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Report from the Ohio Valley Group of Technical Services Librarians Conference, May 20, 1999, Springfield, Ohio.

Rounding the Square Peg: Making Technical Services for Videos Practical

Presented and Reported by Rebecca L. Lubas, Special Formats Cataloger, MIT Libraries, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The presence of video collections in libraries of all types are now more of a given than an oddity. The format does present different challenges, but workflows unique to videos can and should be treated as routine library operations rather than something that always needs to be handled as an exception. Academic librarians routinely find that videos support the curriculum of the institution just as well as other materials. Videos may have information that is not found in a book, or is better demonstrated on a moving image.

The use of video in library collections is endorsed by professional organizations. The Association of College and Research Libraries's Guidelines for Media Collections in Academic Libraries state that "media collections to support research and instruction need no justification" and that "all media resources will be cataloged in accordance with current national standards" ( In other words, videos should receive the same types of access consideration and technical processing as any book.

Collection Development

Collection development policies should reflect the same policies as other materials, but attention should be paid to features unique to videos when selecting (such as closed captioning or audio enhancement). Collection development policies should essentially be driven by subject, not by format.

Reviews and listings of videos were once more difficult to find, but now there can be found in the same sources and types of sources as book reviews. A partial listing of video review sources would include:

  • American Libraries' Quickvids column
  • Library journal
  • Premiere
  • Video Finder
  • Film & Video Sourcebook

On the Internet, ALA's Video Round Table lists "Notable Videos for Adults" at and the National Film Registry for classic films is at

Videos should be weeded just like any other format if not perhaps more so. The ACRL guidelines on weeding state that "obsolete, worn out materials should besystematically removed from the collections and replaced if necessary"


ACRL's media guidelines state that videos and other media should be cataloged "in accordance with national standards" and that adequate resources should be available to "ensure that the materials will not be backlogged" The Library of Congress does not catalog videos as a matter of course consequently, video cataloging is among the most fluid. Video cataloging does, however, follow many motion picture rules. AACRII (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules) chapter 7 addresses moving image cataloging. The chief source for a video's title is the credit screens. If you are unable to preview the video, clearly state where the title came from in a source of title note.

Videos are normally works of mixed responsibility, and have title, rather than author, main entry. The statement of responsibility usually includes the director, producer, and writer, following Library of Congress practice for motion pictures. Varying titles from the label or packaging should be recorded in MARC tag 246. Subtitle language information should be recorded in a language note (MARC tag 546). For example: "In Italian with English subtitles." Actors or voices in animated features are recorded in a note (MARC tag 511) and credits other than those mentioned in the statement of responsibility, such as editor and music, are also recorded in a note (MARC tag 508). Added entries are usually only made for director, producer, writer, and actors, but exceptions can be made if the person is important to the production. Summary notes are very important in video cataloging because a patron cannot browse a video like one can open a book. The ACRL guidelines recognize this: "Summary statements should supply users with important information about the content"


While videos still require different treatment than print materials, the processes associated with the selection, acquiring, cataloging, and maintaining video material in libraries can be mainstreamed into library workflows.

Copyright 1999 Rebecca Lubas. All rights reserved. Commercial use requires permission of the author and the editor of this journal.

The author and editors do not maintain links to World Wide Web resources.

ISSN 1069-6792
Revised: 10/4/99