Classic television series

The library’s policies for collecting TV shows on DVD are incoherent and underspecified in the first place and simply are not followed in any event. The notorious blue suggestion form merely states that “TV series are purchased selectively due to the volume of requests and cost for each set/season.” They mean due to the number of TV shows on DVD, which I submit is lower than the number of feature films on DVD. Cost is an argument I just do not accept given that the library typically buys 112 copies of the most popular movies (the infamous Pirates of the Caribbean coefficient).

I’ve also been told – second-hand, during Collections Development’s failed shaming process – that TPL only buys new and “really popular” series.

All this is false. The library buys TV series more or less randomly. Just as examples:

  • Warehouse 13
  • The Big C
  • Call Me Fitz
  • Breaking Bad
  • Mildred Pierce
  • Countless anime series only Sam at QS and legions of teens can tell apart

Are all of those new and “really popular”? Don’t be silly. Where are “really popular” shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy? And I was the one who had to donate Futurama (Seasons 5 and 6 only, DVD generic no-hold at Jones).

I have elsewhere shown that the library considers British shows classy and desirable by default and pretty much accepts everything that comes through the door. Sherlock? Absolutely. But the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special? What the hell is that, and why is it in our library?

TPL bought Being Human (U.K. and “U.S.” versions). Fine. It bought the U.K. Wallander, but then, just in the last week or so, the original Swedish Wallander showed up. Also fine. Except the library bought the entire run of the Swedish version. That’s 100 discrete pieces.

So “cost” is an issue? Please don’t patronize us. Cost is not an issue. The collections budget has not been reduced (yes, inflation eats into it, but the Board does not govern inflation) and the library has all sorts of money for a few TV shows on disc.

Here are some series the library also owns (bits and pieces only, in typical cases):

  • Angel
  • Buffy
  • Abbott & Costello
  • The Apprentice (but we “won’t purchase reality series”)
  • Barney Miller
  • The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
  • Homicide
  • Kids in the Hall
  • Perry Mason
  • Get Smart
  • Frasier
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • Six Feet Under
  • “U.S.” Queer as Folk
  • Twilight Zone
  • Roots (!)

Given this list, don’t you think there is at least a half-assed effort underway to collect “classic” TV series? I do. What, then, could we add? Here’s a starter set.

  • Twin Peaks
  • Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
  • MASH
  • My So-Called Life
  • Family
  • Thirtysomething
  • Space: 1999
  • Intelligence (my sole Canadian title)

I see some issues here.

  • Buying the full series.MASH has 300-odd episodes. That’s just an example, but I can see how the library would hesitate to buy certain titles because of the implicit expectation they’d buy the whole run. (But Swedish Wallander? No problem.) The full series of MASH runs $115. It’s affordable given the fact I have a library book published by Palgrave whose prominent price sticker reads $121. (The library would then give you exactly one week to watch all 36 DVDs.) The full run of Twin Peaks costs less than $50.

  • Number of copies. Series like Angel and Buffy are most easily found at the North York Central Library Browsery. For classic titles, I could see how we could squeak by with three or four copies – two no-hold copies at the respective Browseries and one or two holdable copies. That makes the project affordable.

The way I see it, the proposal I am making here respects the actual scattershot collection habits of the library, adds TV series that the biggest public library in the country needs to have in stock, and stays within budget.

So! What other series should we suggest?

This may be the only time I actually solicit comments. What other classic TV series should be collected? (But be a pal and don’t waste our time with Diff’rent Strokes or The Trouble with Tracy or similar ringers.)

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