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Locating Audio and Video Sources

searchingFrom searching Google and exploring subject guides to browsing a shelf of DVDs, there are many ways to locate audio and video materials.

Why reinvent the wheel?

Before jumping into collection development, spend some time exploring the audio and video resources found in libraries around the world.

Think about how you use the library. Increasingly, it's essential to think not only about the physical library but also the digital library. How will people access the audio and video sources available in the library and online?

Library Websites

While some library websites contain a separate page focusing on audio and video, others simply weave them throughout their website. Explore some examples below. Notice how the resources are organized.

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Spend some time exploring your favorite library and see how they provide access to audio and video sources. Visit their website.


Libraries generally include audio and video materials in their online catalog (OPAC). An Advanced Search option normally allows users to limited searches by format such as "recorded sound" or "audiobook".

Examine the OPACs below. Notice how users filter based on format.

A search for hurricane video on IUPUI's library catalog IUCAT provides options for both audio and video sources (shown below left).

icat worldcat

WorldCat provides an Advanced Search option based on format. Click the image (above right) for an enlarged view. Notice the format options.

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Go to WorldCat. In the search area, notice that users can limit their searches to CDs or DVDs. Click Advanced Search. Notice the All Formats option. Select this option and notice the items associated with audio and video sources.

Yin Zhang and Athena Salaba (2012) studied the effectiveness of library systems for retrieving moving images. The researchers compared the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Film and Television Archive catalogue (UCLA-Cinema) and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). They found that both systems are ahead of other library catalogues in supporting moving image retrieval. While the UCLA-Cinema has a particularly cataloguing record structure and interface, IMDb was noted for its “rich links, work-level records, record content, and cross-references.

Discovery Tools

An increasing number of libraries provide users with discovery service tools intended to make it easier to access a broad range of sources including subscription databases. ProQuest Summon Service, Ex Libris Primo, and EBSCO Discovery Service are a few examples.

Click the image below to enlarge it. The screen capture shows a search for hurricane video using the United of Texas Libraries' ProQuest Summon Service discovery tool. Notice the choice for audio recording and video recording in the left column.


The Online Dakota Network uses Ex Libris Primo as their statewide discovery tool. Click the image below to enlarge it. The screen capture shows the resource types on the left.


try itRead!
Hoover, Jodi (2016). Remaining discoverable: video collections in EDS. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 28(1), 36-41. Available through IUPUI.

Search Engines

Search engines include audio and video resources. Do a Google search adding the material type such as video, streaming video, DVD, audiobook, or other terms. Or, try a file format such as .mov or .mp3. Even better, use Google's Video Advanced Search.

Scott Spicer from the University of Minnesota Libraries developed two specialized Google Searches to help identify videos.

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Read Spicer, Scott (June 4, 2015). Streaming video custom search engine. ALA Connect.
If you don't have an ALA membership, you can read the discussion on the PDF.
Try his approaches. What do you think?

Audio Search Tools

If you're looking for a particular song, your best bet is to do a simple web search using Google. Enter the name of the song. For example, Sunshine on my Shoulders. You may get a website where you can download the song for free or fee. In many cases, YouTube will have a version that contains advertising.

Another way to find songs and locate music is to use a search engine specifically for audio files. Also search for a specific title or the work of a musician or group. Try some of these and see which you prefer. Some can be used for locating all types of audio files.

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Go to Midiomi. Sing a well-known song and it can find it!
I tried "Sunshine on my Shoulders" and "Row, Row, Row your boat". They both worked!

Video Search Tools

Video is easier than audio. Many of the popular search tools contains video search engines:

Video-specific search tools:

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Explore Can I Stream It? and IMDB.
Think about how you might use these with information seekers to locate movies of interest.

Another option is to go directly to the popular sharing sites and do a search. Some examples include

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Try the video search tools. Be sure to look for their advanced search features.
Compare your results.

The Challenge of Audio and Video Sources

When searching for information, much of what librarians access focuses on materials in a text form. However, in many disciplines non-text information such as audio and video is more useful than text sources.

Non-textual documents present distinct problems for librarians. It’s difficult to search a work of music or locate a video clip. Pandora and other music services help users locate similar works. However we’re still a long way from searching videos for key ideas or locating specific ideas within a silent film. Fortunately, research is underway to make visual and auditory indexing realistic.

Neal (2012, 7) notes that

“content-based image retrieval, which is explored in computer science and the more technical corners of information science, relies on physical similarities such as shapes, colours, and patterns that can be uncovered between images.”

Menard (2012, 41) notes that

“compared with text-based retrieval, image retrieval poses specific challenges. The first difficulty comes from the translation of the visual representation of an object into a textual description. Given the possibility of multiple interpretations of the visual resource, there is serious risk of ambiguity and error. In other words, image searchers will not necessarily describe and search for an image using the same concepts or the same words. Moreover, perhaps the most significant difference between textual and image retrieval is that, with images, users have a higher propensity to browse when they go through their searches. As a result, users will also check associated textual metadata to decide if an image is relevant or not.”

Tools like Pandora are being used to help researchers learn about relationships among musical styles and personal preferences. This information will be used in the design of the next generation of music search tools.

Library Audio and Video Source Guides

A pathfinder is a resource that provides an overview to a thematic or topical area such as the Civil War or Poverty. It then contains an annotated list of quality print, audio, video, and/or other resources. Also known as subject guides or research guides, they contain non-print items as well as print resources. Issues related to the topic, concerns about materials collections, or strategies for using the materials are often discussed. Sometimes a pathfinder consisting of only audio and video materials is referred to as a mediagraphy or mediography.

Generally these guide contain an introductory section that includes:

Although they may also contain other types of materials, for the purposes of this course, we're interested in pathfinders that contain on audio and video resources rather than other materials.

Locating Subject Guides

Many libraries maintain subject guides that focus specifically on audio and video sources, or on sources related to specific disciplines.

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Go to the LibGuide Community.
Do a search for a discipline and add audio, video, or interactive.

Explore academic library audio and video subject guide.


Cinema Studies

Video Games

Build thematic connections to audiobook collections. The Listening Library from Penguin Random House has developed audiobook collections that include teaching materials, activities, and links to additional resources.

YouTube Topics

Subscribe to major YouTube Topics channels to keep up to date on audio and video topics:

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Explore at least one of the topics channels above. Spend some time looking for popular channels in areas of interest.

Constantly Changing

The tools for locating audio and video are evolving quickly.

Both the technology and our approach to locating sources has change over time. In the past, I watched television programs once per week with commercials. Today, I’d rather wait for the entire season and binge watch on DVD or streaming. As we move through the course remember that the area of audio and video is constantly changing.

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