Hello and welcome to Stacking Up, a blog for the "modern" librarian! The great thing about today's librarians is that we are so diverse: different ages, backgrounds, personalities, looks... this blog is here to share this diversity with ideas, insights, stories, experiences and opinions for anything and everything having to do with being a librarian!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Library Decisions: The Slow Death of the VHS Tape

I was just reading some discussion on LISNews about how many public libraries are now weeding out their VHS tapes completely, even though there are still VHS titles that circulate. I have actually personally tossed VHS tapes out the door (well, I didn't physically toss them out the door, although that does sound like fun...) at one of the city branch libraries I work at. This was not my decision-- I only sub there so I take care of whatever tasks need to be done for that day. I then spent some time trying to see whether those VHS titles were available on DVD-- many of them were not, but on the other hand, those titles were very often completely out-dated and had not circulated in a really long time-- like, since 2000 or before.

I think that some libraries donate their old VHS tapes to places like Goodwill or put them out for sale at their book sales-- our branch decided to just throw them in the dumpster-- the reasoning behind that being that, if someone got  an old VHS tape stuck in their VCR and it got ruined, they could hold us responsible for the damage. Again, none of this was based on my decision-making.

VHS tapes are no longer being made. Therefore, if a VHS title is not available on DVD that means the library will lose that title. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, if it never circulated that much to begin with. I personally haven't used a VCR since I was living at home as a teen. The thought of waiting a painful 1-2 minutes waiting for a VHS tape to rewind makes me cringe to think about. (Side note: remember the good ol' days when you wanted to watch something only to find out the last person didn't rewind it?? soooo annoying!) I have seen VHS tapes circulate in some of the library branches that I work at, but it isn't all that often and I can't help but think that they are just taking up much-needed space. DVDs on the other hand are hard to keep on the shelves.

What do you think: is it a good idea for libraries to pitch their VHS tapes? Is this an effective way to move forward in the digital age and project the message that we are staying current by only offering patrons the most up-to-date media formats? Or is it a waste to throw away VHS tapes that still work perfectly well and might even be circulated a few more times?


  1. As a librarian myself, I don't feel it's a good idea for libraries to discard their VHS tapes especially ones that are still being circulated. Obviously ones that have not been checked out in years, there's no sense in holding on to them, taking up room on the shelves, but there still exist some households (crazy I know...) who have not made the switch from VCR to DVD player and libraries are one of the few places remaining where you can still find VHS tapes (with the exception of buying ones at an astronomical rate on ebay :)
    There's staying current and then there's realizing that not everyone is making the latest technology jump/some patrons want to remain in what they feel comfortable with/what they have access to.

    Good debate topic!

  2. I want to toss ours. We were just about to do just that and then we got a new patron who has been taking them out like crazy. He doesn't have a dvd player. For one patron, it seems like a waste of space. We have to best serve the community as a whole, and the community as a whole has moved beyond dvds (at least in my library).

    As soon as the dvd shelves fill up completely (should be another 6 months or so) then I'm getting rid of our vhs to make room. We'll probably offer to sell them to the patron who uses them.

    Rewinding is still so ingrained in me that every time I finish a dvd my first impulse is to rewind it :P

  3. Yeah, I think it depends on the kind of community your library is located at-- for example, the city branch libraries I sub at get at least some VHS circulation, enough where it might make sense to keep some VHS titles. But at the more suburban branches where standard of living is higher, or maybe the patron base is younger, (or both) I can see it making sense to phase out VHS...

  4. I say get rid of them!! Whether they are donated or not, the percentage of people who still own VHS players is so small in comparison with the rest of the general population. Use the space for something more up to date!