Re: Your Listserv discussion

Gary Handman (
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 09:32:32 -0800 (PST)

Dear Betsy:

Thanks for your lengthy note and comments regarding recent discussions on
the videolib listserv (by the way, this is not MY listserv--I manage it,
but it is sponsored by the American Library Association's Video Round
Table, and is subscribed to by over 600 librarians, film and video makers,
distributors, and educators). I'm taking the liberty of forwarding your
reply to the list.

The discussions which have taken place re Films for the Humanities and
other video distributors over the past week represent the comments of
librarians from diverse institutions, and I'm glad you have been following
this discourse.

My personal concern with FFHS mirrors some of the comments made by
colleagues regarding incomplete or misleading catalog information. As the
manager and collection developer of a very large video collection, I find
it imperative in making selection decisions to have to receive as much and
as complete information as possible from the distributor of titles under
consideration. It's maddening to find that a title ordered from a
particular catalog was, in fact, ordered years before (often under a
different title) from another distributor, or that what looks like a new
version of a filmed work is, in fact, an old standby. To cite a particular
example from the FHS catalog: Toni Morrison (Item #BVL4620)$89.95 turns
out to be part of California Newsreel's series In Black and White Six
Profiles of African American Authors ($69.95)(SSR-RTSI Swiss Television
production. San Francisco, CA : California Newsreel, 1992. The generic
title and lack of production information or date makes duplication of this
title a very good possibility.
It seems to me that including production and date for older titles is the
right and honest thing to do.

I hope we can continue the discussion between your company and members of
the videolib list; I think we all benefit from such communication.


Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
UC Berkeley

At 11:46 AM 12/02/1999 -0500, you wrote:
>Dear Gary Handman,
>Yesterday's discussion on your listserv regarding media needs and how well
>companies are or are not meeting those needs has been brought to my
>attention. As President and CEO of Films for the Humanities & Sciences
>(FFH), I can assure you that we are keenly interested in our customers
>concerns. As a result, we continually adjust our policies and procedures as
>a result of customer feedback.
>As you probably know, we have a very large collection of more than 8,000
>video, CD-ROM and Videodisc titles, representing several hundred producers
>from around the world, and covering just about all subject areas. We serve
>multiple markets: schools, colleges, libraries, health institutions,
>governmental agencies, etc. Sometimes key concerns cross all markets,
>sometimes there are conflicting issues between different markets. We try
>very hard to accommodate all of our customers in our catalogs, but sometimes
>thats just not possible. In those cases, or in any other case where more
>information is needed, you and your colleagues should be aware that a
>conversation with either your media consultant or a customer service
>representative should fill the gap.
>However, that being said, let me update you on some of the specific items
>that youve cited and we have been addressing here at FFH:
>Copyright Dates: Quite frankly, that information was not available until a
>few years ago, when we started to collect it as a result of customer
>requests. It now is in our brand new fulfillment system, so our customer
>service people have ready access to the information if someone needs it. In
>addition, after many internal meetings with my staff and discussions with
>quite a few attendees at the National Media Market this October, I have
>given the go ahead to add copyright dates to our website in the year 2000.
>This will be part of an overhaul of the entire site that we hope to have in
>place by the fall semester. In the meantime, our inside media consultants
>and customer service representatives will be glad to provide copyright dates
>over the 800-257-5126 phone number.
>Duplicate orders: These concern us as much as they trouble you, because it
>means extra work and expense for everyone concerned. We avoid much of this
>problem by being the sole source distributor for most of our titles.
>Unfortunately, the naming of our programs by the producers sometimes reflect
>their creativity more that practicality. In such cases, we do indeed change
>titles to make it easier to identify appropriate videos in our catalogs. We
>have already taken steps to address difficulties this may cause you. In the
>coming year, when we have a program with a new title we will have a
>reference to an original title in the description. Title changing is not
>something we do frivolously, and we do try to keep it to an absolute
>minimum. Other steps are being taken to eliminate the duplications due to
>things such as subtitles. I cant guarantee we will meet your expectations
>in every instance, as producing and distributing over eighty catalogs and
>brochures each semester is a complex task. However, I do believe we are
>moving in the right direction to best serve your media needs.
>Use of the word New: New has a double meaning. Before you accuse me of
>being Clintonesque, let me explain: Since more than 95% of our titles are
>exclusive to us, the term new has always meant that a program is new to
>our collection. When customers ask us whats new at conferences, they want
>to see what we have that they havent seen before. We make no apologies for
>using the term in this way. However, we also realize that new can mean a
>recent production date. In addition to making copyright information
>available on the website or upon request, we are working on ways in which we
>can let our customers know in the catalog description that a program is new
>to our collection, but also acknowledging if it is not a recent production.
>For example, when we got the BBC titles, we referred to the older titles as
>coming from the BBC Archives. The important point is that while we do
>sincerely want to meet your acquisition and cataloging needs, we also cannot
>afford to miss opportunities to feature terrific, previously unavailable
>programming such as The Great Philosophers from the BBC just because it wasn
>t produced in the last couple of years. Because we have so many titles, it
>s important that those that are new to the collection stand out. We also
>dont want to refuse quality programs if they have only had limited previous
>I want you to know that we welcome customer feedback. Please be assured
>that we take all suggestions seriously and while we are not always able to
>act on each one, we are continually striving to improve our ability to serve
>your needs. We appreciate your business, and we want to be first in our
>customers minds and hearts. Again, you can reach us at 800-257-5127 or via
>our website,
>Thanks for taking the time to read this rather lengthy response, but I hope
>it helps to address your concerns. If you think it appropriate, I would be
>very grateful if you would share this with the members of your listserv.
>Betsy Sherer
>President and CEO
>Films for the Humanities & Sciences