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Lilly Library's 30,000 DVD collection provides alternative to 'Netflix and chill'

Tired of watching your three favorite movies on Netflix constantly? Lilly Library can give you some variety.

Recently, Lilly Library's DVD collection reached 30,000 titles with a copy of the 1987 fairy tale comedy "The Princess Bride." Staff celebrated the milestone with a "Princess Bride" themed cake and film viewing.

The DVD joins more than 23,000 titles that are physically inside Lilly Library, located in shelves behind the front desk and in storage in the basement. The remainder are housed in an off-campus storage facility called the Duke University Library Service Center.

“We have strange titles aplenty since faculty’s use of film across campus is wide ranging and eclectic,” said Danette Pachtner, Duke Libraries' librarian for film, video and digital media and women's studies. “Strange or off-beat is in the eye of the viewer, frankly. I recommend that users browse our film collection online and see what oddities strike them.”

The collection began when several professors from various departments began requesting films to show in their classes. Films in many different languages and genres now comprise the selection.

Pachtner—Duke's first film librarian—noted that some students use the films to fulfill class requirements while others are more interested in them for entertainment.

However, recent technological advancements—such as lightweight laptops without CD drives—have slowed down the rate at which DVDs are being checked out, she said.

To combat the issue, Lilly Library has introduced a longer checkout time for films not on reserve by professors. Additionally, the Duke community can check out DVD or VHS players to watch movies.

The Library also offers 27 databases such as Kanopy that allow students, faculty and community members to stream films directly to their laptops. Films available include new releases along with rare titles and small films requested by faculty and students.

Pachtner noted the difficulties in housing a collection of such size.

“The challenge is keeping all the discs in good repair and not mis-shelving any titles," she said. "If a title is in the wrong place and we can’t find it, then we have to buy another copy."

Some DVDs tend to get damaged by the overuse, requiring them to be repurchased as well, Pachtner explained.

Despite reaching the 30,000 mark, Lilly Library is not planning on slowing down anytime soon—the staff received $50,000 this school year to expand the collection and has $12,000 left to spend before May 1.

"The biggest benefit is having a great variety of films for users to choose from—both for class assignments, research and entertainment,” Pachtner said.


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