John Eldred, president and owner of Midwest Tape and a pioneer in the library marketplace, died on May 27, 2021. He was 73.
"John was a strong leader, beloved friend, trusted advisor, and deeply devoted husband, father, and grandfather," said Jeff Jankowski, Eldred’s partner for over 30 years at Midwest Tape, in a statement. “We will all miss him greatly.”
In a thoughtful remembrance shared with PW, Jankowski recalled Eldred as someone who combined his passion for libraries with his love for history, movies, television shows and books, to change the library marketplace.
Eldred opened his first video store, Sights and Sounds, in 1983. Three years later, he began leasing and distributing new & used VHS tapes to other video rental stores, convenience stores and grocery stores under the name Midwest Tape Exchange. And in 1989, John began selling used movies to libraries, selling 20 copies of War of the Roses to the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library—the founding act of Midwest Tape.
In 1997 Blockbuster purchased Sights & Sounds, and Midwest Tape’s focus turned to exclusively growing the library market, beginning a string of innovations that would continue through his entire career. In 2008, Midwest Tape changed the library audiobook marketplace as the first to distribute "shelf-ready" titles. In 2010, Eldred worked to launch Dreamscape Media, the publishing and entertainment arm of Midwest Tape. And in 2013 Midwest Tape launched hoopla digital, the popular online service for public libraries. Since its founding, Midwest Tape has grown to over 350 employees.
“John’s focus on helping libraries with their collections fueled Midwest Tape to evolve from being a leading supplier of VHS tapes to also become a supplier of DVDs and Blu-ray discs as well as music and audiobooks on CD. This drive to help libraries make content available to everyone is what led us to create hoopla digital, the service that is now driving incredible market and patron growth,” Jankowski, said, recalling Eldred as smart, down-to-earth, fearless and challenging, friendly—and a sharp conversationalist.
“John believed that life and work was all about people and relationships. He formed thousands of bonds through listening, storytelling and remembering even the smallest details, making each person he met feel special and appreciated,” Jankowski recalled. "John firmly believed in equitable and respectful treatment for everyone and was an advocate for underdogs, second chances and curious people."
A celebration of Eldred's life will be held at the Main branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library on Saturday, June 12. And in lieu of flowers or donations, Eldred's family has requested that "anyone who wants to honor John’s legacy to purchase a book or a movie for a loved one and enjoy it together."