Monday, November 28, 2011

Weeding

Weeding is a library term for removal of items from a collection. It is the final step in the cycle of library materials. Like a gardener, the librarian goes through the collection systematically removing dead growth, looking at everything and pulling out items that detract from the collection. As in the case of a beautiful garden, your vertical file will thrive with regular weeding.

Purpose of weeding Weed to insure the quality of your vertical file as a resource. It is critical that your collection, which should seek to have the most current materials in certain subjects, be kept up-to-date in order to provide your patrons with resources they can depend on being accurate and current.

Weed to make your collection more appealing. As in a garden, if you do not pull the weeds, your patrons cannot see the beauty. Your files will look better and people will be able to find what they seek more easily.

Weed to conserve space. Even if you do not need the space now, you will someday. It is much better to stay on top of it than to wait until you run out of space and have such a huge job it will never get done.

Weed to save time in searching and maintaining the collection. Patron time and staff time will be saved by keeping files up-to-date. They will not need to reject outdated materials found in the files.

Weed to keep a close check on the collection. Regular weeding will keep you more familiar with the collection. You will be able to encourage use and see that the management of the files is carried out in the most efficent manner.

Weed to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the collection. Going through the collection in a systematic way will keep you aware so that you are subconsciously tuned in to this valuable resource. You (or the person responsible for the files) will be the most critical link in the development and use of the collection.

Negative factors to consider when weeding There are several guides to help you in weeding library materials. (Stanley J. Slote’s Weeding Library Collections, 3d ed. (Englewood, Colorado : Libraries Unlimited, 1989)) is a standard reference for weeding book collections. Slote’s factors for weeding materials include attention to appearances, duplication, content, age, and use. Joseph P. Segal (Evaluating and Weeding Collections in Small and Medium-sized Public Libraries: The CREW Method, Chicago: American Library Association, 1980) developed a system of weeding called CREW, which stands for Continous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding. The system is based on the date of the material, time since it circulated, and whether or not the material is “MUSTY”:

M – misleading or factually inaccurate
U – ugly
S – superseded by newer information
T - trivial
Y – your collection has no use for the material or material is irrevelant to your patrons

The formula may not be applicable to your files, but the MUSTY factors are important to consider in weeding any collection. Using the negative factors as a guide gives you a basis for evaluating materials.) Many of the general factors for consideration also apply to vertical-file materials. Weeding is discussed in different terms, but the negative factors for consideration can be grouped in the following general categories.

Content. Is it accurate? Poor content or incorrect and misleading information is the most important factor in weeding.You must discard inaccurate information. Bad information is worse than no information at all.

Age. Age is a very important factor in vertical-file materials. Currency is one of the characteristics of supplementary materials. Ask yourself the following questions: Is the information more than five years old? Has the material been updated? Do you have a current address for the publisher? Age is easy enough to evaluate if it is printed on the item. The next best indication is the date that the item was added to the collection. You should be able to assume that the information was current when it was put into the file. Stamping the date received is important even when the date of publication is available so that you know that as of the date received it was considererd current.

Need. Is this the only source of this kind of information? Need based on extra copies is an easy factor. The difficulty is when you have the information available in a different source. Ask yourself the same questions you did before you added the material: Is this information somewhere else in the library? Or Is this information in another library in the area?

In the case of superseded information, there is probably no good reason to keep an old version of supplementary material when you get a new one. If you have questions about keeping older information, refer to the questions you asked yourself regarding the initial selection.

Is this information still needed? A number of items in your supplementary materials collection may seem trivial. The characteristics of supplementary materials include unique, unusual, and small segment of knowledge. There may be a fine line distinguishing unique from trivial in evaluating supplementary materials. You will have to answer that question for your own library.
Use. Is this material used? Is it used often? Circulation systems that leave a record of use make this an easy factor to evaluate. For example, the date due stamped on the back of item, a check-out card for the item, or a bar code attached to the individual record would track the use. Another way to measure use is to put a small hash mark on the back of the item each time the file is filed. It is not a foolproof system but it may give some indication of use. You will have to determine whether it is important for you to know.

Condition. Appearance is an easy factor to evaluate. When items become yellow, torn, dirty, or ragged, it is time to discard or replace them. If the material is valuable and you cannot replace the item, then you should consider marking a photocopy. If you use some protective material or preservation techniques when you add items, you can avoid some of the appearance problems for materials that will receive heavy use.

To summarize, you need to consider the following in your evaluation of materials for weeding: Content, Age, Need, Use, Condition = CAN U C (Can you see any reason to keep these materials?).

When to weed Most librarians agrre that weeding should be done once a year. It can be done as a large project all at once; you can do it continually; you can do spot weeding; or you can do a combination. Except for some special collections such as archives or local history, supplementary materials need to be weeded to give life to the collection.

Annual weeding. Many special collections are most efficiently weeded once each year. Dated items such as annual reports, newsletters, or college catalogs can be discarded at the end of the year, keeping only the current year, latest two years, or more, depending on your policy. If you know you will discard on a certain date, try using a bright coloured dot with the discard date written on it to speed the wedding process.

To do an annual weeding as one large project, you might consider some of the following recommendations: (1) put weeding into your annual schedule to insure adequate time; (2) choose a slack time in the library, for example, near a holiday; (3) set up a system for weeding; and (4) put your files in order before weeding.

Continous weeding. Continous weeding incolves setting up a system so that you are weeding some on a regular basis throughout the year. There are several ways to do continous weeding. One way would be to schedule one subject area per month for systematic weeding. Another might be to schedule a certain amount of time each week for weeding. You could do one file each day. You can establish your own schedule for a continuous weeding plan.

Spot weeding. Spot weeding means that you check some of the folders some of the time. Unless you combine it with another systematic weeding process, some folders will never be weeded. There are several suggestions for spot weeding. First, check each folder as new material is added. Do a quick check of materials in the folder to see whether (1) the new material updates an earlier edition, (2) older materials contain historical or background information that is omitted in recent works, (3) the new item adds a different dimension or restates what is already there (if it does not offer a fresh approach, determine whether it is needed anyway because of the popularity of the topic). Then detemine whether there is a need for two copies. Pencil the date checked on the file when it has been examined. Second, check each folder as it circulates. Examine each folder and discard material that is (1) no longer useful, (2) inaccurate, (3) worn or in poor physical condition, or (4) superseded with newer versions. Change subject headings that need to be updated; divide the file into finer groupings if it is too full; discard material from overcrowded folders, boxes, and drawers; and regroup materials into broader headings if needed. Pencil the date checked symbol on the file when it has been weeded.

Weeding, like the other steps in the life cycle of resources, offers a number of options. The important thing is to do it and to continue the process by locating new resources, adding them to your files, maintaining them, and thus keeping the cycle alive.
Summary recommendations
  • Establish a policy and procedure for weeding certain kinds of materials.
  • Keep your files “lean and clean”.
  • Set up a plan for systematic weeding and schedule it into your work day, week, month, or year.

Sitter, Clara L. The Vertical file and its alternative: a handbook. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1992, pp. 64-71.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Government publications

Why collect?
  • Canadian market may be too small for a trade publisher to produce more specialized material, may have to turn to government sources fo the Canadian angle
    o Statistics Canada produces Canadian statistics
    o Canadian government has three levels: federal, provincial and municipal
    o Compared to the likes of US/UK markets, Canadian market is small
  • Parliamentary committees, task forces, Royal Commissions produce in depth reports
Types of government information
Government information is generally produced by the party currently in power.
  • Propaganda
    o Election campaign material, not necessary good or bad
  • Policy/issue studies
  • Annual reports
    o Accountability
  • Statistics
  • Legal (debates, bills, statues)
    o Hansard, otherwise known commonwealth
    o Bills are introduced, discussed and study. They must pass a reading and be proclaimed to come into effect.
    o Statues are documents classification
  • Science & technology, marketing, business studies
    o Agriculture, economics
  • Popular treatments
Selection tips
How do we find information? The government is not always forthcoming
  • Scan newspapers
  • Use checklists
  • Go directly to department, agency
  • Mine government websites e.g.
Selection tools
Weekly checklist (pink sheet) key Federal selection tool
  • Searchable catalogue from Jan. 1991 – available on Internet http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/weeklyChecklist/weeklyChecklist.html Checklist does not list all government publications, may have to track down source and try to obtain from department which produced it (fugitive/grey literature)
  • Major preelectronic was pink
  • Lists book/magazines/productions released by government and Statistics Canada
Manitoba Government Publications Monthly Checklist
  • Key provincal selection tool
  • Compiled by Legislative Library, provides six most recent publications
  • http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/leg-lib/checklist.html
  • Each department is meant to notify the Library as to what they are publishing. Back issues are not available online.
For links to publication sites for other provinces go to the “Provincial Publications” section of the Federal Publications Inc. Website at http://www.fedpubs.com/province.htm

Federal depository program
  • Full depository libraries
  • Selective depository libraries
Manitoba provincial depository library program
  • 8 Manitoba libraries automatically receive current Manitoba government publications
The libraries are able to receive publications without paying for them. Full depository libraries will receive a copy of every publication the government produces.

Verification problems
  • Small publication runs
    o Limited
  • Lack of centralized listing
    o Checklists don’t list everything
  • Ephermal natural of some publications
    o Here today, gone tomorrow publications
  • Consulting reports done for government agencies, crown corporations
  • Reorganization and name changes for government departments
  • Colloquial names for royal commissions and inquiries, etc.
Issues
  • Crown copyright
    o Government retains copyright
  • Cost recovery and user fees
    o Smaller more expensive
  • Electronic formats
    o Some publications are only available on the Internet, they won’t always be there
  • Preservation and archiving
    o Depository was meant to keep everything all the time – what do you do with publications that aren’t kept online all the time?
Classification and shelving
Another issue, depends on how much material library is receiving
  • LC/Dewey
  • Catalogue numbers
    o Canada: catalogue numbers
    o U.S. Superintent of Documents (SuDocs)
  • CODOC
  • Jurisdiction: country or organization, then by department or division, and finally by title
  • Separate vs. integrated collections

Monday, November 14, 2011

Previewing

The actual process of selecting audiovisual materials is often a group rather than an individual activity. This is particulary true of films and expensive video sets. To some degree, the cost of the material under consideration, rather than the usual collection development factors, drives the issue. In essence, making a mistake about a 20-minute sound, colour, 16mm film or educational video has more serious economic consequences for the library budget than most single mistakes with a book, transparency or sound recording. Educational videos cost $200 to $500 per cassette, in a multiple-cassette package, the total cost is substantial. Having multiple opinions about a prospective purchase helps avoid costly mistakes. In public libraries and school media centers, an audiovisual selection committee is the typical mechanism employed for securing multiple points of view. In academic libraries, often a single faculty member makes the recommendation, assuming that the purchase will be made with departmental funds, or the head of the library’s media program selects titles on the basis of reviews and a knowledge of instructional needs.

How does the audiovisual selection committee differ from the book selection committee? Audiovisual selection committees usually function as a true group decision-making body. Normally, the group previews audiovisual materials under consideration, as a group. They view the material from beginning to end. (With book selection, the typical approach is for committee members to divide the items among group members and have individuals give oral reports about each item. Thus, only one member of the committee reviews the item completely.) A group discussion usually takes place after each screening, and each person expresses a reaction to and evaluation of the item. Everyone sees the same material, and group interaction ends in a decision to buy or not to buy. Sometimes the product is rerun several times, when there are strong differences in opinion.

An important difference in the two formats affects the selection process. This is the sequential nature of films and video formats. It is not possible to effectively skim a film as one does a book. One must view films and videos at their normal speed to get the proper impression. A 20-minute running time means 20 minutes of previewing time. Simple arithmetic indicates that a group previewing 20-minute films could view only 24 films in a 8-hour work day. A book selection committee meeting would be a disaster if only 24 titles were discussed in 8 hours. Realistically, no group can preview 24 titles in 8 hours, as the figure does not provide for discussion time or breaks. Finally, it is not feasible to expert people to view materials for four hours straight; they need a break. All of this means, more realistically, that the group could preview 10 to 12 items per day.

Not only do audiovisual formats cost more to buy, they also cost more to select. Combined, these two cost factors can be significant. Thus, one cannot conclude that, because a library does not have a collection of films or videos, it is reluctant to accept new formats. A significant difference exists between reluctance and a lack of money and qualified staff to select the newer formats. The only question is whether the library is using the monetary factor as an excuse to avoid trying out nonprint formats.

Additional selection aids
Despite the desirability of previewing audiovisual materials, published evaluations (especially when combined with previewing) are important in this field. Each year, there is a little more progress toward bibliographic control of the field, including reviews of most formats. Perhaps when multiple published reviews of a majority of formats are available, therer will be less and less need for hundreds of audiovisual librarians to spend hours and hours in preview screening rooms.

At this time, no comprehensive source for audiovisual materials similar to Book Review Digest or Book Review Index exists. Media Digest (National Film and Video Center) has developed into the best source for locating reviews in all formats.

Identifying potentially useful audiovisual materials also presents a problem. The National Information Center for Educational Media (NICEM) focuses on educational material; however, because NICEM employs a rather broad definition of education, the publications are useful to all types of libraries. NICEM Net (http://www.nicem.com) allows one to search the entire database by subject, age level, and media type. The 1999 subscription was $900 for a single-user license for a year. (One can also get online access to the database through DIALOG, SilverPlatter, and EBSCOHost. CD-ROM, tape load, and print versions are available.) The database contains almost 500,000 records in English and 60 other languages. Its primary strengths lie in the video, film, audio recording, filmstrip, and CD-ROM formats, although there are records for almost every format discussed in this chapter. NICEM also has a 300-page thesaurus of terms used to index the database, which is a great help inn formulating accurate searches. This database is as close as one can come to an audiovisual equivalent of Books in Print.

Although the preceding list of sources provides a general overview, there is a slight emphasis on films. One reason for this is historical. After microforms and phonograph records, motion picture films and videos are the most commonly held audiovisual forms in libraries. Also, 16 mm films and educational videos cost significantly more than either of the other two formats, making previewing all the more important. Because of film’s popularity, cost, and longer history of use, film review and evaluation have had more time to become established. Increased popularity of other formats will, in time, make it economically feasible to publish journals covering other audiovisual formats.

Some of the most active nonprint discussion lists are: videolib@library.berkeley.edu, VIDEONEWS@library.berkeley.edu, and MEDIA-L@BINGVMB.CC.BINGHAMTON.EDU. These provide information on how to handle various media issues as well as information about sources.

Ordering media
For all practical purposes, the process of ordering materials in the formats discussed in this chapter is the same as for ordering books and serials, with a few exceptions. One difference is that libraries place most of the orders directly with the producer, because there are no general jobbers as there are for books and serials. Some book jobbers, such as Baker & Taylor, handle some of the most widely collected formats (for example, videos and audiotapes), but they do not handle the full range of audiovisual materials. Another difference is the need to secure preview copies.

There is a major difference between review copies of books and preview copies of other media. With books, if the purchasing librarian likes what he or she sees, the library keeps it, pays the invoice, and perhaps orders multiple copies at the same time. With audiovisual materials, for a number of reasons (risk of loss, damage, and so forth), the library usually requests a preview copy from the supplier, views the copy, and then returns the item. (Some producers now send a new copy – especially for videos – and expect the library to keep the copy if it decides to buy the item. Other producers charge for previewing, but deduct the charge from the purchase price. A few film vendors ship an approval copy with a 10 percent discount if the library buys the film.) One must request the preview copy well in advance of the preview date. Normally, a librarian writes to the producer or supplier asking for preview copies of certain titles and listing a number of alternative dates. This becomes an issue when previewing with a group, because of scheduling problems. One also must know when specific items will be available for previewing. A preview file thus becomes a very important aid in the selection process; it contains a listing of each title requested, the dates requested, scheduled preview dates, and the result of the preview.

One should keep in mind several othehr factors for previewing as well. A preview copy may have had some prior use; therefore, the quality may not be as high as that of a new copy. If one can determine from the supplier how often the item went out for previewing, it is possible to gain insight into the durability of the product. In assessing this information (assuming one can get it), thetl ibrarian must remember that the preview copy’s use was by individuals who know how to properly handle the material (unlike many library users).

Upon receiving the purchased copy, a staff member should view the item to be certain it is (1) a new print, (2) the item the library ordered, and (3) technically sound (checking for breaks, sound quality, and quality of processing). Checking for technical soundness upon receipt should be standard procedure for all audiovisual items, not just for previewed items. Generally, other media are not mass-produced in the same manner as are books. Many are produced on demand, that is, in response to orders. The producer has several preview copies and a master copy; when an order arrives, the producer uses the master copy to produce a new print.

One issue to decide before ordering is that of performance rights. Does the library pay an additional fee for public performance rights, or are they part of the quoted price? (This is a typical issue for videos.) There may be some justification for paying a somewhat higher price for performance rights in an educational setting, but therer is hardly any when the videos are for circulating home use. The classic example of the confusion between “the home market” and “the library market” was Public Broadcasting System’s release of its series The Civil War in 1990. Initially it was available to libraries for $450; only a few months later, PBS released it to the “home market” for just under $200. Another example, from 1995, was Malcolm X: Make it Plain: $99.95 from PBS Video (with public performance rights) and $29.95 from MPI Home Video (with home video rights). Failure to have public performance rights and using a film or video in a “public performance” setting could lead to a very costly lawsuit. Knowing how the item is most likely be used, acquiring the appropriate rights, and maintaining a record of what was purchased can be important in building media collections.

With some formats, there may still be another decision: to buy or rent. Normally, the rental fee is 10 percent of the list price. If there are doubts about the level of demand, it may be best to rent a copy. (Ten uses in five years would be more than enough to justify buying the item.) Remember, when calculating the cost, that it will be necessary to include staff time for preparing rental forms, as well as time for mailing and handling activities. In many cases, with film, video, and software, the library is not buying an item in the same sense that it purchases books and serials. Often the library must sign an agreement that outlines what the library may or may not do with the item. These agreements cover duplication and resale and, in some cases, place restrictions on where performances are possible. Vendors do enforce these agreements, which are legal contracts, so the librarian must understand what he or she is signing. If something is not clear, or if a clause should be modified, the librarian should discuss it with the vendor and the library’s legal counsel before signing.

Summary
Building a media collection for the library is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking, but it is important and worthwhile for both the library and its service population. Each new format is capable of doing certain things that no other format can do, but each also has its limitations; as a result, they supplement rather than replace each other. It is clear that patrons have various preferences in seeking, using, and enjoying information. If the library is to responsive to the community, it must build a collection of materials that reflects that community’s various interests and tastes.

Evans, G. Edward, with the assistance of Zarnowsky, Margaret R. Developing Library and Information Center Collections, 4th ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2000, pp. 304-306.

Monday, November 7, 2011

General evaluation criteria

To a degree, the same factors that determine inclusion or exclusion of books apply to other formats. Obviously, one omits factually incorrect items unless there is a sound reason to buy them. Poorly organized and badly presented material seldom becomes part of the collection. If the quality of a book is difficult to assess, assessing the quality of other media is even more difficult. All of us have seen a film we enjoyed only to hear a friend claim that is is “absolutely the worst film” ever made. Thus, subjectivity is a major concern. Though bias is also a problem with literature, we receive more training or exposure to good literarture through formal schooling. Few of us receive formal training in evaluating nonprint materials. Basically, the issues of authority, accuracy, effectiveness of presentation or style, and value and usefulness to the community are as valid for all other formats as they are for books.


Before embarking on a program to develop a media collection, one should carefully evaluate each format in terms of its unique utility to the service community. Each format has its strong and weak points, and similar information may be available in a variety of formats. The following paragraphs offer general guidelines for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of various forms.
Formats that involve motion (such as 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm films, videotapes, and video discs) are among the more expensive formats to purchase. Therefore, an important question to ask is whether motion really adds information. There are films in which there is no motion at all, or, if there is motion, it may not be relevant to the content. For example, many educational films and videotapes simply alternate shots of one or two persons talking to one another or to the viewers (so-called “talking heads”); there are no other graphics (or, at least, no graphics that require this expensive mode of presentation). In contrast, one can read hundreds of pages and look at dozens of still photographs of cell division and still not fullly understand how it occurs. A short, clearly photographed film combined with a good audio track can sometimes produce a more accurate understanding than one can achieve through hours of reading.
Detailed study is sometimes most effectivelly carried out with the use of stilll pictures, charts, or graphs. Another advantage is that the cost of producing and acquiring these formats is much lower than for those that involve motion.
With both motion and still graphic formats, color is an important consideration. Full-color reproduction is more costly than black-and-white reproduction; the question is whether the color is necessary or merely pleasing. In some instances, color is necessary. Certainly, anything that attempts to represent the work of a great artist must have excellent color quality, as is also the case with medical and biological materials.

Audio formats can also provide greater understanding and appreciation of printed materials. One’s own reading of a poem is never the same as hearing the poet’s recitation of the work. Tone, emphasis, inflection, and so forth can change the meaning of a printed text dramatically. On a different level, there are literally millions of people in the whorld who cannot read music scores and yet get enormous enjoyment from listening to music. Audio recordings are a must in any collection serving the visually impaired. Spoken-word recordings can be an important service for such persons as well as for commuters who want to listen to a book as they travel.
Other general selection factors include cost, flexibility and manipulation, and patron preference. Audiovisual factors frequently require expensive equipment in addition to rather costly equipment. When thinking about cost factors, one needs to know what types of equipment patrons own (for example, slide projectors, videotape players, CD or tape players, or even record players). If patrons do not own the necessary equipment, can the library supply it free of charge or on a rental basis? Should the library buy the equipment and allow its use only in the library? The librarian also must consider what patrons like and use. Libraries ought not to get into the position of attempting to change patron format preference. Thus, both cost and patron preference become significant in deciding what to buy or not to buy.
Flexibility and manipulation are inseperable. How and where can one use the format and equipment? With some equipment, the library can produce local programs as well as play back commercial software. Videocassete recorders (VCRs) allow people to perform a variety of recording and playback functions, most of which (like freeze frame) no one uses. Knowing community needs and use patterns may save the library money. Special VCR features may be necessary, nice, or merely gimmicks, depending on the local situation. Ease of operation is very important: Can a person quickly learn to operate the equipment, or does it take extensive training to use it properly?
Once one’s library decides to develop a media collection, how does one select appropriate items? There are four sets of factors to consider – programming, content, technical aspects, and format – with criteria related to each factor. The following paragraphs highlight major selection criteria.
Programming factors
Programming (that is, use of material) is important in deciding what to acquire. Many articles and books about this topic are available (see the bibliography at the end of this chapter). Programming questions include:
  • Will the medium be used in formal instructional situations?
  • Is it only for recreational use?
  • Who is the primary audience: adults, children, or all ages?
  • Will the item circulate, or will it be available only for in-house use? If used in-house, will it be available to individuals or only to groups? Will group use involve a library staff member or an expert in the field to guide group discussion before or after the item’s use?
  • Will the library be a member of a resource-sharing network? If so, will the item become part of the shared material pool?
Answers to these questions will affect the type of media purchased and the prices paid. For example, many videos for home use are less expensive than videos for instructional use, even when both packages are the same title.
Content factors
Content is the next concern in the selection of any format. In the past, audiovisual selection was a group process rather than the sole responsibility of one selector. This was especially true in the case of expensive formats. Today, with the prices of videos dropping and increasing numbers of titles needed for the collection, the selection process is more like book selection, that is, an individual process. School media centers still emphasize the group process, in part because of limited funds but also because the possibility of someone objecting to an item’s presence in the collection is higher than in other types of libraries. Whether selection is a group or individual process, ousing an evaluation form is useful. Keeping the forms for several years, for titles rejected as well as those purchased, can save selectors’ time in the long run. Unlike print material, most media are sequential in nature; this means that it takes 50 minutes to review a 50-minute program. An evaluattion form indicating that the library reviewed and rejected an item three years ago should help selectors decide whether the item is worth reconsidering. No matter what questions are on the form – and not all items listed in this chapter will be on any one form – one ought to consider all of the following points:
  1. What is the primary purpose of the item? If there is a user’s guide, does it provide a specific answer to the question?
  2. Given the purpose(s) of the item, is the length of the program appropriate? Items can be too short, but more often than not, they are too long.
  3. Is the topic a fad, or is it likely to have long-term interest? Long-term interest and lasting value are not always the same.
  4. Is the material well organized?
  5. Is the storyline easy to follow?
  6. If the item is of relatively short duration and is an attempt to popularize a subject, does it do this with sufficient accuracy? (That is, does the simplification cause misunderstandings or, worse, create a misrepresentation?)
  7. When was the material copyrighted? Copyright information can be difficult to find for some formats. Films usually provide this information somewhere in the credits, often in roman numerals. There is no national bibliographic standard for this information. Sales catalogs may or may not provide the date of production. Unfortunately, a large numer of dated products are, or have been, sold as if they were current.
  8. Will the visuals or audio date quickly? In many educational films, the subject matter is important but the actors’ dress makes the film appear old-fashioned. If one does not present the material as historical, many viewers may miss its true purpose. Audience attention is easily drawn away from the real subject. Needless to say, this ties into the need for accurate copyright information.
  9. Are there multiple uses for the item, in addition to those identified by the producer? If there are a number of ways to use the format (with various types of programs or audiences), it is easier to justify spending money on the item.
Technical factors
Technical issues vary in importance from format to format, but some general considerations apply to several formats. In most instances, judging technical matters is less subjective than judging many other selection criteria. Nevertheless, it will take time and guidance from experienced selectors to develop a critical sense of these factors. Most individuals entering the field of library and information work are more attuned to good literature, well-manufactured books, and the various methods of literary review and criticism than the average person. Though our exposure to television, film, and video recordings may be greater than to books, few of us have the background to assess the technical aspect of these formats. The fact is evident during film and television awards ceremonies – the public interest is in the best film or program and performance categoriers. It is the rare individual who can name the winners in the technical areas (directions, production, special effects, cinematography, and so forth). Following are some questions regarding technical features:
  1. Are the visuals, assuming that there are visuals, necessary?
  2. Are the visuals in proper focus, the composite effective, the shots appropriate? (These questions must be asked because out-of-focus shots, strange angles, and jarring composition may be used to create various moods and feelings).
  3. Is the material edited with skill?
  4. Does the background audio material contribute to the overall factor?
  5. Is there good synchronization of visuals and audio?
  6. How may the format be used – can it be viewed by small or large groups or by both? Can it be viewed in a darkened, semi-lighted, or fully lighted room?
Format factors
Questions to ask about format are:
  1. Is the format the best one for the stated purpose of the producer?
  2. Is the format the least expensive of those that are appropriate for the content?
  3. Will the carrier medium (the base material that supports the image or sound layer) stand up to the amount and type of use that library patrons would give it?
  4. If damage occurs, can it be repaired (locally or by the producer), or must one buy a replacement copy?
  5. What equipment is needed to use the medium? How portable is the equipment and how heavy?
Additional considerations
It is possible to group all audiovisual materials into six broad categories: still images (filmstrips, slides, microformats, transparencies); moving images (film and video); audio recordings; graphic materials (maps, charts, posters, etc.); three-dimensional materials (models, relia, dioramas); and other formats (games, software, etc.). Each type has some equipment or storage implications that one needs to take into consideration. For example, microform storage cabinets are heavy when empty and become even heavier when filled. Until one knows that the floor was designed to carry such weight, which is greater than book stacks, one should be cautious about starting a major collecting program in that format.
Evans, G. Edward, with the assistance of Zarnosky, Margaret R. Developing Library and Informationi Collections, 4th ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2000.