Do you sometimes wish that Blockbuster video stores were still omnipresent? You can get tons of movies from Netflix, but perhaps you miss perusing the aisles of that shuttered Harlem Avenue store – or other video stores, which are becoming increasingly scarce – and carefully weighing your options before selecting a film.
Mourn no more, cinephile, there’s still a “store” in Forest Park: it stocks 5,000 titles and you can walk up and down the aisles as much as you like, before meticulously making your decision. It’s a Forest Park institution and it’s been here since, well, before you were born. Furthermore, its operators let you take the videos home at no cost – four at a time, if you want – and keep them for up to a week.
It’s an easy walk from the Blue Line on Desplaines Avenue, and, if you’re driving, there’s plenty of parking. There are no X-rated films, so you don’t have to worry about the kids wandering into that creepy, hidden backroom. There are also no membership fees and, unlike Internet video renting, human beings are on hand to check you out and offer advice on movie selections.
All of this is available at the Forest Park Public Library, 7555 Jackson Blvd., and it’s open for business seven days a week, except on some major holidays.
Deborah Harris, head of the library’s video rental division, playfully conceded that its 5,199 cardholders comprise a small group compared to the 25 million with Netflix accounts. And she also admitted that the 5,000 films at the library are dwarfed by Netflix’s inventory of roughly 100,000 movies. “But,” Harris added, “we are adding more titles every month!”
Harris also said that, unlike Blockbuster, the library does not sell boxes of gummy bears or Milk Duds. “But,” she hastened to add, again, “the library has magazines and community notices, e-books and music CDs, rows of computers with Internet access, and live jazz.” She paused and pointed to the shelves at the north end of the building, and proclaimed, “And we have books you can check out with your video.”
The Forest Park Public Library loans an average of 3,057 videos a month from its adult collection on the main floor, and 855 movies from the children’s section on the lower level, according to the library.
The library’s video catalogue lists 120 new DVD acquisitions and 120 foreign films. Its nonfiction offerings comprise titles ranging from Black History: a Retrospective to Just for Laughs: Working Class Comics to Stephen Hawking’s Universe, as an example.
The TV selection includes episodes from popular cable and network shows like Arrested Development; Curb Your Enthusiasm; Glee; The Wire; and, for seniors who want to offer their grandchildren a glimpse of the good old days, The Waltons.
So, if you’re unhappy with Netflix’s new, separate fees for mailed and streamed videos, or if you just miss actually going out and hunting for a movie, come up and see the folks at the Forest Park Library some time.
Nick Moroni contributed to this article