Creating a Virtual Library from VHS Tapes and DVDs: An Interview with Francesca Socolick, Steinhardt’s Senior Academic Technologist

Francesca Socolick

Francesca Socolick, a senior academic technologist at NYU Steinhardt, works with faculty to update and refresh their technology.  Recently she helped the Department of Applied Psychology replicate their library of VHS and DVD media online. We interviewed Francesca to learn more the state of technological innovation in academia and how a virtual library can be created to enhance students’ learning experiences.

Do Steinhardt faculty really still use VHS tapes?

Yes! And I have to admit, I still have a few VHS tapes at home… Technology changes so fast! Often it’s hard to keep up without some help from a tech expert who understands the landscape. In the case of this project, the department had an extensive library of recorded mock clinical examinations used as learning resources during class. It’s an extensive collection that the department depends on always being available. However, when technology changes, processes are always affected. Oddly enough, DVD’s are beginning to become out-dated, and Japan, just a few months ago, produced the last VCR…ever. Today the trend in media consumption and storage is streaming. Think of the impact that Netflix and Amazon Prime have had on how media is shared and consumed, and what that has done to your personal VCR and DVD collection. You probably don’t use them as much, and as your devices need updating, its getting harder to find replacements. Again, as technology changes, you need to change your process.

What do you create a virtual library?

It sounds really fancy and futuristic, but at the core, it entails thinking about how to take your existing experience to make it work virtually, but keeping the experience as authentic to the original as possible. So, in the case of this project, if faculty were going to a central physical library to take out a video tape to share with their students, we asked ourselves, how can we create a similiar experience with a new process? We needed to create an online place that faculty could go to to get their digital recordings to use in class. Once the question was identified, it was just a matter of figuting out the details.

The biggest success to this project was teaming up with the NYU Library and our awesome AP subject librarian, Jill Conte. Once you get into the area of ‘how do I share media online?’ you need to start thinking about the concepts of copyright and fair use. This is the same barrier/ design challenge you would face when needing to share the same VHS movie with an entire department. The staff at the library are experts in this area, and work out agreements with the media-owners of the content, and we can stream & share content while still respecting those laws. 

What was the most exciting moment of this project?  Did you learn something?

Well, I learned that I wasn’t alone in wanting to hold on to my collection of VHS tapes. I think that the most interesting part of this project for me was learning that NYU library already had the resources in place to make this work, and all we had to do was alter our process in order to keep the same experience. There are a lot of benefits in creating a virtual library. Students and faculty can now access this content on-demand, anywhere and at anytime.  (There are no more physical ties to needing to be in the same place as the media.) 

As learning becomes more influenced by technology, and our experiences take advantage of this emerging change-agent, we will have to rethink a lot of processes to ensure the same (or better) experience.

Steinhardt’s academic technologists are available to help faculty with issues related to teaching, research and administrative initiatives.  If you are a Steinhardt faculty member, and have a technical issue that is related to how you might teach better or organize your materials, write to steinhardt.it@nyu.edu.  They can help to make collaboration easier by providing support for new tools and transforming your classroom experience with technology.