It sounds too good to be true - a place where you can borrow dozens of DVDs and Blu-ray movies for free and all at once.
Although it took a while for what was once the region's best-kept secret to get out, thousands of movie lovers now can't get enough of the Greater Victoria Public Library's growing, hugely popular catalogue of digital home entertainment.
"It's a smokin' deal compared to going to a DVD rental store," says Kate Pollock, head of the library's Esquimalt branch. "It's free. We're pretty generous."
Pollock isn't kidding. You can take up to 60 items out at one time with your library card at no cost, including DVDs and Blu-rays. An exception is Fastviews - which are to digital media what Fas-treads are to books.
These are the most popular releases, with a limit of six per card, and they must be returned within three days - unlike renewable DVDs with seven-day loan periods. The downside is that if you don't return discs on time, overdue fines are $1.50 daily.
And just as you can make advance requests for books (Fastreads excepted), CDs, graphic novels and audio-books, you can request a hold (except on Fastviews, which circulate quickly) on DVD and Blu-Ray titles - even before they hit the shelf.
When we last checked, there were 436 holds on The Artist, with 32 copies (24 of which are Fastviews), 439 holds on 54 copies of Marvel's The Avengers (30 Fastviews), and 497 holds on 26 copies on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (19 Fastviews). Magic Mike, which was on order as of Sept. 11, has already garnered 188 holds for the 32 combined DVD and Blu-ray copies soon to hit the shelves.
Indeed, the statistics on DVD and Bluray loans at the GVPL's 10 branches are almost as shocking as M. Night Shyamalan's twist ending to his 1999 mindbender The Sixth Sense. There are currently 57,053 DVD titles in the collection system-wide and 1,498 Blu-ray titles, which the library didn't start collecting until last year.
A whopping 1.3 million titles have already circulated this year from the Central Library and the system's other branches. The Central Library was leader of the pack, with 286,079 combined DVDs and Blu-rays circulating from that branch.
As part of its Movies, Music and More recommendations, staff picks are often tweeted (@gvpl), says Alyssa Polinsky, manager of communications and community development. Staff have tweeted lists of dystopian-themed films, cult classics and films that have Olympic themes to coincide with the broadcast of the 2012 Olympics, for instance.
"And we'll do something like, 'If you love Downton Abbey, try these DVDs,' " Polinsky said.
It's no wonder that, on any given Friday night, the Esquimalt branch seems like a home-video rental outlet as fans hover around shelves perusing hundreds of feature films, TV shows, documentaries and specialty collections on DVD and Blu-ray.
"It's wildly popular, even back in the day when we had VHS, before that became outdated," Pollock says.
The scene was less hectic Monday morning, when seniors and families browsed titles at Esquimalt's 8,600-squarefoot branch.
Gillian and Jake Fried-land and their 15-month-old daughter Molly are among frequent local users of this valued resource. "We come at least once a week," said Friedland, 27, as her daughter pulled children's DVDs off the shelf for inspection.
"It's such a great service for our tax dollars, and for kids it's awesome. She really likes to pick her own stuff."
Molly's choices-du-jour from the Esquimalt branch's share of the collection's 3,684 children's titles were three Elmo videos.
While mom dutifully watches Elmo's adventures with Molly at home, her own tastes include TV-show collections for grownups.
"It's great because we don't have cable or a PVR, so we use the library to watch our favourite shows."
The King's Speech, Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, Moneyball and Gnomeo and Juliet were among Blu-rays available Monday as Fastviews, sharing space with other eye-catching features such as Midnight in Paris and The Descendants on DVD.
Two 20-something men appeared more interested in the Wii, XBox 360 and PlayStation games available for loan nearby.
The Noel Coward Trilogy, a comprehensive tribute to the British wit, instantly caught this fan's attention. The hundreds of other intriguing titles included a House of Blues acoustic guitar course, and episodes of Cesar Millan's The Dog Whisperer.
"We're serving a broad demographic," Pollock said. "We're probably second only to Pic A Flic, or maybe even the same, in terms of the more obscure and unique titles we carry."
The catalogue also includes 837 Chinese-language DVDs and 225 Hindi or Bollywood DVDs, as well as items in other world languages, such as German, Russian, Thai, Japanese, Spanish, Punjabi, Danish and Hungarian.
Self-described "movie addict" Carol Brent said British fare is her first choice when she's on the lookout for entertainment.
"I'm retired, so I come every other day," Brent said as she surveyed the Esquimalt branch racks. "I'm always amazed I can find something new."
To peruse the GVPL's massive digital database, visit a branch near you or check out gvpl.ca.
RECENT VIDEO ARRIVALS AT THE GVPL
? The Bourne Legacy (Blu-ray)
? Iron Man Armored Adventures, Volume 1 (DVD)
? Return of the Living Dead (DVD)
? The Mentalist, The Complete Fourth Season (DVD)
? Call the Midwife: Season 1 (DVD)
? Dark Shadows (DVD)
? Glee, The Complete Third Season (DVD)
? Parenthood, Season 3 (DVD)
? Neil Young Journeys (DVD and Blu-ray)
? Louie, The Complete Second Season (DVD)
? Alice in Wonderland (Blu-ray)
? House of Games (DVD)
? The Big Bang Theory The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)
? Dark Horse (DVD)
? The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray)
? 30 Rock, Season 6 (DVD)
? Sabu! (DVD)
? The Last Sin Eater (DVD)
? Rake: The Bar Has Been Lowered (DVD)
? Damsels in Distress (DVD)
? Haven: The Complete Second Season (DVD)
? The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Blu-ray)
? The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray)
? Brave (Blu-ray)
? Coriolanus (Blu-ray)
? The Expendables 2 (DVD and Blu-ray)
? The Watch (Blu-ray)
? Chico & Rita (Spanish) (DVD)
? A Cat in Paris (DVD)
? Eleven Samurai (Japanese) (DVD)
? The Haunting Hour, the Series Volume 2 (DVD)
? The Campaign (Blu-ray)
? What to Expect When You're Expecting (DVD)
? Men in Black 3 (Blu-ray)
? Criminal Minds, The Seventh Season (DVD)
? Project Earth (DVD)
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