Video Media Acquisitions in a College Library

Article excerpt

This article presents an introduction to the acquisition of video media (DVD and VHS) in academic libraries, with emphasis on the policies and procedures most appropriate for undergraduate colleges. The article discusses several issues--collection development, copyright, identification and evaluation of video titles, acquisitions procedures, budgets and expenditures, and vendor selection and performance--drawing on data and examples from the video media acquisitions program of St. Lawrence University. Although the goal of developing a permanent video collection is not always compatible with the day-to-day operation of an instructional audiovisual service, even small colleges can build collections of lasting value by developing and applying systematic guidelines for the selection and acquisition of video titles.


In July 2000, St. Lawrence University transferred responsibility for the acquisition, cataloging, and processing of audiovisual media from the information technology division to the university libraries. This article explores the acquisition of video media in academic libraries, drawing on the initial experience of the library at St. Lawrence University. It documents the library experiences in acquiring video media and provides an account of collection development, copyright, identification and evaluation of video titles, acquisitions procedures, budgets and expenditures, and vendor selection and performance, with additional information on the cataloging and circulation of video resources. (In this article, "video" refers to video recordings on DVD, VHS tape, and similar media.)

St. Lawrence University, located in Canton, New York, is an undergraduate liberal arts college of approximately 2,000 students. The library collection includes nearly a million books and government documents, 8,000 print and online periodicals, and 4,400 video tides. Three full-time staff, including one librarian, handle print, online, and video acquisitions. This report is not intended as a description of best practices. Instead, it documents the work of a small acquisitions department that gained responsibility for video acquisitions without a corresponding increase in staff or budget.

While both Library Journal and American Libraries have published several essays about video collections mad services, both have maintained a relentlessly narrow focus on public and K-12 libraries. Likewise, several authors provide guidance that is valuable for public and school libraries but far less useful in the college/university setting (Hedges 1993; Mason-Robinson 1996; Scholtz 1989). In one of the few articles to examine video operations in an academic library, Hardy and Sessions (1985) describe the consolidation of media services at California State University-Chico (CSU-Chico), where videos had formerly been acquired by three separate agencies: the University Library, the Computer Center, and the Instructional Media Center. Hardy and Sessions do not focus on acquisitions, however, and the video media program of St. Lawrence University is not directly comparable to that of CSU--Chico. One important difference is the setting. St. Lawrence is a small liberal arts college and not a comprehensive university. A second difference can be seen in the position of video media within the broader operations of the library. While CSU--Chico has a separate audiovisual center with eight full-time staff members, St. Lawrence has no staff working solely on video acquisitions and services. The St. Lawrence video acquisitions program emphasizes the mainstreaming of video resources--e idea that the fundamental principles of collection development (the concepts and practices that first evolved in a print-centered environment) can be modified for use with a broad range of media types and formats.

Video Media in Academic Libraries

Survey evidence suggests that most academic libraries gained control of their institutions' video collections only recently. …


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