Ellie GehmanLIS 292520 April 2012 Field Experience Report For the spring 2012 semester, I interned at the Community College of Allegheny CountyNorth Campus Library. My supervisor was Barbara Thompson, Department Head. My mainproject during the semester dealt with our VHS collection. I first had to look up each VHS tapein Workflows. If the tape had been checked out within the past five years, I wrote down the titleand usage statistics in an Excel spreadsheet. I did this for every VHS in our academic andpopular video collections as well as the videos that professors had on reserve. After I hadcompiled my list, I researched if there was a DVD replacement available from either thepublisher or Amazon. One difficulty I encountered was actually finding copies of many of the videos. A lot ofthem were from the 80s and were no longer being produced or had never been converted to DVDformat. For some of them, I found a comparable video that covered the same subject. I’m notsure if the library will decide to order my suggestions as alternatives. Maybe they’ll ask theprofessors who use the videos for suggestions. One reason Barbara decided to start this project now is that the library has a sizeableamount of money left in the A/V budget. When I began the project, I thought that the amount($16,000) was huge and that the library would have no problem replacing all of the VHS tapes.After conducting this research, however, I realized how naïve that thought was. I had no ideahow expensive academic DVDs were. While there were a few that were reasonably priced, thevast majority cost hundreds of dollars. These academic videos are severely overpriced for thecontent they offer. Most are only thirty minutes or less of actual video. One DVD was even $795
for a twenty-minute video! This project really gave me a clear idea as to why libraries strugglewith their budgets every year. The prices for the materials needed, whether the materials arevideos, books, or databases, seem to be reaching a point where it seems impossible for librariesto afford everything they need. The ACRL lists the higher education funding as a top issue inacademic libraries, asking, “How can libraries provide access to the information students andfaculty need when the cost of resources is rising so precipitously?” (Hisle). This was an issuethat was on my mind as I completed this project. Another issue that struck me during this project was the rapid change of technology.Replacing all of the VHS tapes that can be replaced with DVDs will take years to complete andBlu-ray is already on the rise. Will the library have to undergo a new transformation of videoformat as soon as the previous ordering is finished? As far as academic videos go, I didn’t seeany of the ones I researched offered in Blu-ray format, so maybe that won’t be an issue for manyyears to come. It seems that as of right now, DVDs and Blu-rays exist peacefully together, butthat could change any day. This project is important not just because it’s vital that libraries stay current with theavailable technology, but also to maintain positive perceptions of the library. The VHS tapes Iencountered were covered in dust and the clear plastic covering the cases was peeling andcracked. Going into those stacks to retrieve a tape is definitely a turn-off. Keeping the VHS tapesis perpetuating the idea that libraries are dusty, outdatedplaces and ultimately, things of the past. The VHS project was a valuable use of my time at CCAC. Upgrading VHS to DVD issomething that is occurring in academic libraries everywhere, and I will most likely encounter itwherever I end up working. At my Pitt Partnership at Washington & Jefferson College, it’s an
ongoing project that is being completed in increments as the budget allows. I may once againworkon a similar project in the future. ReferencesHisle, W. Lee. “Top issues facing academic libraries: A report of the Focus on the Future TaskForce.” C&RL News 63.10 (2002): n.p. ACRL. Association of College & Research Libraries, n.d.Web. 12 April 2012.