A Year in the Life of Audiovisual/Media Preservation in Illinois: Inventory of Video

Melanie Schoenborn, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Why does a library do a video inventory? Should you do a sampling or a complete inventory? Reinvent the process or use tried and true methods? What, where, and how are the policies and procedures for doing an inventory? The answers to these questions reveal that an inventory allows the collection to be analyzed and the quality of this part of your library to be validated.

The why to do a library video inventory is similar to a book inventory: find missing items, declare items lost and make decisions on replacements, find mislabeled items and get them relabeled and shelved correctly, correct any discrepancies in the databases so the record and its corresponding item can be located.  For video, you will need to review the preservation and conservation issues of each type of video material and its corresponding hardware and do all the typical book inventory chores mentioned above.

The types of video found in libraries today include: tape (VHS, Beta), disc (DVD and Blu-Ray), and laser disc.  A list of all types of video formats created which may or may not be found in academic libraries but possibly in special libraries and museums can be viewed at this website under Analog tape formats; Digital tape formats; Optical disc storage formats and the Discontinued formats: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/video

Now that we know the why and what of our video collection we need to know where we can locate our collection and how to complete the inventory.  Locating where the software and hardware collections are within the library will allow staff to account for all the materials in the inventory, assess their ability to be used, and indicate the best means for completing the inventory.  There are sample inventories given below which provide ideas on how to do the specific paper work of the inventory.

Sample Inventory Products

With the inventory completed, now there are databases to clean up, items being used or circulated identified, along with items needing conservation or preservation, mislabeled items to be relabeled, items identified for needed repairs, and lost items that may need to be replaced and/or deleted from the databases.  Finally, all this information needs to be shared with the collection development team so that the video collection is conserved for the future or so that the team can make other conservation or preservation decisions.
With the inventory complete, the databases accurate to the resources, a report should be written with statistical analysis and shared with the collection development team to make decisions on future purchases and preservation of the video collection.

Following the introduction article to this series about audiovisual preservation, the following are the answers from Anne Thomason from the Donnelly and Lee Library, Lake Forest College to the questions in the first paragraph of this blog article on video: “Sampling or complete inventory: I think I’m going to do a complete inventory. My reasoning is that our collections are not huge and we can identify most of what we have. … I am starting with collections that researchers have requested. I am a little worried this is not the best way to go about the project; but I need to start somewhere, and starting with the materials requested most frequently seemed like the best idea. For example, a senior seminar on documentaries and propaganda may want to watch some College videos or incorporate some College video into the documentary they will be making at the end of semester. These items are thus a priority, and once inventoried, we might begin the digitization process. Method or plan: Ok, here is where I need guidance! I need a method. I am having student workers help make a list of what we have. For example, for boxes of College materials students will try to identify based on the labels on outside of boxes and on the items. If no labels, they may be able to briefly watch a video or listen to a cassette to identify it. I would call our plan “fly by the seat of your pants.” Any answers for policies or procedures: not yet! I would certainly like advice. At the same time, our collections are not so huge as to be overwhelming, so I’m probably not going to break anything, and anything I do is an improvement over what we have. But I do want to do it right.”

Here are the answers from Patrick Brown from Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale: “We did an inventory of our special collection AV material. Our circulating collection is less in need of an inventory because it is already cataloged on the item level as it comes in. The Special Collection Research Center’s AV material is a challenge for our catalogers, public facing workers, and preservation staff. They are unique and often have no readily available identifiers (labels). There are parts of the collections that are not cataloged at the item level.  We did a complete inventory several years before I arrived. If staffing and the size of the collection allow for it, I think a complete inventory is invaluable. Unlike books, the wide variety of media that can be in a collection can be easily missed while doing a sampling. Looking over our AVsap findings, it looks like we have 7 different formats where we own less than 10 items. These items might be most at risk, but also the easiest to miss while doing a sampling. We had a staff person do the survey as a special project.  We used AvSAP, a tool developed by the University of Illinois Library.


Cook, Douglas, and Lesley Farmer, ed. Using Qualitative Methods in Action Research: How Librarians can get to the Why of Data. Chicago: ACRL, 2011. Print.

University of Hawaii at Manoa Library. "Web-Based Library Stacks Management System (LSMS)."

Northeast Document Conservation Center.

Rach. "Basic library procedures: Inventory control systems and procedures.” Living in the Library World.  Blogspot.

"Inventory (library).” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

"Video.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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