Libraries Staff Spotlight: Ellen Garrison
Film streaming in the Libraries
Before the pandemic, shifting the Libraries’ physical film holdings (DVDs, Blu-Rays and VHS tapes) to digital formats was a project on the horizon but not a top priority. It was considered a long-term, multi-step project that would ultimately be worth the effort it took as the industry at large shifted away from DVDs and towards streaming media.
In March of 2020, pivoting to all-digital reserves made digitizing our film collection an immediate necessity, and that project is one Ellen Garrison and other Acquisitions colleagues have been working on in the time since.
About 60% of films required for Fall '21 classes are available streaming: students can use their Haverford ID to access movies online, just as one would watch a video on YouTube or Netflix. Providing that access requires purchasing a streaming license from the film's rights holder, and a number of other factors such as creating links to the host's platform, monitoring the time frame of individual licenses, and careful data management on the back end of each item to make films available through Tripod and on each individual class's Moodle page. When a reserve request film is not available streaming, the Libraries purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray and digitize it to make it available for the semester; this process comes with its own challenges of technology compatibility, time required, and subtitling.
Throughout this accelerated process, we've learned more about the practical benefits of shifting to a digital film collection. Students are getting less familiar with physical media every year as dvd and blu-ray players become obsolete; removing VHS tapes and DVDs from the library frees up valuable shelf space while digital media is not at risk of physical deterioration. Most importantly, the Libraries' commitment to making all course-required films streamable is a way of ensuring equity of access to all Haverford students.