Off the Shelf: Preserving your Memories at the Library, Part II

By Leasa Sieve

Reference Librarian

As you read in this column a few weeks ago, New Ulm Public Library is developing a lab where you can convert your VHS tapes and audiocassettes to the most current digital format. That’s right. You once again will be able to watch those beautiful, memorable, hilarious or just plain embarrassing family videos.

We are in the beginning stages of planning the lab and stockpiling necessary supplies, and we need your help. Are you someone who has 24 hours of soap operas recorded on old videos that you just haven’t thrown away? How about mix tapes from the 1980s full of Air Supply and Chicago songs? My guess is it has been years since you listened to them, even if you have a player with which to do so. What you think might be junk is a vital piece of equipment for us. Here’s why.

There are folks who have Great Grandma on an old video, but the housing has cracked. That means it can’t be viewed, but it also can’t be thrown away. Others have oral histories taped by loved ones, but the pad on the cassette is damaged. Again, it’s not workable, but it’s a treasure. Library staff will remove the tape from the broken case and transfer it into the donated, intact case, and voila, patrons will be able to digitize the tape. The same is true for the pad on an audiocassette.

Along with VHS tapes and audiocassette tapes in good condition, we hope a few of you will donate your working VHS player. We need to have several on hand for the digital conversion process because we’ve been told it’s helpful to have them for parts.

When considering whether to donate your items, keep a few things in mind. Please, please, please make sure you want to forever part with those soap operas or Chicago songs. Once we accept your donation, it will get mixed in with all of the other donations, and the tape eventually will be destroyed. In other words, you won’t be able to change your mind and get the item back. The same goes for VHS players; we expect to use them for parts, and although we’re really good at taking things apart, we aren’t good at putting them back together.

Also, we want tapes and VHS players that are in good condition. Unfortunately, if it’s broken when it comes to us, we will throw it away.

The memory lab will be a community resource, and it’s going to take the community to make it work. We thank you in advance for considering a donation of VHS and audiocassette tapes as well as VHS players to the library.