By Tom Warner
"Democracy is the theory that people know what they want and deserve to get it." - H.L. Mencken
Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson once sang "The Best Things in Life Are Free," and that musical sentiment became a reality at the Enoch Pratt Free Library on November 1, 2013 when all home entertainment movies - the popular Hollywood movies for which customers were previously charged $1.50 per title for a seven-day loan - became free. That's right, free. As in no charge, no fee, gratis. And so far, the response to our DVD liberation operation from you, our dear patrons, has been ecstatic - maybe not as ecstatic as the euphoria following some of the Baltimore Ravens' recent last-minute, come-from-behind football victories, but close.
Library customers have been singing our praises because the policy change (suggested by the Central Library's Sights & Sounds Department and brought to fruition by the Pratt Library Best Practices Committee) means that not only can families now load up on six movies at a time that previously would have cost almost $10, but they can renew their items if they need more time. And the timing is perfect for the season, as people tend to travel over the holidays (requiring longer than a week to return items) and stockpile movies to keep the kids occupied during those family get-togethers and "home-from-school" snow days. Needless to say, in tough economic times, anything free is always a bonus.
On the Pratt Library's end, the waiver of rental fees for popular movies has led to increased customer satisfaction and a major surge in DVD circulation numbers. Every day we hear library visitors exclaim things like, "I love you guys! This is great!" or "I'm glad you told me that, now I'm gonna catch up on all those movies I wanted to see!" As the saying goes, it's all good; there have been nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses to the change.
The Baltimore County Public Library also recently eliminated their "Red Box"-styled DVD rental policy, waving their $1-per-night charge for popular Hollywood films. But unlike the Pratt Library, these films are due back the next day, can only be renewed for one more day, and are subject to a $1 per day late fee (as opposed to the Pratt Library's 20 cents per day rate). That cost can add up, especially during winter when inclement weather and holiday travel can prevent customers from getting items back in a timely manner.
So help us spread the good news: the best things in life are not only free, but now on DVD!