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Selecting Sources

posterSelection is the process of choosing those materials that will be added to the collection. How will you decide which titles to purchase? Will you choose audio and video based on their educational, cultural, and/or artistic value? Or, will they be based on pleasure and entertainment value? How does the mission of your library impact your choices?

Let's take the example of the documentary film Dancer.

According to IMDB, "Sergei Polunin is a breathtaking ballet talent who questions his existence and his commitment to dance just as he is about to become a legend."

This highly reviewed documentary might be of interest in a number of college academic departments including dance, but also psychology. Before purchasing, talk with faculty about their interests and needs. In addition to an educational value, the popular documentary may also be of interest to the general college population.

Duncan, Cheryl & Peterson, Erika Day (2014). Chapter 1: Selection. Creating a Streaming Video Collection for Your Library. Rodman & Littlefield. Creating a Streaming Video Collection for Your Library. Available through IUPUI.

Selection Tools

As you select materials, consider their value individually and also as part of the collection. As you read reviews, ask yourself: What information do reviews provide? Why is it important to find multiple reviews? Are their trailers, samples, excerpts, or trials I can use for evaluation?

Your library users may have had strong interest in a book, will they like the movie? Before you purchase, look for multiple reviews. A quick way to check reviews is at a sales sites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon. However use caution when reading reviews that have been posted by customers rather than professional reviewers. Also, remember that online sales sites often include only part of the entire review. When you see three periods before or after a statement, it means that some of the statement was left out. Sometimes these short quotes are intended to draw the reader into learning more about the product. In other cases, they are used to show only favorable reviews. What do the complete reviews include that is left out of the quotes about the product?

In the past, it was possible to preview films and other materials. Today, very few companies provide preview copies. However many provide short clips.

Because of limited previewing, librarians are much more dependent on professional reviews of products. With the introduction of the Internet, everyone has become a movie critic. As you explore and evaluate review sources consider whether they are intended are consumer reviews or professional reviews.

When seeking reviews, start with sources that provide professional reviews specifically focused on audio and video.

Consumer Reviews

Many popular publications contain reviews. Some of these have both print and online versions. If you want to do a search for online reviews, consider the Movie Review Query Engine. 

Internet Movie Database (IMDb) - Great starting point for information about movies. Users can search by plot, characters, quotes, and other ways.

Professional Reviews

A number of subscription periodicals provide reviews of audio and video materials. Visit the online presence of a few of these resources.

  • Booklist from American Library Association (professional)
    digital counterpart to ALA’s Booklist magazine, you can examine a selection of reviews and articles from the print version.
  • Choice from Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), American Library Association(professional)
    contains a few sample reviews and articles online.
  • DVD Review - DVD news, information, releases, and reviews.
  • Educational Media Reviews Online (professional)
    database of reviews of videos, DVDs and CD-ROMs from major educational and documentary distributors
  • Gramophone Magazine: The Classical Music Website (UK)
    provide information, articles, news, and reviews on Classical Music.
  • Library Journal from Reed Business Information (professional)
    electronic offshoot of print version – aimed at public, academic, and special libraries, contains news, articles, book reviews, best audiobooks, and more.
  • Media & Methods Magazine
  • Publisher’s Weekly (professional)
    articles on audiobooks, no reviews - - mainly focused on print
  • School Library Journal from Reed Business Information (professional)
    for librarians who work with young people in school and public libraries, contains ‘best audiobooks’ list
  • Science Books & Films Online from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (professional)
    critical review journal devoted exclusively to print and nonprint materials in all of the sciences and for all age groups -- archived best videos and software list
  • Streaming Media Magazine. Not specific to libraries, but lots of current information.
  • Video Librarian Online (professional) from Ingram Library Services Inc.
    electronic addendum to the print version, Video Librarian, is a video review magazine: has video and DVD reviews. - best resource for video
    Available through IUPUI.
  • Video Librarian. This is "the" resource for video reviews.
  • One of the easiest ways to keep up-to-date is by creating a list of blogs to check regularly. In many cases librarians an also subscription to particular feeds. Go to popular magazines and do a search for your favorite column. LibraryReads On Audio from Booklist Reader is an example. Also, check the general Audiobook area.

    Collected Reviews and Buying Sites

    These websites are primarily interested in sales, but they often have good collections of reviews and large databases.

    Professional Directories

    Print directories contain information about audio and video materials. Developed specifically for librarians and other professionals, these resources provide comprehensive coverage of the broad field of audio and video. Keep in mind that all print resources quickly become dated. Explore some of the following well-known resources:

    Reference Guides

    Popular print reference guides can provide basic, annotated bibliographies of resources. The following links connect with Amazon and Barnes and Noble to provide additional information about the books.

    Review the Reviews

    In addition to examining the content of a review, it's also important to "review the reviewer". Not all reviews provide the information needed for making good decisions. Spend some time exploring and analyzing audio and video reviews. Look at the structure of the review and the way information is presented.

    Read Saricks, Joyce (2010). “Writing Audiobook Reviews.” In B. Hopper (ed), Writing Reviews for Readers’ Advisory, American Library Association. Available through IUPUI.

    Read Beauregard, Sue-Ellen (2010). Reviewing audiobooks. In, Readers’ Advisory Handbook. ALA Editions. Available through IUPUI.

    read!Try It!
    Examine the following professional reviews. Think about how they're structured. What are the elements of an effective media review?

    Giannetti, Francesca (March 2014). SoundCloud (review). Notes. 70(3), 499-503. Available through IUPUI.
    Lambrecht, Winnie (Summer 2012). Folk streams.net: A national preserve of documentary films about American roots culture. Journal of American Folklore, 125(497), 375-376. Available through IUPUI.
    Hanson, Jennifer (January 2016). Educational video with a twist. School Library Journal, 16-17. Available through IUPUI.

    Compare these articles to others focusing on the same service. How are they alike and different?

    Awards Resources

    Lists of “best videos and audios" and award winning titles are often used as a starting point in selection. Although many sources provide their "best" or "favorites" don't get caught up in sales sites that name everything a "winner." 

    General Awards Lists

    Film, Television, and Video Awards

    Many film, television, and video awards are given each year. The first two links are good starting points. The rest are specific awards.

    Music Awards

    Audio Awards


    Game Award

    Internet and Streaming Media Awards

    Read at least ONE of the following articles:

    Burkey, Mary (March 2016). The Booklist Odyssey interview: Listening Library. The Booklist, 112(13), 94. Available through IUPUI.

    Cahill, Maria & Richey, Jennifer (2015). What sound does an Odyssey make? Content analysis of award-winning audiobooks. Library Quarterly, 85(4), 371-385. Available through IUPUI.

    Goldsmith, Francisca (June 1, 2016). Award-winning listening. AudioFile, 68. Available through IUPUI.

    Read Burkey, Mary (January 1-15, 2016). Voices in my head: the listen list - top titles for adult listeners. The Booklist, 112 (9/10), 108. Available through IUPUI.

    Then, browse the lists:
    The Listen List 2015 (2015). Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(4), 66-68. Available through IUPUI.
    The Listen List 2016 (2016). Reference & User Services Quarterly, 55(4), 313-315. Available through IUPUI.

    Audiobook Selection Issues

    We’ve known for a long time that reading to children is critical to the love of reading. This may also be true throughout life. Audiobook users can enjoy the voice of a dynamic narrator and get lost in the storytelling experience. Beyond the pleasure of good subject matter, the experience can reduce stress, promote relaxation, and reduce eye strain. By adding yoga, dish washing, or stuffing envelopes, people can even become more productive through multitasking.

    There are many issues associated with audiobooks including length, format, organization, and selection issues.

    Abridged versus Unabridged

    For people who listen to books in their car, unabridged works are referred to as "cross country" titles and abridged titles as "cross town" titles.

    Unabridged means that the complete book is included in the audiobook version. 

    Abridged versions have been edited and only include a portion of the complete work. Subplots, characterizations, and detailed descriptions are often eliminated. For example the unabridged version of David McCullough's book John Adams is read by Nelson Runger and contains 26 CDs or it's 30 hours of digital downloads. The abridged version read by Edward Hermann costs less than half as much money and contains only 9 CDs or just 9 hours of digital downloads. That's a big different in content and cost.

    read!Try It!
    Listen to the abridged and unabridged version of the same book. Share you experience. Which do you prefer and why?

    Most audiobook readers and librarians have very strong feelings about this issue. New users are more likely to listen to short stories or abridged editions. This is a good way to determine which narrators are preferred or to sample an author's work. Listening clubs and casual listeners also like abridged editions.

    Established listeners often crave the entire works and are frustrated by what they view as incomplete works. Teachers also seek the unabridged edition when they want students to read along with the book.

    In the past many books were only available in abridged versions for audio, however there's a growing trend by publishers to offer both versions of their product. Librarians need to be aware of the needs and interests of their patrons.

    CDs versus Downloading versus Streaming

    From reel-to-reel and cassette tapes to CDs and digital downloads, listeners have experienced many formats over the past century. In the 1930s, the Library of Congress began distributing long-play records for the blind. Since then we’ve experienced vinyl records, cassettes, and CDs. Over the past decade, digital downloads and streaming were added to the list. Each new entry doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the old. However libraries and their patrons are finding that many programs are not available in the older formats. For the time being, many libraries continue to carry CDs. While CDs are on the decline, digital downloads and streaming are increasing.

    Intershelve or Separate

    Since the introduction of audiobooks, there have been movements to intershelve the collection with books. The placement of any library materials should be related to the patrons and their needs rather than ease of shelving or inventory. In collections where audiobooks are kept separate, users tend to focus on the media. In other words, they're going on summer vacation and want a book they can listen to at the beach or in the airplane. The decision about whether it's horror, romance, or self-help content comes second.

    In collections that are intershelved, the content is most important. In other words, patrons are looking for everything they can find on dieting or the Vietnam War. In this case, it might be helpful to have audio, video, and book materials housed together.

    Books versus Audiobook and Book versus Kit

    There's a soft battle raging between book readers and audiobook readers. Many books are not available as an audiobook, especially books that are not popular with mainstream readers. And generally the paper edition is produced first, and you will have to wait a period of time before the audiobook comes out. However, a few books are now only available in the audiobook format. These original productions include classics, collections, and lesser known works. In some cases, an audiobook may come with a book, booklet, and other materials like puppets or posters. Some children's books come with or without a CD. Others provide a digital download.

    Consider the end user. Where is the greatest need? Most of us would not attempt to read a book while driving a car, but many people listen to books while driving. And the experiences of reading a book and listening to a book are different. We use the two forms in a different manner.

    Author versus Professional Narrator

    the frogsA greatest benefit of audiobooks is the ability to hear words aloud. This is particularly true with poetry where the flow of words is so important. The narrator can make or break the quality of an audio listening experience.

    According to AudioFile Magazine (2016),

    "when an author reads her own work, the listener gets the opportunity to experience her words in a new and often more intimate way. It might feel like the author is the only one who can do his own story justice—after all, he lived it! But we know that talented and engaging professional narrators also can be a conduit to these stories, and that their skills can make the listening experience that much more rewarding. "

    Sometimes the author reads the material. For example, Jack Prelutsky, author of The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders, is a great performer in addition to a children's poet.

    When selecting an actor or narrator, producers consider the characters in the book such as the gender and age of the main character. The setting of the book and associated accents are also taken into consideration.

    Because narrators sometimes do the voices of many characters, they are often trained in the classic theatre.

    Choice of Narrator

    According to Caitlin Augusta (2016, 38),

    “romance in audiobook form gives listeners a sensory experience that makes the hero vividly real. Hearing the timbre of his voice, the rough humor in his quips, the intensity of his emotions is living the romance beyond the impact of words on a page. Casting choices, too, play an enormous role in our hero worship. Selecting a male narrator for a romance… can be a response to a robust cast of male characters or indicate that the hero’s perspective will receive greater emphasis. With female narrators… listeners are sometimes seeing the hero from the heroine’s point of view, allowing them greater perspective on his character. In either case, what separates good narrators from great ones is the ability to realistically voice characters of the opposite gender.”

    An authentic voice is important. Francisca Goldsmith (2016, 68) states that

    "authentic audiobook voices not only bring a narrative alive, they also act as a bridge that carries the message: I recognize your home voice and I speak it, too."

    Multiple Narrators

    Read Luby, Kristen (May 12, 2016). With 20 narrators and a special sound bend, the ILLUMINAE audiobook is out-of-this-world. Listening Library.

    Read at least one of the following articles.

    Goldsmith, Francisca (August 1, 2016). Authentic voices build bridges. AudioFile Magazine, 68. Available through IUPUI.

    Ruben, Paul Alan (February 1, 2016). What Makes a Great Narrator Memorable and Mediocre Narrators Terrible? AudioFile, 10-11. Available through IUPUI.

    Gutcheon, Beth (December 1, 2015). A fan’s memo to narrators. AudioFile. 10-11. Available through IUPUI.

    Explore what authors think about audiobooks. Read at least TWO of the following articles:

    Scott, Aurelia C. (February 1, 2016). Simon Winchester. AudioFile, 24-25. Available through IUPUI.
    Scott, Aurelia C. (December 1, 2015). Amy Stewart. AudioFile, 50-51. Available through IUPUI.
    Scott, Aurelia C. (October 2014). Diana Gabaldon. AudioFile, 22-23. Available through IUPUI.
    Scott, Aurelia C. (June 2015). Scott Simon. AudioFile, 42-43. Available through IUPUI.
    Scott, Aurelia C. (February 2015). Marilyn Johnson. AudioFile, 50-51. Available through IUPUI.
    Scott, Aurelia C. (August 2014). Michael Cunningham. AudioFile, 32-33. Available through IUPUI.
    Scott, Aurelia C. (February 2014). Laura Kinsale. AudioFile, 40-41. Available through IUPUI.

    read!Try It!
    Listen to excerpts from at least three different audiobooks and compare the narrators. What are the characteristics of an effective narrator?

    Need help finding audio excerpts? Try these:
    SoundCloud: Penguin Random House
    SoundCloud: Hachette Audio
    SoundCloud: Macmillan Audio
    SoundCloud: Blackstone Audio
    SoundCloud: Harper Collins Audio
    SoundCloud: Audible

    For a variety of publishers, try
    SoundCloud: AudioFile Magazine

    Interactive Media Selection Issues

    While selecting console video games or online interactives, many decisions go into selection.

    A growing number of public libraries are developing game collections.

    When purchasing games consider the hardware that your patrons are most likely to have available.

    Some games require more memory to run. Are your patrons likely to have these systems? Specialty hardware such as a fishing rod or steering wheel may be needed.

    Some games require more memory to run. Are your patrons likely to have these systems? Specialty hardware such as a fishing rod or steering wheel may be needed.

    Read at least one of the following articles:

    Brown, Ron T. (2014). A literature review of how video games are assessed in library and informations science and beyond. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40, 447-451. Available through IUPUI.

    Robson, Diane & Durkel, Patrick (March 2012). New directions for academic video game collections: strategies for acquiring, supporting, and managing online materials. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 38(2), 79-84. Available through IUPUI.

    Thomas, Christopher & Clyde, Jerremie (November 2013). Game as book: selecting video games for academic libraries based on discipline specific knowledge. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39(6), 522-527. Available through IUPUI.

    Selection Criteria

    When selecting audio and video materials, you’ll probably start with some general criteria, then identify specific criteria based on the particular media type. Although the criteria will vary from library to library, the following resources will help you get started.


    Need and Usage

    Content Quality

    Technical Quality

    Packaging Quality

    For physical items such as CDs and DVDs, consider...

    User Interface

    For digital items such as subscription-based services, consider...

    Specific Media

    charlieAudiobooks. Add some of the following items: Does the book expand the thinking of the reader? Does the material lend itself to the medium? Is the narrator effective? Is the spoken word and cadence effective? Is the tone and tension of the voice effective? Does the voice bring the story alive?Look for innovative uses of audio. For example, the ALA notable audiobook called Charlie Parker Played Be Bop contains effective narration along with music.

    “The most important aspect of selecting an audiobook is knowing whether the original text is something that will translate well into an aural medium.” (Grover & Hannegan, 2012, 3)

    Grover and Hannegan (2012) suggests listening to the following elements of narration of an audiobook when making selections:
    1) Clarity and consistency in audio production (i.e., no silent gaps, no variance in sound quality or volume)
    2) Effective pacing (i.e., not too slow or too fast, appropriate for story)
    3) Appropriate voice for story
    4) Clear, consistent, correct pronunciation
    5) Cultural accuracy
    6) Appropriate music and special effects

    Video. Add some of the following items: Will this format be used (i.e., CD, DVD, digital download)? Do the users have convenient access to a device, player, or software needed to use the item? Is this the best medium for the message? Does this duplicate something available elsewhere? Is it worth the price?

    Cho, Allan (2013). YouTube and Academic Libraries: Building a Digital Collection. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 25(1), 39-50. Available through IUPUI.

    Interactive Experience. Add some of the following items: Do users have access to the required game consoles for physical media? Are there specific requirements for computers, tablets, or hand held devices. Is the media restricted to a certain number of systems? Is this a multiplayer environment?

    Read Mcdonald, Rachel & Parker, Jackie (June 1, 2013). When a story is more than paper. Young Adult Library Services. Pay particular attention to their evaluation guidelines. Available through IUPUI.

    Rating Systems and Selection

    Consider the pros and cons of using rating systems as part of the selection process. Also, consider the pros and cons of using the rating systems in determining who can checkout or view audio, video, or video game materials.

    Official Rating Systems: Audio, Video, and Video Games

    Rating systems are used to help people make listening and viewing decisions. They are often associated with issues such as theme, language, nudity and sex, and violence. Use the following links to learn more about these systems.

    Game Ratings

    Censorship is contagious, and experience with this culture of regulation teaches that regulatory enthusiasts herald each new medium of communications as another opportunity to spread the disease - Robert Corn-Revere (Chief Counsel to FCC Interim Chairman James Quello)

    boyCensorship is a particular problem in the area of gaming. Some librarians simply don't like the violence and sexual situations often found in games. As a result, they choose not to purchase games. However like all other areas of the library collection, users should have equal access to resources including games.

    Some libraries used popular rating systems to determine which electronic games can be checked out to children and young adults. A few libraries even use them to make purchase decision. Libraries sometimes use rating systems to label materials. Some libraries require permission slips before students can check out games. Is this censorship or good practice? You decide.

    Game Ratings

    Many video games contain violence and adult situations. Some organizations have become involved with rating and evaluating games. For example, the ESRB includes rating such as Early Childhood, Everyone, Teen, Mature, Adults Only, and Rating Pending. The issue of mature game content is serious. According to Amanda Lenhart (2008) and others,

    "game playing sometimes involves exposure to mature content, with almost a third of teens playing games that are listed as appropriate only for people older than they are."

    Because video games contain violence and adult situations, there are issues related to age appropriateness when dealing with children and young adults. Some organizations have become involved with rating and evaluating games.


    The ESRB: Entertainment Software Rating Board includes rating such as Early Childhood, Everyone, Teen, Mature, Adults Only, and Rating Pending. This independent, non-profit organization developed a rating system for computer and video games to help select materials.

    try itTry It!
    Go to the Entertainment Software Rating Board website. Read about the ESRB Ratings and where to find information about a particular game or app. 
    Examine the list of Recently-Released Games. Look for issues that might be of concern to young audiences.
    Consider the pros and cons of using rating systems as part of the selection process. Also, consider the pros and cons of using the rating systems in determining who can checkout or view game materials.

    Some adventures focus on a particular time period such as the Assassin's Creed series of action-adventure games. They concentrate on the Third Crusade, Renaissance, or Colonial Period (shown below). Although they are pretty accurate historically, they are very violent. On the other hand, they are very popular with teens.


    Let's examine the ESRB rating for the latest game in the Assassin's Creed series, Assassin's Creed Black Flag.


    The MATURE rating indicates that this game's "content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language."

    It's likely that this title may be in the adult collection. Because of the rating, it's likely that a parent would need to check out the title if a teen under 17 was interested... which they will be.

    Now, let's look at another example, Angry Birds: Star Wars. Notice that groups of platforms are sometimes rated separately. This one has an EVERYONE rating indicating "content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language."


    Seek out the many T for TEEN game titles that bridge the EVERYONE and MATURE categories. For instance, The Cave is a great puzzle game full of action and adventure that's rated TEEN.


    Schools are less likely to deal with issues related to the rating system because purchases should be curriculum related. However, it's still a good idea to check ratings. Portal 2 is a great example of a puzzle solving game that's fun and also addresses important physics-based skills. There's even an accompanying website to go with the game. Notice that it's rated for EVERYONE.



    try itTry It!
    Think about the pros and cons of video game collections in libraries.
    Do you think public libraries should have video game collections? Why or why not? Build a case for both options.

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