David or any commentor, so please do not do so with me. David, I understand you are saying that has been "your experience", but I do feel that was aimed at me, however indirectly you choose to make that comment. I hope I have maintained a respectful commentary. Others have reverted to name calling and I find that appalling.

Since there was that indirect comment on the financial situation of people who are concerned with the poor, here goes. Yes, I can afford to rent if I choose. It has not always been like that and all I will say is contract labor did not bring home a steady paycheck. However, at this point in my life, I can check out movies from the library, rent, or subscribe to Netflix. I simply use library movies more often than I rent because it's more convenient since I work there. I'm not just an employee, but a taxpayer and patron as well. However, this is not about me. My concern is the patrons of the library that I deal with every day.

Everyone in my community supports the library through taxes. The rich live in bigger houses and better neighborhoods so they pay more in property taxes, and they have more money to spend, so they contribute more to the sales tax. How are the poor "inordinately taxed to pay for services for the middle class and the wealthy"? Whose crying "what about the poor" now? Or am I just looking at this too simply? I am not a member of your city, and perhaps it is more elitist and class divided than mine, even though my community is split between working class and retired wealthy. I see the excessively rich and the dirt poor in my library at the same time. Do all the poor use the library? No. Neither do all the rich people. Those that do have one thing in common; the rich and the poor often check out the Hollywood blockbuster movies. Movies are not a class issue.

I am also still wondering if anyone has or will talk with library management on this issue. Not just David, but any other citizens of Palo Alto.


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Posted by David
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 26, 2006 at 9:16 pm

circulation clerk wrote: "I have attempted to make no direct or indirect comments about David or any commentor, so please do not do so with me."

You are right. What I did was uncalled for. I am genuinely sorry.

David


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Posted by circulation clerk
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2006 at 10:06 pm

David,

Thank you for the apology. I feel that was sincere and I appreciate that. This has been a refreshing and lively discussion and I have enjoyed it greatly. It is always beneficial to talk about issues and truly try to understand the other viewpoints expressed. I hope to take some points made back to my community. Having said that, I don't feel I have much more to add than what I have already said. I can only hope that my words made an impact in some way. I wish the citizens of Palo Alto the best in all aspects, not just the library. And thank you David for starting this debate. I commend you for your effort to suggest an alternative option for the city and for your obvious concern for your community. I will keep my eyes open for news on Palo Alto and the library.


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Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2006 at 9:33 am

Neither the rich or the poor contribute much sales tax. They spend their sales tax dollars in Mountain View, Menlo Park, etc. etc.


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Posted by InsideInfo
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 27, 2006 at 8:12 pm

I know all about the budget of the PA City Libraries and how they spend their budgeted money. They waste a lot of taxpayer money on garbage. They won't stop until people make them stop but people like their cheap source of DVD rentals so don't expect anything to change ever. I would like to see all libraries in PA close except for Children's, Mitchell Park, and downtown. The main library is a joke, it stinks, and the lighting is bad. Hey! Perhaps if they stopped buying junk they could afford to put in new lighting and furniture and cover it with plastic wipeable slipcovers so that the homeless filth can be wiped off on a daily basis. Idiots!


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Posted by Suggest it to me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2006 at 12:26 pm

Just a few comments on why DVDs are good to have at the library.:

1) As mentioned, you have to go the library. Once at the library, you see all sorts of tempting new books on display. Virtually everyone I have seen walking out with DVDs is also walking with books.

2) The more people at the library, the more a sense of community and the more important the library becomes as a public space.

3) Cost. The whole annual budget of the library is about $5.5mm - that goes to maintain and staff 5 libraries and library programs. About $0.5mm is spent on collections, including books (90% of holdings) and media. The DVDs actually take up very little space at the library and most are checked out by users themselves. The biggest hassle is people returning an empty case (I myself have done this once or twice). At most I would guess DVDs add $500-700k/ year in marginal expense. You may think that that an extra million for netflix service would be easy to conjure up but its not (that's why all the libraries have such limited evening hours.)

4) My family of 4 can technically have out 12 DVDs - 2 that we have to mail back before getting the next one would be a serious downgrade in service.

5) The library has great movies and trashy movies. It has great books and trashy books. The debate about to what level should a library cater has been going on for 100 years. I think this is a non - issue.


I do think there is one service I would like to see the library license from Netflix. I want them to license the database that could crunch through all of my previous borrowings and "suggest" films to me!




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Posted by Suggest_It_To_Me
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 28, 2006 at 1:59 pm

Jesus, what a self indulgent idiot you are! "I want them to license the database that could crunch through all of my previous borrowings and "suggest" films to me!" Yes, the world just revolves around you, doesn't it? And hey, quit abusing the DVD rental policy asshole! You can certainly afford to subscribe to Netflicks. What a jerk!


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