Electronic Materials Logo

Building Collections

Buy some audiobooks, select a bunch of movies on DVD, and subscribe to some streaming services... how hard can that be?

Many people don't realize the effort that goes into creating a quality collection. When the collection includes a wide variety of materials such as audio and video, the management activities multiply.

Electronic Resource Management has become a major area in most libraries. Although this area is still considered a separate department in some libraries, it's increasingly an integral part of all library areas.

Ohler, Lila (Angie); Hoover, Jodi; Schmidt, Kari; England, Lenore; Gilbert, Mary;
& Lowe, Randy (2016). ERM Ideas and Innovation. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship,
28(2), 103-110. Available through IUPUI.

Collection Development for Audio and Video

Collection development is the process of building, managing, maintaining, and evaluating a cohesive set of materials. The collection development policy guides these activities.

that is not a good ideaA collection development policy provides a way to systematically select materials for the library or information center. The policy should be flexible enough to adapt to changing environments. For example, as new technologies arise, the policy should be revised rather than rewritten.

A collection development policy should contain an overview of key issues followed by specific criteria for selection. Rather than a separate policy for audio and video materials, think about how the current policy can be adapted for the new technologies.

As you build your collection, it's important to look at all types of materials. Traditionally, libraries have focused on book collections. Today's collections also audio and video materials. For example, a "book" might be available in many formats including an e-book, a CD or digital download audiobook, or a DVD or digital download video version of the book. For example, the video version of the book "That Is NOT a Good Idea,” is the Carnegie Medal winner. It's available in DVD, downloadable, and streaming options. For fun, watch a video clip from this award-winning video.

Special Considerations for Audio and Video

yes yoDeveloping an audio and video collection is very much like creating and maintaining a print collection. However, there are some special considerations that are important as you plan. You need to make some choices. For example, how will you balance the need for materials in many areas with the limited funds available for their purchase?

In addition, libraries have different purposes. While a public library may not spend sixty dollars for a 5-minute children's video, it might be perfect for a teacher trying to address a specific curriculum standard. For example, the video Yo! Yes? is based on a children's book about racial understanding, emotional development, and friendship. The video can serve as a powerful springboard for discussions about these issues.

While many libraries continue to purchase CDs and DVDs to circulate, they are also offering digital subscription services. Unfortunately, not all materials are available through subscription services. How do libraries balance the needs with availability?

As you develop audio and video collections, you’ll find that there are many options. Before investing in materials, be sure you’ve considered all the possibilities.

Quality versus Demand

It would be easy to go out and buy all the “hot” music CDs and movie DVDs; however, that would not address the mission of your library. Why duplicate what’s available through your subscription services or the local "Red Box"? What informational or educational materials could you provide that others might not be able to provide? It comes down to quality and demand.

Demand selection is providing patrons with what they request and want. Quality selection is based on what patrons should have. The quality issue is easier to deal with in a school and academic settings than in a public or academic library setting. In school libraries, everything comes back to standards and meeting the educational needs of children. In academic libraries, scholars have both research and instructional needs. In public libraries, there’s more of an emphasis on personal interests and life-long learning.

To create a balanced collection, compromise is essential. Although Star Wars movies, monster truck books, and romance novels audiobook may be your most popular items, documentaries and PBS specials should not be overlooked. Although it’s a mistake to base collection development on circulation, it’s also a disservice to buy things that won’t be used. Although an Italian Opera DVD might have gotten great reviews, it’s important to determine whether anyone will ever check it out.

When choosing video games or fiction videos consider those materials viewers might not see on television or popular subscription services. What areas of the curriculum or general public information materials should be included in a well-rounded collection? Ideas –

Audiobooks versus Video Games

There are a growing number of non-print options. From e-books to DVDs, how do you decide what technologies to support? Look at the community. Where are the demands? What equipment is available to play or use the resources? What materials could be accessed through other means? Do you have enough funding to sustain a new collection area? How quickly will the technology evolve? When is it time to stop supporting an older technology? These are all questions that need to be asked before jumping into a new technology area or eliminating an old one.

Site-based versus Virtual Collections

Many collections now have a combination of site-based and virtual collections. Like interlibrary loan and other programs, look beyond your library for ways to expand the resources available to patrons. Online resources provide audio and video materials that can be saved on hard drives or CD. Others can be streamed live through the Internet. Some materials are free and others required a subscription.

Many libraries require users to enter their library card number to access these subscription services. When you purchase a subscription to an online service be sure to check the restriction on use.

Fiction versus Nonfiction

The issues you find in your print collection are similar in those for a non-print collection. How do you balance the need for fiction and nonfiction works? In general, nonfiction includes documentaries, educational materials, informational works, and how-to videos. School libraries generally view fiction as either entertainment or linked to the curriculum. For example, Gettysburg could be considered part of the curriculum for a history class, while Frozen would be strictly entertainment. A similar issue arises when allocating funds for audio materials.

A majority of public libraries maintain around 60 percent of their collection as nonfiction. Some public libraries have chosen only to include nonfiction and educational fiction in their collections, so that they aren’t seen as competing with the local Red Box or other video rental options. Others see the library as an important source for entertainment for people who can’t afford to rent videos. Your decision should be directly related to the needs and interests of your patrons and community. The same is true of school libraries. With limited budgets, the mission of the library must come first. Although it would be fun to watch the latest Star Wars movie, educational video must be the priority.

Replace, Expand, or Eliminate

The CD is scratched or the DVD is cracked. Should it be replaced?

Sometimes rather than selecting new items, your collection activities revolve around replacing items. At the time the item was purchased, it addressed a particular need in the collection. However before repurchasing the material, it's a good idea to examine the collection again. Does the audio or video have lasting value? Or, was it purchased to meet a popular demand that has fallen off? This often happens with "hot" movies and music CDs that quickly reach a peak. If the title is instructional such as a "how-to" woodworking video or informative such as a social issues documentary, do you have enough depth in the area already? For example, you may have several DVDs on exercise and sign language, but only one on learning Japanese. Determine whether there is a newer title available with more up-to-date information. Also, does it make more sense to purchase the replacement in another format? If your copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark DVD is worn out, it may be time to rely on a digital download instead.

Read Maughan, Shannon (April 27, 2015). Managing the decline of physical audio. Publisher’s Weekly, 262(17). Available through IUPUI.

Consider All Areas

It’s unlikely that you’re an expert in every area of audio and video. As a result, it’s important to explore all the areas of your collection and the needs of your patrons.

Genres. Consider a broad range of genres. Just with selecting books, the librarian needs to be aware of personal bias. If you’re drawn to romantic comedies, your patrons might miss out on some quality historical fiction films. A good representation of comedies, westerns, musicals, dramas, and action adventures is important. The same is true of musical genres from jazz and New Age to rap and bluegrass. It’s easy to get caught selecting based on personal preference rather than patron need.

Collections. Consider representation from a broad range of serious and popular filmmakers and composers from past and present. For example, you might include a DVD collection of the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille, or more recent directors. Also consider foreign and independent film titles. The same is true for music and audiobooks. People are always looking for series of books and the same is true of non-print. A set of Broadway musical DVDs, the entire Sue Grafton alphabet murder audiobooks, or greatest speeches of the 20th century online may be a hit.

Subject Areas. Consider materials from across subject areas. Some areas will have more video subjects than others. For example, science and history are two areas where an abundance of video materials can be found to support the rest of the collection. How-to’s in the area of home repair, cooking, crafts, and sports are another good area of exploration. Finally, performance videos on topics such as opera, ballet, concerts, and plays can be found.

Users. Consider audio and videos for specific ages groups and populations. Although there are many popular children’s videos, there are also some exceptional educational programs that should be examined. In addition, consider videos that might be of interest to specific populations such as pregnant women. English as a second language audios as well as materials for special populations and alternative views should be considered.

Language Issues

Library users speak many languages. The language interests and needs of library users should be considered when selecting audio and video resources. According to Publisher's Weekly (2016),

"sales of English-language audiobooks have risen steadily in recent years, and it appears that 2016 could see a significant increase in sales of Spanish-language audiobooks as well. According to Catherine Zappa, director of sales for HarperCollins Audiobooks, HC thinks the time is right to push Spanish-language audiobooks, and it will increase its output from six-10 titles per year to 24, under its new Spanish books imprint, HarperCollins Español (HCE)... Penguin Random House also plans to increase the number of Spanish-language audiobooks it releases this year."

Diversity Issues

Like selecting other materials, diversity is important. However, there are special consideration for audio and video materials. The Hear Diversity section of the Listening Library website promotes audiobooks with diversity. According the website,

"audiobooks have a critical role to play in our shared commitment to diverse literature. They add momentum to the reading experience, offer authentic representations of language & dialogue, and provide a literacy bridge to struggling readers." 

The Read Proud, Listen Proud website promotes audiobooks focus on LGBTQ stories.

Read Burkey, Mary (June 1-15, 2016). Voices in my head: We need diverse audiobooks. The Booklist, 112(19/20), 138. Available through IUPUI.

Read Yokota, Junko. The pleasure of culturally authentic listening experience. Listening Library. Available through IUPUI. Available through IUPUI.

Production Issues

From sound effects to musical scores, audiobooks are becoming increasingly sophisticated productions. Consider the production value of the resource when selecting materials.

Read Maughan, Shannon (March 14, 2016). Audiobook publishers go big on full-cast productions. Publisher’s Weekly, 263(11). Available through IUPUI.


Each library setting and material type has distinct challenges.

Morris, Elizabeth Berndt (2012). Building a collection in electronic music: considerations and sources. Music Reference Services Quarterly, 15, 34-40. Available through IUPUI.

Collection Development Policies


Most libraries already have a collection development policy in place. However, it’s important that this policy be updated regularly to ensure it reflects current practices, changes in law, and emerging technology.

Elements of a Collection Development Policy

Explore each of the following elements of a collection development policy.

Purpose/Mission. Start with purpose of the center. What’s the mission of the library? How does it fit into larger groups such as the school or community?

Users. Describe the demographics of the center users. What are their needs? For school libraries consider the children as well as the teachers. Provide a statement about the size of the population, age range, ethnic and racial makeup, socioeconomic makeup, and languages spoken. How are special needs accommodated? Consider a statement about varied formats to meet individual differences. Academic libraries must meet the needs of both students and faculty as they relate to both classroom instruction and research. Public libraries must reflect the needs of the local community.

Materials. What materials (i.e., books, audio, video, equipment) are housed and supported in the collection? What’s the purpose of each resource? What areas will be included: fiction/nonfiction, adult/children, popular, informational, specific interests, special collections, special needs?

Structure. Discuss the organizational structure of the library and who is responsible of different aspects of selection and collection management.

Budget. Provide an overview of the budget structure. Describe the percentage of the materials budget spent on various materials including audio and video. Many libraries base the budget on circulation. In other words, if the videos are 20 percent of the library’s total circulation, then 20 percent of the materials budget should go to video purchases.

Selection Methods. Describe factors in selection such as funding, cost/benefit, relevance, effectiveness, artistic merit, aesthetic appeal, technical quality, and content quality. State the specific selection criteria for different material types such as print, audio, and video. Describe the selection procedure.

Selection Tools. State the tools used in selecting titles such as journal reviews, online reviews, prizes and awards, word-of-mouth, catalogs, personal evaluations, and consultation. What materials will be used in the selection process?

Collection Composition. Describe the makeup of the collection terms of fiction/nonfiction, adult/child, entertainment/educational/ informational, special populations, and special collections. State how materials will be selected in particular subject areas. Will priority be given to favorably reviewed or highly recommended items? What about materials that address a specific need to balance the collection or address a specific curriculum standard? How will requests be handled?

Languages. Discuss the language of the collection. Is the primary language of the collection English? Will materials be purchased to meet the needs of patron groups? For example, Spanish language materials may be acquired in some areas. Or, foreign language titles may be purchased with subtitles.

Formats. Identify the formats that will be supported by the library. Will the formats be dependent on the needs of patrons? What about the availability of equipment? Will you include DVDs, music CDs, audiobooks, and multimedia kits? Some older formats may still be available, but will new materials be purchased? What about digital formats and subscriptions?

Reformatting. Describe the center’s position on reformatting materials. For example, will old slides be digitized? Exceptional materials may be reformatted (if unavailable commercially in a supported format) when age or damage prevent circulation of the original.

Replacement. Describe what will happen to lost or damaged items. Will they automatically be replaced? Replacement decisions are often based on demand, copies held, existing coverage of area, and availability of item.

Publication Date. Discuss currency issues. In most cases, emphasis is placed on acquiring new titles (within the past five years) rather than retrospective materials. However materials may be replaced as needed.

Acquisition. Discuss how materials are acquired. What distributors (vendors) will be used? How will items be ordered and tracked? How will items be processed? What about licensing for audio and video subscriptions?

Gifts and Donations. Describe the process for dealing with gifts and donations. Be sure to state that only legally acquired materials will be accepted as gifts.

Cataloging and Classifying. State how materials will be cataloged and classified. In most cases, all items including audio and video should be fully cataloged, classified and filed in the cataloging system.

Physical Space. State how materials will be organized. Where will the collection be placed? Some libraries choose to separate special collections such as audio and video, while others intershelve them. If they are separate, how will patrons find out about the availability of a media resource? How will the items be stored, displayed, and arranged? How are security issues addressed? How will digital materials be accessed through the library's website?

Circulation. State how materials will be circulated including length of loan period, how many can be borrowed concurrently, fees, and interlibrary loan policy. For example, some libraries use a one or two-tiered approach to circulation of videos such as two to three days for fiction and a week for nonfiction. What is the time limit? How many books, audios, or videos may a patron check out at a time? What’s the age limitation for use of the collection or any part of the collection? Can hardware be checked out? Are directions provided for its use? What are the overdue fines? How are these collected? What is the replacement or damage policy? Is it a sliding scale based on use or replacement cost? Are items available on interlibrary loan? When dealing with digital downloads the circulation restrictions are often set in the licensing agreement. How does this impact resource availability?

Collection Mapping and Circulation Statistics. Describe how the collection will be tracked. How often will inventories be done? Discuss how circulation statistics will be kept. What other data will be collected? How will data from digital circulations be recorded and analyzed?

Copyright Policy. State how the library will address the copyright law. For example, the library will not knowingly acquire materials that have been copied without the authorization of the copyright holder. Be sure to include a statement that materials will be circulated based on the requirements of the producer’s licensing agreements. For example, faculty may place personal copies on reserve as long as they meet the Copyright Law.

Access. State how materials will be accessed. Many people include the ALA Library Bill of Rights in this section. Be sure to consider special sections for audio and video access. Visit Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials for ideas. Also, adopt the ALA Freedom to View and Freedom to Read statement. Include a statement about access of minors

Reconsideration Policy. State the reconsideration policy. What if a parent objects to the book The Outsiders? What if another parent challenges the DVD version?

Be sure that the policy can be adapted for use with audio and video materials. Visit ALA's Challenged Material section for ideas.

Weeding. Discuss how items will be withdrawn from the collection. To maintain an active collection, materials should be periodically re-examined based on the selection criteria. In addition, issues such as lack of use, physical damage, accuracy, and datedness should be considered. This includes digital subscriptions and digital collections.

Evaluation. State how materials will be systematically reviewed. Collection development is an ongoing process. The collection will be constantly evaluated in terms of performance, currency, content inclusion, scope and depth of coverage, and popularity.

Collection Development Policies

Explore the following online resources for more information on developing collection development policies. Identify those instances that deal directly or indirectly to audio and video materials.

Academic Libraries

Public Libraries

Read Guidelines for Media Resources in Academic Libraries (2012) from the American Library Association. It's getting old, but still professional practice.

Although these guidelines apply specifically to academic libraries, they can be adapted for all library settings.

try itTry It!
Explore collection development policies.
Adapt the ideas and build your own.


2016: The Year of the Audiolibro? (February 1, 2016). Publisher’s Weekly, 263(5).

Horrigan, John B. (March 22, 2016). Lifelong Learning and Technology. Pew/Internet.

Menard, Elaine (2012). Multilingual taxonomy development for ordinary images: issues and challenges. In D.R. Neal, Knowledge and Information: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information. Water de Gruyter.

Rainee, Lee (April 7, 2016). Libraries and Learning. Pew/Internet.

| eduscapes | Online Courses | About Us | Contact Us | © 2019 Annette Lamb

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.