In a world that relies heavily on digital streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix and the recently announced Disney+ for movies and TV shows, brick and mortar video stores have practically gone extinct. The last corporately owned Blockbuster in the world recently closed its doors and only a few “independently owned” versions still exist. In Plymouth, the only existing video stores are a Family Video…and the public library!
Plymouth Public Library’s A/V section is an ever-growing, ever-changing invaluable resource for anyone with a library card. Their selection of DVD’s, audiobooks and music CD’s is so large and diverse it is almost overwhelming when you first walk in and take a look around. This is all thanks to the long history of the department, and the care that has gone into cultivating such a collection.
“The PPL A/V section started long ago, when everything was VHS tapes and books and music on cassettes. At one point we even offered vinyl!” says Nathan Mayer, Audio-Visual Department Supervisor at PPL. “But times change, as do forms of physical media, and over the years PPL has transitioned to DVD’s and CD’s.”
Each week, PPL gets all of the new releases on DVD. “I go to Wal-Mart once a week to get every new release. It doesn’t matter if it’s a major Hollywood blockbuster or the absolute worst looking low-budget straight-to-video thing out there, we get it all. There’s no discrimination when it comes to buying new movies. Whatever I can’t get at Wal-Mart, I order from Amazon.” said Mayer. PPL gets multiple copies of the major releases, that way patrons have a better chance of finding them on the shelves when they come in. “I’m always open to suggestions and requests as well.” said Mayer. Even with his efforts to get every new item each week, some get missed. “There’s always the scenario of “I remember seeing this long ago and you don’t have it…” that plays out.” said Mayer. “The only thing that it really comes down to is price. If a patron wants a movie that PPL doesn’t have, the only thing that stops me from getting it is if it is unavailable in America or if it is out-of-print/rare and therefore costs too much.”
The same goes for Audiobooks. Once a month, Mayer places a large order with an audiobook vendor and they arrive in small batches every couple of weeks. “We get every major release from every well-known author, along with other random things in between. If it’s on the NYT Best Seller list, we get that as well.” said Mayer.
PPL does have a few rules when it comes to borrowing A/V items to help keep things running smoothly. “General fiction DVD’s are fifty cents for a week. Some copies of our major new releases are designated as “QuickFlix” which means they are a two-day rental instead of one week.” said Mayer. “QuickFlix are also fifty cents, but the quick turnaround time on them makes it so that they are available on the shelf more often. You can rent 10 DVD’s at a time, and Kids, Non-Fiction and Foreign films are all free. Patrons can also rent 20 music CD’s at a time and they go out for 21 days – 3 weeks – just like books. Audiobooks have no checkout limit and also rent for 3 weeks.”
With over 40,000 physical A/V materials available to patrons, the collection is continuously in need of upkeep. “We have two top-of-the-line disc-cleaning machines and we check every item that comes back to us from being rented. If it has scratches on it, it gets cleaned. The machines are in almost constant use, that way we know our items are going out the door and working the way they’re supposed to. That is one of the reasons why some of our movies rent for fifty cents each. The low cost helps up with our upkeep. If anyone does rent something and has trouble with it, I clean it and let them rent it again at no charge.” said Mayer.
The PPL A/V Department wouldn’t function without help from others. “I have a few volunteers that help me daily that I wouldn’t get by without. Ben Cretcher and Pat Byelick help put items away and Joan Casey helps process new items. Our previous A/V Supervisor, Susan Mitchell, comes back to work with often me as well. I could never thank my helpers enough for all of the work they do!” said Mayer.
While digital media may be booming, there is still a need for physical media and that is where PPL excels. “Libraries are as important and relevant as ever, despite what some people may think. Physical media is still a need/want, especially in small communities like ours, and that is why we are here and why we will continue to be here. I’ve been a patron at PPL since I was 3 years old and now I work here and love it. I’m happy to provide whatever I can in regards to Audio-Visual items for our patrons.” said Mayer.
Grab your library card and stop by the Plymouth Public Library today. You’ll be glad you did!
Pictured: The A/V department at PPL.