An ALA Special

ALA videoALA Satellite Seminar on Copyright
American Library Association

Submitter: I work in an academic library in a developing country. In the days before the Internet, we had a lot of distance learning programs that used audiotapes and videotapes to supplement what people used to call “correspondence courses.” A bunch of this stuff is still on an a/v cataloguing backlog shelf because even if it’s not being used anymore, there’s the feeling that it’s part of the university’s history and ought to be kept. No one is in any hurry to catalog this stuff, but there’s a fair amount of it. I was looking through a shelf of these videotapes and found this.

This is some old video format that would have only been used by tv stations, video production studios or university media centers (a VHS tape that a normal consumer machine could play is next to it for size comparison) back in the day. It is possible that at some point, the university had a machine to play this, but the library sure doesn’t have one now. Even if the topic of the videotape was still relevant to our collection, the format isn’t and this should be weeded. But let’s note the topic: a 1978 ALA lecture on (American) copyright law. Obsolete in 2014 even if we were in the US, which we aren’t.

The best thing about this weed? There were TWO copies of this beast, both in plastic cases. I just cleared 3 inches of space off my cataloguing backlog shelf without actually having to make anyone catalog anything. I highly recommend “pre-weeding” stuff like this from your cataloging backlog/”problem items” area (most academic libraries seem to have one) every few years- you’ll be surprised what’s in there that can go if you’ve waited this long to deal with it.

Holly: In honor of the ALA Annual Conference (#alaac14) we have an ALA special. I’ve never seen a tape like this. I agree – if it’s been waiting for cataloging for 35 years, you can probably dump it. It’s clearly not part of your university’s history. Unless one of your library’s goals is to collect “stuff,” this is just an unusable artifact that doesn’t meet your library’s mission.

ALA video



  1. Is it okay that my favoritest thing about this is the way somebody just stone-cold typed a lowercase “c” and then circled it with a pen to create a copyright symbol? ON A VIDEOTAPE ABOUT COPYRIGHT? It’s just too good to be true.

    1. Yes that is OK. Even more OK than than the original PBS logo, the fact it’s a “reel” and that it is in COLORomg!@@!

      Ebay it for some money?

  2. Oh wow, that’s a U-matic tape. U-matic is old (introduced 1971 by Sony, making it older than either Betamax or VHS), but like VHS, it’s also had a very long life. It was pretty much the standard for program distribution until well into the 1980s (when Betacam SP and satellite feeds took over). A lot of schools and training centers had at least one of these decks for showing educational videos like this one; I know one of my elementary schools had a huge, late-1970s JVC U-matic expressly for this.

    They’re thoroughly obsolete now, of course, except for dubbing old tapes.

  3. Are you sure it is two copies of one thing, or is it possibly Reel #1 and Reel #2? And are you perhaps talking about the Beta format? That was actually a superior videotape format over VHS, but Sony lost the marketing battle to whoever was pushing VHS. Because of its higher quality, TV stations did require Beta tapes even into the 90s (I used to work for an equestrian sports promotion agency and sometimes had to drive around to the stations to drop off the tapes for the evening news). Now I suppose it is all digital… I’ll bet there is someone out there that might want these.

  4. Hmmm. I can’t be absolutely certain from the picture, but I do believe that’s some version of Betacam. The university’s film studies department (if it has one) might just conceivably have a machine that can play the tapes buried in the back of a storeroom somewhere if the submitter wanted to upload them to YouTube for posterity or something.

  5. Nope not betamax. UMatic. I remember our school got one when I was 6, which was 1976… I couldn’t remember the name until I read Lee’s post then it triggered my memory.

  6. U-Matic y’all. Betamax tapes are wide and rectangular wheras U-Matic are taller and more rounded. And don’t knock them either. I’ve got a healthy side business digitizing those things. Thank you local universities!

Comments are closed.