Re: Videos on open shelves

Pat Shufeldt (
Wed, 3 Jul 2002 04:42:58 -0700 (PDT)

As you well know, in a public library, marketing is extremely important; so
we're really concerned about shelf appearance and inviting displays while
minimizing processing costs and handling costs at circulation points.

Because of the labor involved in cutting VHS boxes to fit standard cases with
literature overlays, a couple of years ago we started using "squeeze-box"
plastic cases for single VHS's which slip over the cardboard case. They had
been suggested to us by one of the book/AV vendors as a way of minimizing
processing costs, whether contracting out or doing it in-house. As I recall,
they cost more than the standard boxes. The cases are very clear, hold up well,
and don't pop open when the VHS is put in the bookdrop. They're shown in the
standard library supply catalogs now, although I think we're purchasing in bulk
from another supplier.

Negative attitudes from some public services staff, which were then conveyed to
the public, were our biggest problem during the change of packaging. For any
person who has difficulty getting the video out of a squeeze box, we supply used
standard boxes to public service points so that the cassette could be moved to
an old case at the time of check-out. Of course, that means the borrower has two
items to keep up with (case with cardboard cover, and case with video) but it
seemed like a reasonable accomodation. Sometimes users cut the squeeze boxes if
they have difficulty getting the video out; and an occasional squeeze box is
really too tight a fit and needs to be replaced. The boxes continue to look
bright and new on the shelves after months of use--a really nice side benefit.
Acceptance is really a matter of good public relations in helping library users
understand that we can (a) spend our money on staff to do labor-intensive
processing, or (b) allocate more money to purchasing additional videos.

Several years ago we ceased adding security strips to any VHS's, as we concluded
that the labor and materials costs involved weren't warranted by the theft
rate. (This is also true for audiobooks, a popular but not theft-prone
collection.) One of the differences in our VHS collection from that of an
academic library, however, is that few of our individual videos cost as much as
$100, whereas many academic library films will cost more than that.

We started adding DVD's two years ago with no security devices. From the
beginning, the collection turnover rate was so high that there were few on the
shelf for anyone to steal; and theft was mostly related to non-returns of items
which were checked out. Requests through the circulation system are still the
most effective way of obtaining the titles you want, even with several thousand
discs in the systemwide collection. That factor has made the collections
"closed stack" by default, and it has been a major public relations issue as
patrons complained about lack of selection on the shelves for browsing. We've
reduced per-person limits, continued to pour money into the collection, and
ceased ILL lending of DVD's until the collection catches up with local demands.

A few months ago we began having theft problems and have recently started using
3-M security overlays (not the newer donut labels) in order to standardize
processing for DVD's and CD's. We then add a donut label with the Library's
name custom printed on it. All DVD's sit on the open shelves. In one branch
which has begun experiencing problems with theft from the shelves, the
collection has been moved to a cart which can be rolled out from behind the desk
for patrons to browse. Once they've put security overlays on the retrospective
collection, these are expected to go back to the open shelves. Typically we try
to locate AV collections where staff have a good view of those materials which
are most likely to disappear. The larger the collection, of course, the more
difficult it becomes to maintain that visibility.

Pat Shufeldt
Greenville (SC) County Library System

"Tatar, Becky" wrote:

> I'm at a public library, but we just spent the last year 1) putting videos
> on open shelves - all 10,000 of them, and 2) cutting, and laminating the
> original boxes/sleeves onto the cases we put videos in - all 10,000 of them.
> Our circ has gone up almost 25 - 35% each month since a May 2000, when the
> videos were first put out. Part of the conversion process was sending all
> nonfiction sleeves to tech services to have a Dewey call number assigned.
> Feature films have a genre label on the spine and are shelved
> alphabetically. Patrons seem to like it. This was done with all our videos
> - adult and children's are all in adult services - the children's department
> has no room for theirs. We have no security for these. We have lost a few
> - found some empty cases on the shelve, but not too many. What is happening
> more is that the people are just walking out with the whole case. We just
> started circulating DVDs. The same set up applies to DVDs as videos - genre
> labels for feature films, nonfiction with Dewey numbers. However - we have
> Alpha Security T-MAG cases for these. They take up more room, and are not
> easily shelved neatly, but they might stick around longer.
> I know the mission of the academic library is different than a public
> library, and your patrons have different demands, but I hope this helps.
> Becky Tatar
> Unit Head, Periodicals, Audiovisual
> Aurora Public Library
> 1 E. Benton Street
> Aurora, IL 60505
> PHONE: 630-264-4100
> FAX: 630-896-3209
> E-mail: