Is it really that hard to take care of DVDs that one borrows from the library? A while back I started to borrow a whole lot from various libraries throughout Maine through interlibrary loan. The primary goal was that I could get through my list of movies that I always meant to see but never got around to. My secondary goal was to get through my Netflix DVD queue as soon as possible so I can switch to the streaming service. Besides, it’s free and since I bought the new car I’ve been apprehensive about going out and spending money. (I haven’t been great about that last point but that’s a subject for another day.)
The problem is that libraries doesn’t have the resources that Netflix has to ensure that their DVDs work as much of the time as they do. Also, considering that using the library is free that opens it to all types of people. I suppose that means statistically that includes the careless. Still, you can’t just ruin DVDs through neglect. You have to actively through them around or at the very least place them label-side up on a rough service. So far all of the discs I’ve received through the library came in cases so that really shouldn’t be an issue.
But it is. It’s really frustrating when I’m in the middle of a movie or a T.V. show and my DVD player keeps stopping every five to ten minutes with a message on my screen saying “Unable to read disc.” That might be a slight exaggeration when it comes to frequency but it certainly feels like it. Today I was trying to watch season four of Babylon 5 when I couldn’t make it through a string of episodes without this happening. I can only imagine what my neighbor in the apartment downstairs thought if he heard me cursing at my T.V.
I tried playing devil’s advocate with myself earlier and telling myself that I shouldn’t complain about a free service. Then I reminded myself that while I’m not paying any fees to the library directly a good portion of their funding comes from public money. More importantly, this isn’t an issue about the service. It’s about people respecting other people’s property. As pissed off as I get when my viewing is constantly interrupted it shouldn’t be because of other people damaging goods that are supposed to be available to us all.
I’m not offering any solutions. I can’t think of any, anyway. Maybe the libraries have something in place that prevents certain people from mistreating their items. The problem is that while it may be easy to tell somebody that they owe you a fine for damaging something it’s very difficult to enforce it. I remember this from when I worked at a video store. You can’t even prove who it was that damaged the disc in the first place. In the case of a video store anybody who rented a damaged disc gets a refund. In the case of borrowing from the library there’s no refund because there was no payment at the time of the transaction. However there was still the time wasted and the corresponding mental anguish.
The answer, then, isn’t structural. People need to pay more attention to what they’re doing and take care of the things they borrow. In other words, people need to be more responsible. My blog post isn’t going to get the word out that much. Perhaps libraries might benefit from some sort of campaign?