RE: Public libraries and video collections

Larry Adelman (
Mon, 13 Dec 1999 17:39:07 -0800 (PST)

Would like to add our voice as a distributor to those clamoring for more
collection development guidance. I would imagine librarians find just
digging through all the glitzy direct mail offers coming across their desk
to be a Sysiphean (Augean?) task, let alone sorting the dross from the
dreck. This, of course, is the value of review publications like Video
Librarian and Booklist and the workshops Sally Mason Robinson has been
giving. And I've noticed that academic journals are increasingly reviewing
videos as well (the Journal of American History and the American Historical
Review even review apposite feature films).

I'm wary, though, of any Top 100 public library list, not just because of
the inevitable subjectivity and omissions involved, but also because
libraries' needs differ so much from town to town. I don't think any of us
want one gatekeeper imposing his or her vision, no matter how uplifting it
may be.

On the other hand, what about several "curators" rather than one
"gatekeeper"? A number of Top Picks from a variety of perspectives (with
contributors - Gary's "wide swath of experts" - stating their biases and
predilections as fully as possible up front) might be quite handy. The
problem here, of course, is that without being paid a fee, how many already
over-worked people can pilfer the time to do a thorough and thoughtful job?

Which brings me to this list. Rather than recommend individual titles,
Video-L could host a productive discussion on collection development
guidelines, tips, etc. Some very smart, experienced - and shrewd -
librarians subscribe to this list. The posts could eventually be edited and
published, in print (are you listening, Randy?) and / or on the web, or
otherwise distributed to librarians around the country. Such a discussion
would have to be hosted, with specific questions posed and follow-ups and
clarifications and other interventions raised by the host. The thorny issue
of price would certainly be one of the subjects considered.

I would think such a discussion would have most value for public libraries.
Academic libraries (higher ed and K-12 both) serve different masters and any
such education-based discussion, I would argue, should involve the various
professional associations which represent the faculty and staff who actually
use the videos day-in and day-out. Indeed, I've heard it said that if these
organizations were doing their job they would take the lead in such a

Larry Adelman
California Newsreel
149 Ninth Street/420
San Francisco, CA 94103
phone (415) 621-6196
fax (415) 621-6522