Overview | Selection Criteria | Audio Materials | Motion Pictures | Graphic Materials | Phasing Out Obsolete Formats & Equipment | Further Information | Self-Assessment #5
This section addresses selection of audiovisual materials. The majority of materials that are included in this category are audio books (CDs and downloadable from the web), movies (DVDs and downloadable from the web), and sound recordings (CDs and downloadable from the web), although maps, globes and games can be important items for your users. Microforms (film and fiche) are considered in Selection: Periodicals and Newspapers.
Audiovisual materials are necessary in a collection for several reasons:
- To meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (visually and reading impaired people are likely to live in your community);
- To provide people with audio books and music for listening enjoyment;
- To provide appropriate materials to people who require graphical displays for better comprehension (more than 90% of us are visual learners);
- To offer people motion pictures that can be used for learning and entertainment;
- To provide people with access to globes, maps (especially local ones), musical scores, and games in support of educational and recreational pursuits.
While once these materials were considered frills, they are now the real “bread and butter” of many public libraries. These collections, especially audio books and movies, circulate more per item than most sections of the book collection. There is no way to predict the next technology that will dominate the market but this section provides some general selection criteria for audiovisual materials that should help ease the decision-making process. Selection issues and tools for these formats are also discussed.
As with all library materials, a primary consideration in the selection process is what is now used or requested. Our users and their needs should be the driving force for our collections. In some communities there is a strong interest in foreign language films but in others these merely gather dust on the shelves. Being aware of your users and their use patterns will enable you to select materials that will have popular appeal.
The selection criteria for these formats do not vary markedly from that of books. The primary issue is that of interest in the subject or type of material and the format. If no one in your community has fast Internet access then downloadable audio books are not likely to be popular. The second important consideration is the physical quality (visual and audio) of the item itself. Beyond knowing your community’s likely interest in the topic or type of content, judging the appropriateness of the content is similar to that of judging the content of books and includes the issues of authority, currency, scope, organization, cost, accuracy, and impartiality.
The question of equipment for each type of format is a separate issue. Libraries once believed that if they were going to have a particular format they were also required to provide the equipment for in-library use of that format. Acceptable practice now includes the option of stating the specifics of a library’s policy about equipment. Rather than being too detailed in such a statement, it is adequate to simply state that the library will not always be able to supply the equipment for use of some formats in the library. While this is not the ideal situation, it is often the only option available with limited resources including staff time for doing equipment maintenance, space for equipment storage and user stations, and the cost of the equipment itself.
Audio Materials: (Compact Discs, Audio Books, Audiocassettes & LP Records)
Audio materials have been a very important commodity for library collections for many years. These materials include music recordings, audio books, and language learning productions, as well as lectures, instructions, and inspirational messages. They are distributed in various formats, although the most common today are CDs and MP3 formats. Unless your library defines itself as a museum, both LP records and audiocassettes are to be considered formats to be phased out of the collection. This includes audio books on cassette.
Some of the most popular audio materials in public libraries are audio books. Also useful are set for aiding individuals in acquiring facility with a new language. Language learning sets are now available on both CDs and DVDs because it is easier to learn if one sees visual clues and how a speaker looks when forming the sounds of a language. If your community includes many bilingual or multi-lingual people, you may consider acquiring language learning materials that facilitate language learning in English, Spanish, and other languages of local interest.
Some of the issues to consider when selecting audio materials, especially audio books, include:
- How will your audio collection support your library’s goals?
- Will your audio collection focus on all or only certain genres or types of books?
- Will you collect complete works or abridged versions? Many public libraries only purchase complete audio books but provide a free exchange for abridged audio books similar to what many do with donated paperbacks in usable condition.
- The popularity or interest in the author/title and genre.
- What is the overall quality of the recording? Knowing the quality of the recordings produced by each major company enables one to make some assumptions just as knowing publishers can influence your choice of books.
To help you make decisions about which audio materials you should include in your collection, you can consult reviews of audio materials. Some reviews appear in the same print and electronic reviewing sources that review books including Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Parents, a magazine that your library may already get, reviews children’s audio books as well as nonfiction books related to parenting. These sources all put some of their content online although for access to all that they do you will need to subscribe to the print or full online versions. Reviews of audio materials can also be found on the Internet at AudioFile where anyone can have access to some of the reviews but for full access you will need to subscribe and at Audiobook News Service which is not a commercial site but has selective reviews worth considering. Another source for information regarding audio books is the website of the The Audio Publishers Association although they do not do reviews they do have interesting links and list both producers of audio books and suppliers of audio books. Lastly, the customer newsletters from the major library venders will include information and reviews or summaries regarding audio books.
Producers of audio books with library programs and discounts include: Books On Tape, Recorded Books, Inc. and Blackstone Audio. Both Baker and Taylor and Ingram also sell audio books and as more and more vendors are entering the marketplace to sell downloadable audio books, individual libraries, state libraries, systems and consortia are contracting for access of entire bundles of titles to be downloaded by library users rather than requiring the libraries to house the physical recording for the user.
Reviews of musical recordings can be viewed on the Internet at many of the commercial sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Hastings, and Virgin Records. They provide some staff reviews as well as reviews by customers. Increasingly, you can also listen to a sample of each of the songs on an album before buying it. Web sites specifically for downloading music to an MP3 player (Apple ipod or other brand) such as iTunes, provide similar services.
Motion Pictures: (DVDs, video cassettes, 16 and 8 mm films, digitized files)
Motion pictures are extremely popular with library patrons. Not only do they provide entertainment to library users, but they also can serve as educational, cultural, and informational aids. In many cases they are no longer any more expensive than a paperback. It is important that librarians are aware of copyright and censorship issues related to motion picture materials in all formats—video, DVD and downloadable titles. Needless to say, 8mm and 16mm films and the equipment to run them have disappeared from most libraries already. Video cassettes are also a dying format and most libraries have already ceased buying them or accepting gifts of them preferring DVD format. It is time to gradually reduce the amount space being used for video tapes and to expand the DVD collection instead.
The selection considerations for motion pictures are the same as for books and other materials. Knowing the interests of your user community, knowing something about the companies that produce the titles, and then using reviews when necessary to select those titles best fitted to your users and your collection development goals. With vendors now offering bundles of motion picture titles as downloadable files, some of the selection of individual titles may lessen for libraries participating in these projects.
To help you make selection decisions for DVDs, read reviews on these materials, join the mailing lists of DVD producers and distributors, and be aware of what is being reviewed in newspapers or magazines. You can find reviews of DVDs both in print sources and on the Internet. Examples of sources that include reviews are Library Journal and Booklist. There are also a number of specialized review sources such as Video Librarian Online. It no longer contains many new video reviews but it does review DVDs now. It has many other worthwhile special features including a database of more than 20,000 fulltext reviews searchable in a variety of ways. You can also find reviews of movies in the following: Washington Post Movie Review Database (includes current four years of reviews), FilmCom (current movies & DVDs), and IMDb (The Internet Movie Database) which contains current reviews, reviews of classic films, detailed movie information in general, as well as a listing of the 250 best movies ever. For information about producers and distributors look at the Film & Video Distributors & Producers site from the Movie Resource Center at UC-Berkeley. Another good “browsing” location is the NetFlix site.
When trying to find good nonfiction titles, other than documentary films, the reviewing sources, as well as simply browsing in a commercial rental store for videos and DVDs can be helpful. Ads for specialty DVDs such as ones on hobbies will be found in the magazines that support the hobbies. Your patrons are a great source of information of this type as well.
Graphic Materials (Maps, Globes, Games)
Graphic materials include maps, photographs, globes, kits, and games (although there are other items such as sheet music and prints that your library may collect). Graphic materials, because of their diversity of form, present special difficulties. First, there is little bibliographic control, so you will have to acquaint yourself with the various producers. Second, you need to decide whether you will circulate graphic materials or require that they be used in the library. This section identifies some of the selection issues and tools primarily for maps/globes and games.
Since so many maps are available for all parts of the world (and beyond!), you should include a statement in your collection development policy that defines the coverage you will collect (i.e., what local and/or regional area you will cover, and what type of maps the library will provide). Important aspects that should be considered when selecting maps and globes include scale, type of projection, the information represented, the amount of detail and its accuracy, the use of color and symbols, and the placement of nomenclature.
The sites listed below provide educational information about maps, links to free downloadable maps and links to providers where you can buy the electronic or physical versions of maps or in some cases download maps for free. Each site also has special features that might be of interest for reference as well as for collection development and selection.
- U.S. Geological Survey – the source for U.S. physical maps.
- Color Landform Atlas of the United States with wonderful color and black and white images state by state.
- U.S. Gazetteer contains geographic information, maps and census data (1990 census) of the cities in the United States.
- Alexandria Digital Library from the UC-Santa Barbara includes the ability to search for specific features, natural and manmade, anywhere in the world.
- MapQuest provides an interactive street atlas of most of the world and the ability to get directions and/or plan a trip. Many hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other commercial locations link to this or a similar service to allow customers to find their places of business.
In the United States, the National Geographic Society (publisher of National Geographic Magazine for more than one hundred years) and Rand McNally are two of the largest non-governmental producers of maps, atlases and globes. Their websites are informative and enable purchase of items that might not be handled by regular library venders. In addition, the Rand McNally site also provides a service similar to MapQuest with driving directions to specific locations.
Physical games may be requested or donated by the community. There is little bibliographic control to help with selection and therefore selection is based primarily on a game’s reputation, or recommendations and requests. You might also consider its purpose, objective, and type of use. Questions such as where the game is going to be used need to be addressed. If the game is to be used in the library, special playing areas need to be set aside; if the game will circulate, keeping track of all the pieces could become a nightmare!
On the other hand, electronic games have presented a whole new area for collection development. If you wish to provide games (other than free gaming websites on your computers), then consulting gaming magazines, using suggestions from users of all ages, and if possible, getting to know the staff in a reputable software and/or gaming store will be very useful. The following websites are good starting places and offer reviews as well as links to manufacturers, and other related topics.
It is difficult to predict how long these sites will continue to exist or what other sources may become available in the future. The world of computer gaming is continuing to expand. Recognize that if your library provides purchased games for users, there will be a high turnover in popularity and use.
Phasing Out Obsolete Formats & Equipment
Changing technologies make decision-making for many types of audiovisual formats difficult (and expensive!). It can be especially challenging to decide when to make the change to a new technology. Should you jump right in or wait and see how popular the new media format becomes? Early adopters of video technology were disappointed when the BETA format became quickly obsolete and was superseded by the VHS format. To avoid being caught with a lot of unusable materials, some libraries defer their purchase of new audiovisual formats until after new technologies have established equipment standards. Each major technological change in information formats has occurred far more quickly than the last change. There are no clear rules for when to make the change but common sense should prevail. In the change from video cassettes to DVDs, once the rental outlets where renting more DVD’s than videos each month, most libraries recognized the writing on the wall and began to phase out the video collection and began to seriously develop their DVD collections. It is important to realize that no format is likely to last forever. Even the book is experiencing a decline in use! It is save to assume that history is not going to reverse itself and once a format is obsolete, it is obsolete. Museums will keep examples for posterity but public and school libraries do not need to do so.
When the technology changes, as it always does, the newest format and the equipment to use it are expensive. As the new format becomes the accepted standard and competition grows, increased sales cover the costs of retooling and the costs for the items and the equipment decline quickly. Libraries have a history of bemoaning the passing of each obsolete technology rather than embracing the new. This is partly because of costs and partly because of our tradition-based practices. If we are to be essential in the lives of our communities we need to be more willing to be leaders rather than followers in the adoption of new formats and technologies. At the same time, we must begin to retire obsolete formats more quickly. Libraries with LP record collections are now at least three generations of audio technology out of date!
There are a variety of ways of phasing out a collection type or format. You can do it overnight and be done with it but a multi-step process often makes it easier on the users as well as the staff members.
This process or a version of this process will work with any format that you wish to gradually retire in favor of a newer technology.
Evans, G.E., & Saponaro, M Z. (2005). “Audiovisual Materials” in Developing library and information center collections (5th ed.). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.