Magazine article American Libraries

On My Mind; Video Libraries: More Than a Lure

Magazine article American Libraries

On My Mind; Video Libraries: More Than a Lure

Article excerpt

A recent chat I had with three librarians centered on whether public libraries prominently display videos to "lure" users and distract them from the pursuit of books. My immediate disagreement with this view stemmed from the two and a half years I spent as the Texas Tech University (TTU) Libraries' video librarian.

I cannot tell you how many comments I heard questioning the academic authenticity of the video library; one well-meaning colleague actually said, "Well, it's not a real library." After hearing such comments for years, I am convinced a format hierarchy persists in our profession despite research to the contrary.

I would like to share a story about the power of video that took place on a Friday night in 2004. It began, though, in March 2002 when Jana Vise of the TTU Center for Campus Life met with the director of the university's international programs and me to propose a partnership. The university's video library is housed in the International Cultural Center, the home of the school's international programs.

The ICC library's global collection is comprised of more than 2,500 theatrical, documentary, and educational films. Vise's idea was to merge the Center for Campus Life's student-focused mission with the ICC library's collection to create a free international film series on campus.

Now in its third year, the Independent, Documentary, and Foreign (IDF) film series is a very successful collaboration, managed by a committee of faculty, staff, and librarians that meets monthly to choose the 12 to 14 films on IDF's annual calendar and run the program. The films have become so popular that professors are including them as class credit or as an extra-credit option for students.

On that Friday night last year, we screened Lourdes Portillo's documentary Senorita Extraviada, which unflinchingly examines the murders of more than 400 young women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, since 1993. The IDF committee invited TTU faculty members Scott Baugh and Luis Ramirez and Martha Smithey of the University of Texas at El Paso to speak on a panel after the film.

All 106 seats of the theater were occupied before our 7 p.m. start time. Most of the audience members were TTU students. We had to turn away dozens of interested viewers with the suggestion, "You can get this film on Monday at the ICC library." At least two-third of the audience stayed for the panel discussion and heard new details about the murders since the film's 2001 release. …

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