The Sights & Sounds Department collects and lends the following materials:
Audio: Audiobookson tape and compact disc, downloadable audiobooks, music compact discs
Audiovisual: Videos in DVD and VHS format
A range of subjects and genres to satisfy the needs and interests of a diverse public is covered in the breadth of the collections. The criteria and guidelines in the Materials Selection Policy are relevant to the selection of audiovisual material. Format, reputation of producer/distributor, component materials, distribution and purchase/lease restrictions, price constraints, product contracts, size of intended/anticipated audience, technical quality, appropriateness and uniqueness of content to the medium, and regional accessibility all play an important part in determining the level at which a certain subject area can be developed. Because of diminished use, no titles are added to the phonograph record or non-audiobook cassette tape collection.
A wide variety of popular, classical, educational, and recreational sound recordings are selected on audiotape and compact disc from the major reviewing sources, among them Audiofile, Downbeat, Booklist, Library Journal, Sound & Vision, and American Record Guide.
Types of audio material collected include basic works of the standard composers, often in several versions; folk music; jazz, both historic and current; popular music, including pop, rock, and country; instructional material; world music; the spoken word, including prose, comedy, poetry, and drama; and sound effects.
In most cases the Library buys only complete (not abridged) audiobooks. Subliminal instruction tapes are not added to the collection.
Videos (VHS) and DVDs
A diverse collection of videos (on VHS and DVD) is maintained for home use by individual customers. It consists of informational, instructional, recreational, and cultural materials for a variety of ages. Although there is necessarily some overlap with other collections in the community, many of the Library's videos are not commonly available elsewhere, e.g., ballets, operas, and documentaries.
Because of the copyright restrictions on audience size mandated by most distributors of home video, the informational and instructional materials which are purchased generally are intended for the individual viewer. Quality is an especially important factor here, as is pricing. If the cost is not prohibitive, some nonfiction materials may be purchased with public performance rights.
Material produced specifically for instructional use in the classroom is not purchased. Gifts or sponsored videos from governmental agencies or other organizations are included in the collection if they otherwise meet the criteria for selection.
The collection of feature films on video is intended for cultural enrichment as well as entertainment. Film, a uniquely twentieth-century mode of expression, has developed simultaneously as an art and as a business. Although popularity may be an indication of a film's quality, many quality films have failed to achieve mass acceptance owing to economic, political, social, or other factors. When critical or scholarly opinion warrants, such titles are added to the collection. Older films, including those from the silent screen era, are selected as examples of film history, as records of their own time, and as entertainment. Foreign and independent films, often unavailable elsewhere, may serve as entertainment and also as an introduction to alternative viewpoints and foreign lands and languages. Foreign films are purchased in editions using the original soundtrack when possible, as opposed to a soundtrack dubbed in English. Films heavily promoted or in high demand may be purchased if they are useful in answering the requests of customers or if they will further efforts to serve a larger segment of the viewing public. Serious works which present an honest aspect of life are not excluded for frankness of expression.
Because film is a highly collaborative art form, a motion picture which achieves high quality in one aspect (photography or acting, for example) may fail to do so in others. Such films may be added to the collection if their strengths outweigh their weaknesses. On rare occasions a few films may be purchased both for their entertainment value and as examples of how good artistic intentions can go wrong.
Selection decisions are based in part on reviews from such standard sources as Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, Variety, Library Journal, and Video Librarian.
New Forms of Audiovisual Media
Rapid changes in technology increase the pace of introduction of new audiovisual media. The library seeks to be a leader in technological change by keeping abreast of new forms as well as trends and forecasts for expected growth and demand. If a new media form promises to have long-term benefits, such as financial savings or simultaneous user access, the Library may pioneer a new media form.