Thursday, January 3, 2013

Proper Care and Handling of CDs (Observation/Rant)

The Compact Disc ("CD") debuted in United States in 1983. Sometime around 1993, I was lucky enough to get my first CD player, a full-sized single-disc Sony, together with my first CD, Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Romances 1 & 2 (proudly purchased, on-sale, from the now defunct "Classical" Harmony House, in Royal Oak, Michigan). Having grown-up listening to records as often as tapes, I learned, at an early age, to not touch the surface of my media (gripping it from the edges instead), to always return the media I was not using to its case or sleeve, that extreme heat could warp my media (and to therefore keep my milk crate of records out of direct sunlight) and, lastly, that it was important to (as to not damage my father's expensive record player and to get the best sound-quality possible) keep my media clean. While CDs are much more durable (and CD players much more forgiving) than records, they were also so expensive (by the standards of a twelve year-old) that I treated them with equal care. I still have the above Beethoven CD and it still plays (although, I'll admit that it is not the best example in my music collection of a "well-used" CD). Sometime in 1994, I discovered grunge and electronic music, as well as the Columbia House/BMG direct marketing offer of "Ten CDs for the price of one!" Shortly thereafter, I started working to support my music habit and spending more time in record stores. My first few purchases in a used record store were enough to show me that that not everyone was taught to treat CDs with care. Similarly, during high school I loaned my copy of 311's eponymous album, Stone Temple Pilots "Purple", and Moby's "Everything Is Wrong" to various friends, and somehow, those are my only CDs that didn't survive the 90s unscathed. My initial reaction was to refuse to loan people CDs, unless and until I was able to first look at their CDs to determine if they knew how to properly treat them. Yeah, I was "that guy" and proper treatment of media is my pet peeve. Thankfully, the proliferation of the iPod (and more broadly, "digital media") has probably saved me from an early death due to heart disease.

Although CDs are now in their declining years, as of the date of this post, they are still readily available for check-out at my local public library. As there are fewer and fewer local record stores that contain "listening stations", I regularly go to the library just to flip through the racks and browse (an activity that Apple, Amazon, Spotify, and Pandora still haven't quite replicated). Usually, I end up checking-out a CD or ten. Why ten? Because, unfortunately, the habits of the general public are similar to those of my friends from high school, i.e. approximately 50% of the CDs I check-out are either scratched or dirty to the point that they will not play from start to finish with out skipping. Several library policies that pertain to this issue (e.g. Rules of Conduct, requiring that library property be treated with respect, a Municipal Code requiring cardholders to be responsible for the materials borrowed on their cards, a fee in the amount of the actual replacement cost of a destroyed item), but, to the best of my knowledge, they are rarely enforced and have done little to change people's behavior. When I bring damaged materials to the attention of library staff, they apologize, commiserate, and very politely explain that the library does not have the resources to review each item as it is returned (and therefore can't assign blame to the offending patron). Sometime, this explanation  is accompanied by a prolonged, disappointed, *sigh* (which may or may not come from yours truly).

So... in honor of the copy of Tool's "Opiate" that I checked-out yesterday, which I discovered had a thin layer of peanut butter and jelly stuck to the bottom, here is a primmer on the proper handling of CDs:
  1. Handle CDs by grasping the edge and center. Do not touch the surface of the CD and do not use it as a plate on which you make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  2. When not using a specific CD, return it to its jewel case or sleeve and place them vertically. Do not place the CD on the closest convenient flat surface or stack of several CDs on-top of one another.
  3. Store CDs in a cool, dark location. Do not leave CDs in direct sunlight or on the dashboard of your car (especially in southern Arizona, where the ambient air temperature regularly exceeds 100° F for several months of the year).
  4. If a CD has somehow become dirty, clean it with a clean, soft, fabric cloth, from the center of the disc, to the edge. Do not rub around the CD in circles, use window cleaners, or scrub the CD with steel wool. Also, if you do not own the CD, do not attempt to use scratch repairing products.
For more information than you probably thought existed on this subject, read this helpful guide from the Council on Library and Information Resources titled "Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists".


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