Ask Katy — Library DVD's

by Katy on February 26, 2009 · 12 comments



I’m starting a new regular feature here on The Nonconsuner-Advocate called Ask Katy.

The idea is that you, the reader write in with any questions you may have about conscious frugality, simple living or pretty much any non-consumer issue. 

Please keep in mind that I am not a certified financial expert nor am I an environmental engineer. But I am certainly opinionated and happy to share the wealth of my frugal/simple living /green experience. And if I can’t answer a question, I’ll put it out to The Non-Consumer Advocate community.

The first question is from Barbara, who lives in the Boston area:

Our DVDs are from the library too. But it’s not working out well. You can only take DVDs for a one week, and there’s no way I can watch a whole season in one week. The system makes no sense. (Note: Barbara has two school-age children, so she has three library cards in her family.)


Since one week is not long enough to watch a whole season of a television show, you should try putting a DVD set on hold with your library card, then immediately put it on hold on one of your kids’ cards. You could then conceivably check out a DVD for three weeks. You may have to physically take the DVD to the library and re-check it out, but you could work this into your regular library trips.

You could also contact the appropriate person at your library system and give feedback about how it’s near-to-impossible to watch an entire season of a show in a one week period. Perhaps they would even be able to change their policy. I would imagine the one-week due date is based on single movies, and they might not thought about the difference between two-hour movies and DVD sets, which can run into dozens of hours.

Best of luck on your library adventures, I highly recommend the Star Trek: Voyager series.

Please let me know if any of these strategies helped.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Do you have a different idea to help out Barbara? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Do you have any questions for me?

E-mail me at

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy February 26, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Sounds like this could be fixed by explaining the situation to the library.

However, it is a free service, so you shouldn’t expect unlimited access to commercial-free TV without *any* downsides. Just watch a few episodes, return it so that someone else can rent it out, and watch a few more episodes another time. If you really want to hold it for weeks, netflix is only $5/mo to hold a dvd for as long as you like without taking the only copy from your local library.


thenonconsumeradvocate February 26, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I feel fine suggesting checking out the DVD set under Barbara’s card and then her son’s, as they will be watching together.

Agree, disagree?

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Jessica February 27, 2009 at 10:03 am

Another way the library could solve the problem is to break up DVD sets. Most DVD sets of TV seasons have several actual DVDs. By checking them out one at a time the one week due date is possible. It also allows three or four people to have different ‘sections’ of the season at one time rather than one person hoarding the entire set.


Jeanine February 27, 2009 at 11:58 am

I can see both sides of this…

A: It’s not fair to hold the whole set out for 3 weeks….others may be waiting.

B. If you break the set apart, who wants to get the eposides per season out of order. I get week 1-3 then 7-9? Nahh.

Seems to me the best thing to do is to ask the library to retain the single movie DVDs rental for 1 week, but give the series sets a 1 week extension, for a total of two weeks, with no option to renew or hold till another 2 weeks has passed. If the “checker-outer” ( surely there’s a better word ) keeps the set longer than the specified two weeks, double fines apply. It wouldn’t be that hard at all to keep up with, esp if the library is using a non propritiery (sp) check-out/check-in software program.


Calculate the fines for returning it a week late, get your two weeks, and consider it money well spent.
*My local library actually does this, and you must pay it upfront, and if you go over the over….you pay double.*

Too bad the governement doesn’t have a grant big enough for each library/region to purchase said media types in multiples, then they could set up their own “netflix” type program. And even if they had to charge the same fee, (which I say do…taxpayers money only goes so far)… would go for an excellent cause.


thenonconsumeradvocate February 27, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Here in Portland, the Multnomah County library system, (the most used system in the nation) lets you check out DVD’s for a three week period.

Which I *love*.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Kristen@The Frugal Girl February 27, 2009 at 1:43 pm

We get popular DVDs for three days, but we can renew them three times. So, all told we can get 12 days out of the DVD, unless someone else placed a hold on it.

Non-fiction DVDS(like nature movies) can be checked out for three weeks, which is awesome.


rebecca February 27, 2009 at 10:03 pm

my library currently breaks up the sets so each disc is checked out seperately, but has just decided to start keeping them together. We are not happy about this change.


Julie February 28, 2009 at 8:15 am

The problem we’ve had with library DVD’s lately is that they are in such bad shape they sometimes quit working part way through the viewing. The last two we’ve had were like that. When “Shark Tale” gave out on us last weekend, my husband took it out and put some special cleaning fluid on it and it snapped in two right in his hand! My son was really worried the library would be mad at us, but the librarian looked it up and said the DVD was 4 years old and they wouldn’t charge us for it. Whew. She actually apologized to us for the situation! We ended up having to go to Blockbuster (grrr) to rent it so my son could see the end. It was definitely not worth spending even $1.99 + tax, though. What’s the deal with so many supposedly kid-friendly movies having scenes of kidnapping and/or torture? This one, and also “The Incredibles” come to mind. I’m just horrified by it. This is why we rarely watch mainstream movies, I guess.


tammy February 28, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I’m really lucky my library allows a two week check out of DVDs. I really enjoy the Agatha Christie Inspector Poirot series. Last weekend my local library even had a GREAT book and DVD sale! What would we do without the Library!


Happy Mum March 2, 2009 at 4:52 am

Slightly different tack — consider making a $$ contribution to your local library — perhaps library could earmark your funds for expanding their DVD collection — you could give the $$ amount you saved during a no-buy period (or similar challenge). And / or give your old DVDs to your library.


Barbara March 4, 2009 at 8:58 am

Thanks for the reply, Katy. I love the idea of reserving it twice in a row, once on my card and once on my son’s card. Since we’ll be watching the DVDs together, I think this is quite reasonable. It does entail extra trips to the library, which is not always possible in a busy week, but we’re giving it a try.

I did speak to the librarian about the situation. They are unwilling to change the amount of time you can take the DVDs out for. The library has considered this in the past, and they feel that the collection is simply not big enough for a longer “rental” period. But she did say she would raise the idea of breaking up the full season collections into groups of up to 2-DVDs. (Many of the seasons have 5 or 6 DVDs, so that would be 3 groups of DVDs.) I appreciated the fact that she listened to me, but I expect that a change such as this would take a long time to implement.

We plan to begin with the Voyager series this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Ducky April 18, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I lost my library card because I refused to pay fines for keeping a season of a TV show out for what I thought was the usual three weeks shortly after my library system changed the policy on DVDs to one week. I had not been notified, and refused to give them their $40.

My complaints, and the complaints of X-Files fans throughout my hometown went unheeded. The policy change happened in 2005 and to the best of my knowledge is still in place.

Now I watch TV and movies streaming online, or download them. Its easier then TV and less costly then the library.


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