Weekly lifehack: How to digitize your records, tapes and VHS for free

You should never have bought Waterworld to begin with. Via Flickr user Will C. Fry.
You should never have bought Waterworld to begin with. Via Flickr user Will C. Fry.

Hello and welcome to weekly lifehacks, a recurring series where we share a simple tip on how to make your life just a little bit easier (and we promise not to overuse the word “hack”). 

It’s strange to think now but there was a time in all our lives when we were concerned with gathering stuff. You’d go to the mall, browse the overpriced selection at Sam Goody and come home with more stuff to put on the shelves. At Christmas you’d ask for stuff to put in your VCR and then a few years later you’d ask for Blu-Ray editions of the same stuff. You’d keep old stuff from your childhood because where else are you going to get that tape with Captain N episodes on it or the cassette that documented your high school Hans and Frans comedy bit? Now all these years later, all the stuff in the world fits and boy don’t you look stupid with all that stuff taking up space in your apartment. We, as the cheapest generation, definitely don’t need stuff any more, and that’s great. But you can still keep your old media and whatnot without paying for expensive digital conversion services. And the answer is at the wonderland that is the Brooklyn Public Library.

The library has conversion equipment for free public use that will turn your old VHS tapes, cassettes and vinyl into digital files that can live on your computer forever instead of collecting dust in a cabinet somewhere. You just bring whatever you want to convert to the library along with you laptop (but schedule an appointment first) and they’ll walk you through the transfer process. If you don’t have a laptop, you can use a library computer, but you need to bring your own storage device (a thumb drive or external hard drive).

This is best used for stuff you can’t find online (or don’t want to buy again from Amazon or iTunes): old family videos, rare records, cassettes of songs you taped off the radio and want to keep because you love the old FM 106.3 commercials.

Plus, the library can help you get rid of even more stuff clogging your apartment — magazines — through its free digital magazine subscription service. Less fire hazard-y stuff is good for us all. You have to have a library card to use both of these services, but why wouldn’t you?

Thanks to Ali Lemer for this tip!

Got a good NYC lifehack to share with Brokelyn readers? Send to tim[at] and we’ll give you a shout out if we use it!

One Response to

  1. citizenbob

    This is great! It would be great if the service expanded to other formats as well.. Now if they had resources for local ecycling all these old tape and media formats without going broke or driving to pennsylvania.

Leave a Reply