The timing was perfect. Nicholas Eshelman had just started the Office of Streaming Video Services in the Homer Babbidge Library last fall when a colleague at UConn’s Torrington campus called: During the previous four years, the campus had amassed a vast array of videos taken during interviews conducted with well known Litchfield County authors. Would he be interested in streaming them?
It was great news for Eshleman. Since he started the service, he had been working to acquire content, but the process is time consuming – creating a contract, working through copyrights, determining a price for streaming rights, assuring the owners that the content could not be stolen, and more. Now here was a clean opportunity.
“When I heard they had all those videos, and that we owned the rights to them, I thought it would be a great way to get started,” Eshelman says.
Today, little more than a year after the project began, the service offers more than 60 streaming videos of author interviews from the Litchfield County Writers Project, including multiple interviews with Frank McCourt and talks with Honor Moore, Roxana Robinson, Susan Kinsolving, and Charles Van Doren, who also teaches at the campus.
Davyne Verstandig, director of the Litchfield County Writers Project, says delivering the talks to all comers has been a personal goal since she began the series five years ago.
“I have an old 1960s attitude toward education,” Verstandig says. “It should be free. So I began taping the talks and collecting releases from authors at the very beginning. I did explore trying to post these, but nothing came to fruition until Nicholas called.”
Verstandig says the videos will be a boon to faculty, students, and the community. She also hopes to have all the questions posed to the authors posted.
“In a sense, a student or professor could go on the website, see all the questions, and they’d have a complete course readymade,” she says.
Verstandig has been interviewing authors who call Litchfield County their home since she started the program. Besides the interviews, the campus library holds more than 1,500 books from local authors, including a number of first editions and autographed copies. Five more authors are being interviewed this semester during the series, which draws faculty, staff, students and members of the community.
The streaming video is creating a buzz. Since last September, the site has had nearly 3,700 visitors, and other universities also have weighed in, seeking information on both the speakers’ program and the streaming video. Officials from The Gunnery, a private boarding school in Litchfield County, also have called about using the videos for their classes.
Eshelman’s service is growing by leaps and bounds. Besides the Litchfield County Writers Project videos, the library has amassed 100 documentaries from a range of sources, more than 250 plays and movies, and 10 feature films. The most recent addition is a collection of 55 documentaries in the humanities and social sciences from Film Media Group.
The various streams have been used by more than a dozen departments and four of the five regional campuses. Last fall, 50 classes used the streaming video for distance learning programs.
Verstandig contrasts the library’s streaming video with its books: “As the volumes in our library are static, this is a living organism,” she says. “Now when I teach, it’s not only for our matriculating students but for faculty, the community, and students yet to arrive. It really is a wonderful service.”