RE: [Videolib] Audio Visual selection policies

James Steffen (
Tue, 01 May 2007 12:17:42 -0400

Academic research libraries of course have an different set of issues
from public libraries, but lately I've been devoting more of my budget
to acquiring television shows. Not only do we have a "History of
American Television" course here at Emory, but faculty from other
programs use television shows all the time in their teaching, ranging
from the HBO series CARNIVALE to THE SIMPSONS and SOUTH PARK. (The
latter two shows contain the most consistently inventive satire in any
medium for the past couple of decades, and thus are a must for any
library collection.)

If you look at the kind of research actually being done today in Media
Studies and popular culture/American Studies, you find scholars looking
at all sorts of television shows, including BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
and reality TV. If you actually talk to faculty and students, I think
you'll find there's a real need for at least some collecting in this
area. Furthermore, I don't think it's really fair to expect faculty and
students doing research on television to rely on the vagaries of
Netflix and Blockbuster when we regularly purchase popular literature
and feature films to support other kinds of research.

Also, we shouldn't assume that all television content will be available
commercially forever. During the VHS days, you could find very few
television shows released in their entirety. Scholars working in this
area had to rely on spotty reruns (usually edited to fit more
commericals!) or some kind of archive.

Only with the advent of DVD have the major studios systematically put
out entire seasons of a series, and that's at least partly because they
want to boost flattenting sales, since the market has become saturated
with DVD players and feature film content. When another format or
online delivery medium takes over in the future, these same television
shows may or may not be readily accessible.

There's no way any library can afford to purchase every television show
out there, but I'm convinced that libraries ought to collect at least
some television shows.

James Steffen

Quoting "Gerald A. Notaro" <>:

> This is a thorny issue at Colleges and Universities. I don't address it in
> our written policy, but if a series has been very highly rated and
> reviewed, and not accessible except by premium cable or satellite service,
> I consider it a valid purchase but NOT a required one. Of course, if a
> faculty requests a set for either research or classroom need, I'll order
> it, no matter where it had been broadcast.
> Jerry

James M. Steffen
Film Studies and Media Librarian
Theater Studies Subject Liaison
Marian K. Heilbrun Music and Media Library
Emory University
540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta, GA 30322-2870

Phone: (404) 727-8107 FAX: (404) 727-2257 Email:

VIDEOLIB is intended to encourage the broad and lively discussion of issues relating to the selection, evaluation, acquisition,bibliographic control, preservation, and use of current and evolving video formats in libraries and related institutions. It is hoped that the list will serve as an effective working tool for video librarians, as well as a channel of communication between libraries,educational institutions, and video producers and distributors.