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There must be something wrong with an idea I've just had, or else someone
would already have done it.
 
One of the most frustrating things about working with film, as the many
messages asking for advice on finding certain films attests, is that it
can be very difficult to locate a viewable print of even major Hollywood
theatrical releases.
 
When I want to find a copy of a book that I am looking for, there are a
number of printed and on-line sources that I can go to - the National
Union Catalog is the one that pops immediately to mind - that will give me
at least a partial list of what libraries hold copies of that book.  I can
then use my university library's interlibrary loan service to get me a copy
of that printed text.
 
We are obviously a long ways away from (free) interlibrary loaning of films.
What I think we could work toward having, however, is some sort of union
catalog of film holdings of film libraries in the United States and Canada.
If I could access such a catalog on-line, it would make my work, and I suspect
the work of many others of you, much, much easier.
 
You folks out there in e-mail land are probably saying one of three things:
1) "I can't believe that Ben has never heard of [name of source that fits
  above description of union catalog].  What a loser!"
 
2) "I can't believe that Ben thinks this is an intelligent/feasible idea. It's
   obvious that [objection that is obvious to all but me].  What a loser!"
 
3) "What a great idea!"
 
If you folks are thinking 1), please tell me of this source . . . I will be
eternally grateful and only somewhat embarassed by my former ignorance.
 
If you are thinking 2), please tell me so that I do not continue to embarass
myself by mentioning this idea to friends, library staff, and/or professors.
 
If you are thinking 3), however, encourage me . . . _and_ tell me if you
know of anyone who has the sort of money that could fund such a project.  I
would be very interested in working with a group of people on getting such
a catalog underway this summer, provided I could receive some sort of pay
for doing it.
 
Comments?  Criticisms?  Suggestions?
 
-- Ben Alpers
   Princeton University
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