If it had been the corner video store, most customers would have done a double take.
In the section labeled "New Arrivals" were titles such as "The Prisoner of Zenda" with Ronald Colman, "The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend" with Betty Grable and "The Story of Louis Pasteur" with Paul Muni.
As it was, though, most people in the Thousand Oaks Library last week simply gave the section a glance, some of them stopping to pick up a cassette and read its back cover before heading to the rows of videos spread out before them.
"Since I found out about this, I've come here at least twice a week," said June McGahey of Thousand Oaks as she placed a third videotape under her arm. "They have everything, from way back until now."
The library has come a long way since 1981, when it purchased its first videocassette. Today, the collection has more than 5,000 titles and the library is constantly looking for new acquisitions, according to Kathleen Sullivan, division manager for collection and reference services.
Feature films, which include dramas and comedies from 1930 to 1990, cost library card holders $1 per day. Educational videos, which include everything from foreign language films subtitled in English to how-to videos on building homes, are free for seven days.
"What we've tried to do is get as wide a variety as possible," said Sullivan, who is responsible for adding new titles to the collection. "You can find classics, to videos on opera and history. Those aren't usually what you'd find in most video stores."
Each week, Sullivan said, patrons check out about 3,000 feature films, which were purchased with funds from the nonprofit Thousand Oaks Library Foundation. Educational videos, purchased with library funds, are checked out at about the same rate, Sullivan said.
The appeal of the library's wide selection of videos at a low cost upset owners of local video stores. When the library announced plans to create the collection, Sullivan said, local video store owners were not pleased.
Concerned that the library would present unfair competition, Sullivan said video store owners met with library representatives and City Council members to express their objections to the idea. It wasn't until library representatives explained that they would most likely be attracting a different type of clientele that the protests subsided, she said.
"We're really not in competition with them," Sullivan said. "Video stores tend to carry the more popular recent releases, the hot stuff. When people come here and say they can never get a hot one, we send them to the video stores."
That spirit of cooperation apparently works both ways. Carol Clark, who works in a video store in Calabasas, said she regularly sends customers to the Thousand Oaks library for titles the store doesn't carry.
"We get videos the day they are released, and most of our customers are college students who want the new releases," Clark said. "But when they want an old movie, I tell them to go to the library because there's a much bigger selection."
With so many titles to choose from, which ones are the critic's choice?
In the educational section of the library, rock 'n' roll fans might want to check out Paul McCartney's film on rock legend Buddy Holly, which can be kept at no cost for a week.
Armchair travelers can take a look at a video guide to the Mexican Riviera or a 90-minute journey to the Soviet Union.
Sociology buffs can get their fill with a video on the royal wedding of Britain's Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, or take a leisurely peek into "Alcatraz, America's Toughest Prison."
And then, for weekend athletes who want the weekend off, there are always great titles such as "A Guide to Bicycle Touring," "Come Sail With Us" or "Baseball the Pete Rose Way."
Uh, on second thought, maybe we'll skip that last one.
A FAST-FORWARD THROUGH VIDEO STORES
Many local video outlets are equipped to provide even the most finicky cine-maniac with something other than the latest from Andrew Dice Clay. Here is a sampling:
* Salzer's Video--5801 Valentine Road, Ventura, 656-5801. Open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Salzer's has everything from public service videos that discuss life's daily issues, to instructional videos on how to paint, to the best of the cult classics. "We have about 150 cult titles . . . we've got all the Divines, the Andy Warhols," says Becky Beckner, the store's manager. "Warhol is new. He's cult because he's dead now. His art is one of a kind."
* Ojai Video--305 E. Matilija St., Ojai, 646-9652. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday, noon-8 p.m.
This store specializes in foreign films so get the old Berlitz out. All the Berlitzes, in fact. They've got tapes in Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Hungarian, Swedish, German and Indian, among others. Selections date as far back as the '30s, but the latest releases are also available.