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Protecting Your DVD Collection


Without question, protecting DVDs from damage and theft is one of the most difficult issues for public librarians today. DVDs in the public library are in high demand by patrons, but they can circulate once or twice and come back with scratches that hinder the play. It is a widespread problem, as determined by the number of related postings on VIDEOLIB (a listserv for Video Librarians), emails and discussions at local meetings and national conventions. As the popularity of DVD continues to rise and more patrons purchase DVD players, the problem will continue to escalate. This article presents an overview of the problems that librarians are encountering and provides some tips for protecting and preventing damage to the library's ever-so-popular DVD collection.

The Root of the Problem

There are several factors contributing to the problem:

  • DVDs are more susceptible to damage because the media is not enclosed in a protective casing such as VHS.
  • DVDs are more fragile than CDs or CD-ROMs — the scratches are more apt to damage the play of content on a DVD than a similar scratch would on a music CD or CD-ROM.
  • Some patrons, especially the younger ones, will handle a DVD carelessly, not realizing that they are subjecting the digital media to harsh and dirty surfaces. In general, patrons are just not familiar with the additional care that should go into handling this fragile media.
  • To complicate matters, there is no standard design for the DVD case. There is more than one style of center release hub — pluck vs. push — and many variations of the push mechanism exist, all factors that contribute to damage. Since users aren't familiar with the release mechanisms, they forcefully pull up on the disc, causing damage. The center release button chips or breaks and scratches the disc as it rattles around in the case.
  • There is also difficulty diagnosing the problem — not all models of DVD players will "read" the problem the same way — the player in the library may work fine, whereas a patron's player may skip or not read the disc at all or vice versa.
  • Some librarians wish that they were only dealing with scratched DVDs, their major concern is preventing theft — the most detrimental form of damage to their library's collection.

In all, there are several reasons why DVDs come back as damaged as they do or just disappear — leaving you with only a portion of your prized DVD collection.

When the Damage Is Done

So what solutions are available, affordable and effective once a DVD is damaged? There are many products and gadgets to do the trick. They range from high-tech detection and repair kits — machinery that could cost your library thousands of dollars to savvy and affordable home-grown solutions. You can consider a variety of low-tech solutions. Some have suggested buffing scratched DVDs with the same type of microfiber cloths you use to clean your eyeglasses; others have suggested using organic toothpaste as an abrasive cleaner or even aerosol wax or furniture polish to add a protective layer!

What we've heard and experienced is that the wipes can shed, or may not refurbish the deeper surface scratches. Likewise, the toothpaste can serve as a mild abrasive for polishing when the damage is minor — a practical solution when you have only a few affected DVDs. The furniture polish will mask defects, but you may hear complaints from your patrons about the effect the wax can have on their DVD players as the machine heats up. The repair machines can be expensive, but a prudent solution for libraries with large collections of digital media. But keep in mind, if you decide to routinely buff your library's DVDs, there is a finite limit to how many times you can safely buff the surface before exposing the layer that holds the data. Depending on the size of your collection, some of the quick-fix solutions may extend the life of your DVDs and, although not ideal, may be a more economical alternative to DVD replacement.

Preventive Care Solutions

The alternative solution comes in the way of preventive care. Tips from librarians suggest that there are simple and inexpensive products that help maximize the life of your DVD collection by reducing the likelihood of damage in the first place.

The first suggestion comes from a librarian who decided to standardize the type of case used for her library's DVD collection. They replace all DVD boxes and packaging with a case that is standard for their library — the advantage is that the patron becomes accustomed to the case and will learn the proper way of releasing the DVD in due time. A secure locking DVD case is available that has a solid pluck hub which appears virtually indestructible from routine use and will help deter theft. Unlike many star-like button hubs, there are no tiny parts to break off and damage the disc. Replacing all of your DVD cases may seem like a drastic measure, but it may be the best solution for educating the patron and keeping case design flaws at bay.

A second solution is a preventive shield spray that is widely used by rental shops and outlets. Quick Shield by CD-Playwright is one example of an all-in-one sealer, protectant and cleaner. There is a patented formula for new media that seals the surface so it can be circulated ready to resist the effects of patron handling. There is a second formula that serves as a routine cleaner/protectant. It adds a protective layer that increases the disc's scratch resistance while keeping the disc clean and functional. Both solutions are laser neutral, meaning that they can't affect the reflectivity of the laser.

Preventing Theft

Finally, you can reduce theft in your library with an easy-to-use DVD case and locking system. The Secure Case® DVD case features an excellent tamper-resistant design that utilizes a security locking clip. Used in conjunction with a security strip, this system will prevent DVD burglary. The locked DVD case is easily opened at the circulation desk using a countertop release key when the item is checked out, and when the DVD is returned, the library staff simply snaps the security clip back into the case. There are advantages to this kind of case — your DVD collection can be kept on the shelves allowing patrons to browse through your collection without your fear of having them stolen. This case is standard in size, requiring no additional shelf space and can be used with or without the universal locking clip component.

By request, we are now offering both the protective DVD Secure Case® and Quick Shield products for your convenience. If you have any questions about these products or how they are used, please click on the links above for more information. We welcome your feedback on this article and the new products we are providing.