Re: deserted islands

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Fri, 7 Jan 2000 08:28:47 -0800 (PST)

Wow! I haven't even had my first cup of latte, Milos, and you've managed
to lay out the fundamental cosmic questions video librarians have been
grappling with for decades now.

First, let's clear up this Desert Island List (and supplier exclusion
business): The attempt to construct such a list is, in not-so-oblique
ways, related to your questions about relative scarcity of media librarians
out there...the sad fact of the matter is that video librarianship as a
professional specialty in both public and academic libraries, seems to be
rapidly going the way carbon paper and elevator operators...I have a whole
bunch of notions about why this is so: bugetary stringencies, the
misbegotten notion that content and content delivery are the same thing
(that all media will converge, that the web=media); the continuing bias of
libraries against other-than-print media; the death of library
education...and lots of other reasons, too sorrowful to go into right now.
So...what this seems to mean is that many (many!) libraries that continue
to collect video are 1) doing this with generalist or subject-specialist
staff who are not always all that familiar with the film/video universe 2)
outsourcing selection and acquisition (god help us!) 3) selecting most
common denominator videoes from most common denominator sources (ONLY!)...

The intent of assembling a Desert Island (opening day...core...whatever you
want to call it) List is to get the input of those professional folk who
are most familiar with the scope and breadth of the video marketplace
regarding the best and brightest available (non-feature) videos. Although
it's definitely true that the videolib list does not represent all
librarians/educators "doing media" out there, it certainly represents a
knowledgeable hardcore... It is hoped that this list will provide some
guidance to the video perplexed and some sense of the richness and extent
of the video universe.

As for distributor participation: if I could be assured that such
participation were motivated exclusively by intellectual/cultural rather
than proprietary concerns, I'd certainly welcome such input. I think,
however, that the only real way to avoid conflict of interest and to
maintain the list's credibility is to limit participation to
selectors/acquirers rather than sellers...

Best wishes for a fabulous new year and for success in the battle against
middle age spread...

At 07:08 PM 01/06/2000 -0800, you wrote:
>Dear Friends;
>
>I hope that you will indulge me in this list of musings which were sparked,
>this morning, on a treadmill, as I was trying to chase away fat which
>insists on adhering to my ageing body (it likes me, I don't like it - why,
>then, does it want to stay?), and as I was suddenly bothered by the rather
>vehement response in EXCLUDING distributors from participating in compiling
>what is certain to be an impressive list of video titles you're all going
>to take to a deserted island. I had thought that librarianship was about
>INCLUSION not EXCLUSION, but this is a new millennium, and therefore,
>obviously, a brave new world.
>
>Then it dawned upon me: of course, only librarians will survive the deluge
>and be saved - the distributors will all drown while pursuing their "dream"
>acquisition which no one, except them, really wants, and which comes
>attached with a greedy producer who asks, always, and sometimes gets, too
>much. Therefore, having distributors participate in compiling a list of
>videos to take to a deserted island (though most of them, I would venture
>to say, see more films each year than most librarians do) is a moot point -
>they would not be there to enjoy them anyway.
>
>I realize this list will, in any case, be very selective. Its contributors
>are only those who subscribe to Videolib, but these are the librarians in
>the know, and I was reminded by Gary's remark, sometime back, that about
>600 subscribe - and this is somehow shocking. Because how do the OTHER
>12,000 something public libraries and 3,000 + something academic libraries
>- MOST of which purchase video - KNOW what to buy? Which leads to Jessica's
>point sometime back. I am often amazed at the knowledge and cinematic
>sophistication of librarians who purchase from us at Facets or who read
>this list, but I am also sometimes shocked when I walk into a public
>library in a neighborhood or small town and am irresistibly drawn to their
>video collection, where the HIGH point would be a mediocre Stephen King
>adaptation or "How to Grow Geraniums and Build Inner Happiness".
>
>Why aren't there 20,000 subscribers to Videolib? It's FREE - and few things
>in the world are - it's "democratic" - and if you collect videos, you can
>learn things and get answers to your questions from a lot of other people
>in-the-know.
>
>Why is the American Library Association NOT throwing hundreds of thousands
>if not millions at video librarianship at a time when publishers would love
>to save the costs of printing and paper and just have you donwload an
>"electronic"book? Why, when children are growing up in a media-saturated
>culture, is video librarianship NOT a top issue, when it IS a top issue
>with the American Association of Pediatrics and (slow-moving that it is),
>with the AMA?
>
>I am also sorry to report also that the very presence of video at the NEXT
>ALA convention is in serious doubt, because National Video Resources, which
>helped subsidize the - not insignificant - cost of exhibiting at the ALA
>for video distributors - decided to pull the plug and will NOT contribute
>(last year's contribution of $5,000) in the future. It's a big question
>whether without the subsidy, small distributors can frankly afford it.
>
>The re-release of SORROW AND THE PITY, of SHOAH, our own upcoming release
>of THE DECALOGUE were mentioned here in the past month. Did or will these
>titles SELL 13,000 copies to public libraries and 4,000 odd copies to
>academic libraries? I doubt it. Yet by all standards, they are
>indispensable cultural artifacts - be it, that they are "audio-visual" and
>NOT print - any library which carries video and does not carry these titles
>is a poor library.
>
>How DO these librarians who buy the geranium tapes GET their information?
>Do they all subscribe to Video Librarian? Why is there NOT a decent
>accessible bibliographic medium - STILL - in a field which prides itself on
>CATALOGUING? Someone suggested a while back Books in Print. After many
>false attempts, I finally received a free trial access to the web site. I
>was shocked by the shoddy research - purely garbage in and garbage out.
>Many titles were falsely ascribed to sub-distributors (including us)
>without an attempt to identify and credit the manufacturer - I found it
>both useless for video (and VERY expensive -- $1800/year).
>
>Yet why is there not some fund of $2-$3 million a year and a foundation
>which ACCURATELY catalogs and disseminates information about video, DVD,
>laser disc - a field which obviously desperately NEEDS bibliographic help,
>which is separate and apart from the knowledge in the heads of many of
>those who subscribe to this list?
>
>How, in this new high tech millennium, do we insure that the art of the
>audio-visual image survives and makes it to the library shelf? How do we,
>in a culture of the conglomerate, insure that the independent, diverse
>film or video IS accessible at the library when it will likely NOT be in
>the local video store. I'm not speaking of those independent voices which
>break through - the occasional Hoop Dreams - I'm thinking of the hundreds
>or even thousands of independent films with something to say which need
>SOMEONE to understand them, save them, help give them a public. Who else
>but the library?
>
>After Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, people kept referring to a second kind of
>film school: the video rental store. Indeed, film-knowledgeable and
>film-loving video rental clerks (like lovers of books at bookstores or
>libraries) have done much to help spread film culture - to get customers or
>clients to try films they would otherwise have never seen. Yet who is
>training - and how - the librarians who deal with the public (not
>necessarily those who do acquisitions) at being the vanguard of an
>independent media culture?
>
>That's as far as I got. If I went any further, I would probably still BE on
>that treadmill - though I doubt I'd still be standing up. I apologise for
>the intrusion.
>
>It is that I see the potential and don't know how it can be actualized.
>Sixty odd years ago, when Jean Renoir could not find the money to produce
>his La Marseillaise, he financed the film "by public subscription." Why
>couldn't 20,000 libraries, all buying ONE copy of a new film, by say, Mike
>Leigh or a Native American independent, for $50, FINANCE that film (that's
>a budget of $1 million). Now there's a thought!
>
>All the best for the millennium ---
>
>Milos Stehlik
>Facets Video
>
>
>
>
>
>
Gary Handman
Director
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000
http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC

"Everything wants to become television" (James Ulmer -- Teletheory)