Taps for Tapes: UMD tape crypt to empty this week

VHS Tapes

The University of Minnesota-Duluth library is giving away its vast VHS library this week. Will people want them? PHOTO: Rob Pearce, Creative Commons

We all know the days of the video cassette — the VCR, the tape, the “video” in reference to a black plastic rectangular container of magnetic tape — those days are gone. And perhaps tomorrow’s free-for-all VHS giveaway at the University of Minnesota-Duluth library is just another example of that. Or perhaps it’s the end. For after all, who will go?

Surely someone will be there early tomorrow morning to get first pick. But who? And, more important, why?

I remember when we learned about VCRs. I was a kid, probably 5 or 6, and we lived on the junkyard in Zim. We couldn’t afford the first wave of VHS systems. Neither could most of my friends’ families. I remember the excitement the first time we were able to rent a VCR from the Forbes Store. I think it was $10 to rent the machine, plus a few more bucks for the videos. It was a major event in our house. They had a similar deal down at the Zim Store, but the videos there were terrible. Looking back, the amazing thing wasn’t that we paid to rent a VCR, but that I was alive when both Zim and Forbes had stores. They were sad, dusty and dying, but they took a chance on VCRs near the end.

One time, later on, my dad’s tech school buddy came by for a visit. He and his family were going on a vacation and passing through. Both he and my dad started out as diesel mechanics, but their lives diverged after that. Dad was laid off during the Iron Range economic collapse of the early 1980s while his friend hit some prosperity in the suburbs of Milwaukee. So he had a VCR back when that really meant something. And, unbeknown to my sisters and I, he and my dad had arranged for us to borrow the VCR and an elaborate collection of videos for a whole weekend. I remember this was how I saw “The Never Ending Story.” Dad would watch action movies at night and tell us to stay out of the room. I can still feel the grooves of the wood grain paneling on my thumbs from when I peeked around the corner to watch. I don’t recall the movie. There was a helicopter and nonstop gunshots. It was cool.

The next Christmas Eve we were opening presents at my grandma and grandpa’s house. I opened mine and got a VHS tape, some kind of old cartoon collection. I ran over to my mom and yelled, “MOM! IT’S A TAPE! NOW WHEN WE RENT THE VCR FROM THE  STORE I CAN WATCH THIS. It was then that my parents opened their present and we all realized that grandma got us a VCR.

Life never was the same after this day, though there were many reasons for that.

VHS Giveaway January 21-24

Calling all film buffs!

UMD’s Kathryn A. Martin Library is offering over four thousand of its weeded VHS films free to the public from Tuesday, January 21, through Friday, January 24, in the library’s fourth floor Rotunda reading room.

The VHS tapes, on a variety of subjects such as Shakespeare, dance, health, education, art, as well as feature films, will be given away as an alternative to recycling.

The Kathryn A. Martin Library is always reviewing its collections to reflect the needs of UMD current students and faculty. Prior to the withdrawal of these videotapes, librarians selected specific actively used films for replacement in DVD format and retained over a thousand of its VHS films.

VHS is now a dated media format, and its use has decreased in the last five years. At the present time, the equipment needed to project VHS is no longer maintained in UMD classrooms. Our DVD collection is growing, and we anticipate streaming options to become more prevalent in the future.

The library sponsored a successful giveaway of its LP collection in March and would like the VHS materials to find good homes as well.

http://www.d.umn.edu/lib/ whatsnew/vhs-giveaway.htm

Parking is free at UMD in lots after 5 pm and at meters after 6:30 pm.

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