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Shown By Request

Taken from the production file (Catalogue reference: INF 6/382)


A Village Hall - on a quiet summer evening.
But there seems to be something doing.
A film audience.

"Cyprus is an Island" is a good film, but its more pleasant outside than it is here - no thick carpets. No concealed lighting or padded chairs for this audience.

Why here? How did the film get here?

It all started in 1940 when films were first taken on the road by the Ministry of Information. People had to be kept informed, many of them had to be trained, and trained quickly to do new job's. When the scheme began there were 50 of these vans. Each of them could carry films, a screen, a projector and sometimes a portable generator. For the films - had to be taken to their audiences - to wherever people happened to be gathered together in the upheaval of war.

Factory workers would have film shows in their canteens during the lunch hour. Later in the afternoon there would often be a specialised film on methods of production for management and foreman.

In peace time the need for information and training remains, and films are still taken to people wherever they are gathered together. The service has grown from 50 to a fleet of 144 vans working from 12 Regional Bases. The audience may be seventy or more miles from the base in the Cities, towns or villages - The Cinema may be a barn, Village Hall or even an Island school.

The mobile van with its projector is not the only way for film shows to reach their audiences. Many institutions and groups have their own 16mm projectors and on their request, films are sent to them by post, free of charge, from the Central Film Library.

As more projectors become available, an increasing number of films are lent out in this way by the library.

Here is a model layout

And here is a model layout with, first, an Intake and Labelling Room for films arriving in the library for the first time.

Next a small theatre for viewing.

A store for prints kept in reserve.

Stacks for films in circulation.

Offices, including a programme booking room.

A Despatch Room.

Another Intake room for films returned by borrowers.

An examination room, where films can be cleaned and checked after being used.

Fireproof vaults must be provided if inflammable film is kept.

Now lets take the case of a new film, it will arrive here from the laboratories in the Intake and Labelling room where prints are-numbered and sorted.

And here in fact are twenty prints of a new film arriving for the first time. The number of copies ordered depend upon the estimated demand from borrowers.

This film "New Builders" is about apprenticeship in the Building Industry and is first shown in the Theatre to the Library staff so that later they may advise borrowers on their programme requirements.

In the meantime, in the Intake and Labelling Room, the prints. have come over to this table to be numbered and put into fibre boxes before going into the Circulation Stacks. Films of more than two reels go into deeper boxes.

Every film in the library has its own code number and every print its own box and print number.

US: is the code for subject.

229: the catalogue number of New Builders.

SD: Sound. There are also a number of silent films in the library.

L1: L for Library, 1 for print number.

These boxes will be the permanent home of the prints from now until the day they are junked.

"New Builders" will be referred to in future as US 229 Secondary numbers 1 to 20 for each print. Numbers 1 18 only are available for borrowing, prints 19 and 20 are kept in reserve and on leaving the Intake Room go to the store.

The 18 prints available for lending go to the Circulation stacks. Here, in code number order, all films in circulation are kept under constant temperature conditions to prevent them shrinking - These films serve some 2,000 borrowers. The library holds on its shelves 1,000 different titles with a total of 12,000 prints. Among them are copies of films from other Countries: from America, Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Africa and many others.

The 18 prints of US 229 go on these shelves to await customers and are arranged in print number order - print 1 on top.

All twenty of the new prints are recorded in these offices. The history of every print in the library is kept here from the time it is received, through all its bookings until it is junked.

Each print has its own history chart. So there are 20 cards for US 229 to go into the index trays.

The cards for the two prints in reserve are identified by vertical lines and no booking will normally be made for them.

All that now remains is for someone to ask for US229.

Request for films are dealt - with in the Programme Room. Borrowers do not always specify the title, sometimes asking the library to suggest a film.

This is the case even with a regular borrower like Mrs Laws, who wants "Childrens Charter" on the 21st October - but is also enquiring for any new films dealing with educational problems for an earlier show on 27th August, any new film dealing with educational problems.

"New Builders" is chosen. But Mrs Laws also wanted Children’s Charter.

First see if there's a print of both films free at the times requested.

This is the first request for "New Builders" US 229 so the booking is made Print 1 card.

Mrs Laws has a file - only the file number is entered. Now for the other request - "Children’s Charter". Print 1 is already booked for 21st October. So is print 2,3,4,5.

Print 6 is free.

Notice that ten days is allowed for each booking - five days for the print to reach borrowers in any part of England, five days to return to the library.

Details of Mrs Laws request are then entered on the booking form. Three copies are taken with file number, date of request, date of showing and code number only of the film required. The second booking .is entered on the same form. Each one of the three copies has a part in the library process. The first one goes on the file, the second back to the borrowers as an acknowledgement. The last and most important one goes next door to the typist’s room.

The forms for all future bookings are kept here. But notice Mrs Lows form is tabulated as 22nd although she wants the film for 27th, for it is not until the 22nd August that any further action will be taken on her behalf.

Today, on 22nd August, all the booking forms for films required on 27th have been taken from the Cabinet.

Five days from now Mrs Laws will be having her first showing. These franked labels are typed with one copy. More than the address goes on - file number, code number, date of showing.

The labels and their copies then go to despatch - but before following them, note what happens to the booking form.

Mrs Laws wanted "Children’s Charter" for 21st October - so until l6th October, five days beforehand, when this process will be repeated, the form goes back to the cabinet.

The copies, of the franked labels which are for all bookings on 27th August have gone to the Circulation Stacks where they are used as despatch notes.

Prints are taken in order and arranged on the trolley ready for despatch. There is only one film to go to Mrs Laws for her first booking and it is print 1 of US 229 which is taken. The print number is entered on the despatch note and it goes together with the files to the despatch room. And so off goes US 229 in company with many others. All the films despatched on this day 23rd August are for showing on 27th.

When the film is returned to the library, it comes to the second intake room - where films are checked in and again sorted according to code number.

But this is only the first check. Every film, as it is returned is passed on here and is cleaned, examined for scratching, torn sprocket holes or other damage.

The most common causes of damage are oil and dirt in the projector, or careless threading.

And this is the result.


Which when shown on the screen means this.

Torn film sprocket hole spread. This is caused by a tight loop on the projector with this effect on the screen. Sometimes repairs can be made, but this film will have to be junked. Some films last for 80 to 90 showings while others in the hands of careless borrowers are ruined in the first projection. However, with US 229 all is well. The print goes back to the circulation stacks, where it joins all the other films in circulation 10,000 copies a month. These are the kind of 16mm. films sent out by the library or taken by mobile vans.

They are. available to all parts of the British Isles and to all groups of people - nurses farmers clubs or schools.

There are shown for housewives who want information on domestic science or health.

Youth clubs may have films about the sciences or planning. Films give them facts - material for discussion just as the feature documentary film gives information and entertainment to wider audiences.

In these ways 15 million people every year in Britain can see a film shown by their request.

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