All I Wanted Was a Captioned Video

I woke up in a great mood this morning, but now I’m grumpier than hell. 

It actually started weeks ago.

Lauren came home from school with the news that the Project Arrow class was going to see “A Christmas Carol” in Chicago.  I talked with the teacher and she agreed to arrange for an interpreter for the performance.  Lauren wasn’t too happy about it, because we saw the play a few years ago with two interpreters and she didn’t enjoy it.

“It’s just not fun looking at the stage and then looking at the interpreters, Mom!”

Yeah, I understand.

So then Lauren came home with the news that the theatre couldn’t get an interpreter for the performance.  The alternative was for Lauren to attend and read off the printed script.  Another alternative was for Lauren to attend the play on the weekend, when the performance was interpreted. 

Lauren wrinkled her nose at both alternatives.  I didn’t blame her.

She asked the teacher if she could stay home and view “The Christmas Carol” on DVD.  The teacher agreed.

Which leads me to the reason why I’m grumpy. 

But wait, let me back up a bit and explain something.  Our home library is in Plainfield, but we use the Naperville library for our main library.  So there I was today, looking for the captioned copy of “The Christmas Carol.”  Looking for captioned copies of any DVD in the non-fiction section is like hunting for diamonds.  The large majority of non-fiction videos are not captioned or even subtitled.  I grabbed three videos for myself, one was captioned, the rest were subtitled.   While I was browsing in the DVD section, a librarian came by and asked me if I needed any help.

“Can you help me find the captioned version of ‘The Christmas Carol?'” I asked.

It took her but a few minutes to find the DVD.  I took it to the counter, along with some other non-fiction DVDs I had wanted to see.  Non-fiction–because according to the library rules,  reciprocal borrowers (that’s us–because we pay taxes to the Plainfield library, even though we live in another town) can only take out the non-fiction DVDs.

As it turned out, “The Christmas Carol” was parked in the fiction section.  Which meant it was a no-no. 

I explained the situation to the librarian.  This was for school, you see.  I explained about the play, the interpreter situation, the agreement with the teacher that we’d view the captioned DVD while the others headed downtown.

“I’m sorry, you can’t take it out.  You have to go to Plainfield library.  Or, for $100, you can rent the fiction videos for a dollar each all year long.”

Let’s see–a hundred bucks and I could take the video home that day.

“Is there someone else I can talk to, a supervisor, who might make an exception?” I wanted to know.  “I would be happy to bring the video right back on Friday.”

The supervisor turned out to be the librarian who helped locate the DVD.  She called the Plainfield library and learned that they didn’t have the captioned version of the video.

I pleaded with her again. 

“Do you know anyone in Naperville who can come in and check this out for you?” she suggested.

So I thought of my friend Betsy.  My friend Nadene.  I envisioned them dragging themselves to the library, braving the cold weather, all so we could see a captioned DVD of a play that we already saw years ago.

I sighed.  I could see that the two librarians wanted to help.  But the rules stood in the way.  The ironclad rules that don’t bend for access, captions or not.

So I left the library in a grumpy mood.



Speak Up Librarian: Naperville Library Insensitive to Deaf Needs 

Muttonchips: Scrooged by Library Rules

20 replies
  1. Cynthia Roberson
    Cynthia Roberson says:

    i’ve been there,,, numerous times!! it is definitely exasperating and frustrating to go through such hassles. Hope 2009 breaks all these ridiculous rules!!

  2. Dianrez
    Dianrez says:

    You were within your rights and well within the limits of reasonableness to ask for an exception.

    I would have gone right over that librarian’s head, even if it meant going to the board of managers. Asking $100 for borrowing a video borders on discrimination.

    Hopefully you have found a captioned DVD by now from a friend…or at a local video rental place. Sheesh.

    Dianrezs last blog post..Weird Hearing People–Using Music as Torture

  3. DeafMom
    DeafMom says:

    @Joanna & @Cynthia– It’s those small things that can add up time and time again and make one too tired to jump over the barriers. I look forward to the day when every single video has captions.

    @Dianrez– I thought briefly about asking to talk to yet someone else, but at that point, I was just plain ‘ole tuckered out about having to wrestle over a simple video.

    @groovy This a library that is ranked one of the best in the U.S.?!

  4. Anna
    Anna says:

    It shouldn’t be so hard!

    Our library would have been a lot more willing to work with you. Our library would have been a lot more willing and able to work with you.

    Reading what you went through makes me realize I need to talk to our Library Director and be sure we have captioned DVDs in our collection. We may not be able to replace the old ones, but every new one should definitely be.

    It may not be fun going through these things, but keep on raising the awareness. We all need to be reminded and sometimes hit over the head with it.

    Annas last blog post..It’s Cold

  5. karen k
    karen k says:

    hey, did you check with Blockbuster?? This time of the year they’d have the oldies out.. or Nexflix..sigh. Stay warm!!

  6. speakuplibrarian
    speakuplibrarian says:

    As a librarian and someone who relies on captioned videos myself, I am absolutely horrified by your story. I do not understand why the supervisor could not make an exception for your need in this case. You were not asking for access to the entire collection, you only needed this one video for a school assignment. I’m going to share your story on my blog to raise awareness of this issue. I hope you will follow up with the library administration on this.

  7. tara @ kidz
    tara @ kidz says:

    I’m grump as hell FOR you. That is just ridiculous. People are so busy following ‘rules’ that they don’t think things through and do what makes sense. Aaagh it makes me crazy!

    tara @ kidzs last blog post..

  8. Anthony Russo
    Anthony Russo says:

    They apparently forgot the Golden Rule of service. Treat others as you would want to be treated. If they put themselves in your position with that in mind, you should have had the exception made for your situation.


  9. Alice
    Alice says:

    Hi Karen,

    Really interesting – and frustrating – situation. I’m a librarian, btw, so I’m really invested in figuring this out. Do you think that this was a one-time situation? I’m guessing that the librarian involved might have had a concern that this would create an expectation of allowing the borrowing of captioned DVDs on a regular basis – not a terrible thing, obviously, but a decision she’s not empowered to make. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had patrons ask me to make exceptions with the reason being, “They’ve done it for me before.” If the librarian in charge had checked it out for you on her card, would that have been acceptable? Or did you want that flexibility/understanding to be part of the institutional reaction? Do you think that this library/all libraries should allow reciprocal borrowers with special needs ongoing access to need-specific parts of the collection (like close captioned DVDs)? I know this event is well in the past, but I would be interested for my own education to get your response to any and all of these questions. Thanks!

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