These are tough times for libraries, businesses, and donors, but the Rockridge DVD Project has come up with some creative solutions that unite all three.
The library was offered a chance to buy, at low cost, the inventory of a DVD rental store that was closing. With a loan from the library, the newly formed DVD Project did so — but then needed to pay the loan back, by an October deadline. The group started soliciting neighborhood donations, through means such as publicity in local publications and setting up an information table in the library.
I confess, I was initially skeptical about the importance of this project. After all, I like books, and questioned whether the library should turn into a DVD rental outfit.
But after talking to a volunteer at their table, I understood the brilliance of their strategy: DVDs bring people into the library — people who then tend to check out books, as well. When library circulation goes up, city funding goes up, and it becomes easier to advocate against, say, library closures (which Oakland has been threatening a lot lately).
It’s more than a fundraising effort, it’s a strategy for library advocacy. The urgency of the upcoming deadline is also a fine way to raise the library’s profile. And if the effort raises questions (like mine) about the ultimate purpose of libraries, all the better — the end conclusion can only be that they’re incredibly important community resources.