04 October 2006

Neither NetFlix Nor Blockbuster

You log onto a web site. You search by some keywords and find the DVD you want. You request for it to be delivered to one of many places throughout the city, naturally selecting a place that's close to your home or workplace, or some place that you normally pass by. You pick up the DVD, view it, renew it if needed, then return it, again, at one of many locations, of your choosing. All free.

Is it NetFlix? Blockbuster? No to both questions. It's your public library. Traditionally, public libraries offer books for borrowing, but have since adapted to new media and now offer music CDs, movies on DVDs and VHS, and audiobooks, in addition to books of course. I've been a great fan of the public libraries for it's a great way to make use of my tax dollars. It is also a good way to not clutter my house. Borrow to read or view then return them. I like to visit the different branches of the library system in my borough. Some are high-tech, others are run-down, some specialize in languages for the people living in the area, others are customized for businesses. With the high cost of gasoline and with little free time, I now no longer have the luxury of going around to the different branches. But then there's only so many movies DVDs or music CDs available at my local branch. I finally made use of the BPL's online request system. Locate the items, reserve them and request that they be delivered to my branch, and get a phone call from a computer when the items are ready for pickup. All free. Yes, you do have to wait a few days, and some items are not available for reservation, and like all things that are used a lot, the items are sometimes defective. The DVDs don't come into your mailbox like NetFlix's, you cannot return DVDs and tapes through the book slot, unlike Blockbuster's. The fine is heavy if you don't return the movies on time - $2 per day. One time I got hit with a $60 bill for 5 or 6 videos overdue a week or two. Oh well, contribution to the library, I do make much use of it, it is OK to pay back every now and then.

For the photo shown, I was inspired by old posters I used to buy mail-order from the American Library Association. The posters featured famous people, like the rock musician Sting or comedian Bill Cosby, reading books or holding books in their hands. I try to keep up with my son's education but there's only so much I know. One time I took him to a libary and he picked out a DVD version of the children's book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Supposedly he read it in school and liked it. I then tried to find for him the sequel Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 and my local branch supposedly has it, but every time I looked for it the book wasn't where it was supposed to be. Bill Martin and John Archambault are the authors, but I could never find it under A. I finally used the online request system and just waited to be called. Eventually, I got my book and my son enjoyed reading it under a beautiful sky sitting outside the Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center.

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