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A Call for an End to VHS Purges

March 29, 2013

I was trying to finish adding the Institute of Design Student Films by the students of Professor Lawrence Janiak to my film rating list.  I believe I have all the filmmaker names and titles on my VHS want list, but that is on my hard drive in storage, and my external hard drive is zotzed, which is why there is a gap in years on the “Books read” lists for the time being.  I checked these all out of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Arts Division, but was alarmed to find them absent from the catalog when I checked today.  It’s astonishing how similar IMPCL’s website now is to NYPL’s.  Based on my experience, IMCPL’s circulating collection is the superior one, while NYPL’s research collections are superior to NYPL’s.  that could simply be a problem of the progression of time, since three of the four obscurities I looked up today are no longer listed in the catalog.  IMCPL did always seem to have a huge collection of old books in library bindings, while NYPL’s circulating collection seems to be primarily new and popular.

It’s true that VHS is a terrible medium, but I can’t be the only person with a VHS want list, simply because VHS is still more prolific a medium than DVD.  In the interests of space, Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever has removed all reviews of films only available on VHS in their print version, replaced with “Only available on VHS,” referring you to their website for reviews.  At least they still list these titles, notable for the tiny amount of space that they take up.

I sent this to IMCPL’s “Ask a Librarian.”  I even gave them my IMCPL library card number, even though I found out a couple of years ago that it expired.  I imagine it will be simpler to renew it with the card present, so I’ve still got it in my wallet, even though I had to tape it together where it split down the middle.  I’m sure I’ll be visiting Indianapolis again some day, even if not as soon as I would like.

I was looking for information about the Institute of Design Student Films by the students of Professor Lawrence Janiak.  I was alarmed to not find these in the catalog, since I frequently checked out the volumes that I could when I lived in Indianapolis (I now live in New York).  Of the six volumes, one was missing, and one was partially taped over with The Weather Channel.  Did you simply do a complete purge of your VHS tapes?  These are incredibly rare.  I made some contacts, and the Institute of Design no longer has them.  The Bauhaus in Germany has them, but they can’t leave the building.  I make $112 a week on unemployment and currently live in a shelter, so I’m not making that trip any time soon.  At the moment, I was simply looking up the listings to get the names of the filmmakers, since I submitted many, but not all of them, to the IMDb.  I am alarmed to not find anything about them in the catalog, and hope they were at least sold to someone who will treasure them.

It’s too bad I wasn’t in Indianapolis at the time of this presumed VHS purge, or I would have snapped these right up, even if it is an incomplete set.  My VHS collection is in storage, and I really don’t want to part with it.  I would pay for my storage before I would pay the landlord of an SRO, which would put me right back in the shelter system.  I wish I had a device that would let you upload form VHS.  I could show that idiot who thinks letterboxing is a scam the most hilarious example of why it’s necessary–Video Action’s release of the U.S. TV print of The War in Space.  There is a scene in which two men are talking over a glass table in a living room.  It looks perfectly normal on the widescreen DVD, but on the TV print, you can see only slivers of their faces, because they are at extremes of the widescreen frame.

Of course, now you’ve got idiots who insist in watching films made in standard ratio squeezed or cropped.  It’s as though the early years of DVD were a golden era that has been corrupted by widescreen TVs.  I don’t have a widescreen TV.  The one I have stored is a fairly nice tube TV, but not without its problems–whenever it gets a weak signal, it feels the need to display what channel it’s on.  When watching VHS, it’s common to see “Video” flash annoyingly in the corner in CGA-monitor magenta.  I wonder if I could even hook my VCR to a contemporary TV, or if everything hooks up with USB ports now..  It’s a Sony that was purchased for $100 in 2003 when I left for grad school–the most expensive model Best Buy carried at the time.  If it breaks, I’m guessing I’m screwed and will have to watch rarities like Alone in the T-Shirt Zone and Kamillions (both directed by Mikel B. Anderson of The Simpsons fame) on YouTube, where someone has uploaded them from VHS (assuming they don’t get taken down for copyright reasons).  Watching a full-length film on a computer is even worse because of all the distractions and pop-ups, and you get whatever VHS glitches the copy from which they ripped it has.


From → autobiography, Film

One Comment
  1. “The VHS collection was evaluated a few years ago and a majority of VHS items were discarded from the collection. The criteria used to evaluate included patron demand, number of circulations, and condition of the item. The VHS format is in much less demand than it was 10-15 years ago by our patrons and many items in our VHS collection were in extremely poor condition. Items that were kept tended to be in high demand and perhaps not available on DVD at the time of evaluation. I cannot say exactly why the tapes you mention were discarded but most items that were discarded went to the library book sale.”–Joan Harvey, Public Services Associate, Indianapolis Public Library

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