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Issues of Aging Curated Video Collection

Creating Your Library Core Collection


Creating Your Library Core Collection

Creating a library core collection of video materials responsive to the concerns of the aging and those who serve them in a community could seem a formidable challenge. The collaboration between the Library Media Project and the Retirement Research Foundation in producing this publication and a national video purchasing consortium helps public librarians meet that challenge.

Dr. John F. dos Santos writes that the National Media Owl Awards, on which selection for this core library video collection is based, emerged from a deliberate commitment on the part of the Retirement Research Foundation over a period of two decades to make a difference in our society where media and imaging of aging are concerned.

Hundreds of gerontological subject films were reviewed in that time and though many received single screenings on television, few, if any, found their way into the larger community served by the public library. Thus, any universal free access to these prize-winning films, and opportunities for public discourse catalyzed by them, remained dormant. This Library Media Project on Issues of Aging changes that.

The inaugural issue of VideoCuration: Constructing Library Core Collections is both part of what could be considered a tradition of providing curated collections for libraries at consortium negotiated prices, and a new creative endeavor that builds on the past but has its own uniqueness and identity. For over a decade, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Library Video Project served the public libraries of America, responding to a felt need for guidance and expertise in video collection development, namely with what became the ubiquitous MacArthur Video Classics followed by the MacArthur Library, which is a collection of Independent Films. Collaboration with the consortium component of Videoforum publications on Native Americans, Latinos and Health represented a transition phase to the current Library Media Project.

Today, the Library Media Project serves America's libraries with a multi-faceted approach which includes:

  • a dynamic prize-winning website ( launched in 1996 and with over a million visitors from numerous countries;
  • an innovative toolkit on Issues of Aging with practical help for funding and programming video in libraries, distributed to thousands of requesting libraries;
  • an electronic and print publication with specialists expanding on collection development based on criteria for content, programming and production;
  • a national consortium facilitating purchase of videos at negotiated discounts and with public performance licensing agreements;
  • informal mentoring and referrals through an (800) telephone number.

The Retirement Research Foundation designating the Library Media Project an awardee, in the same year that The United Nations declared 1999 as The International Year of Older Persons, is a serendipity benefiting America's public libraries. Not only will public libraries be able to build with confidence video collections on issues of aging, they will also be able to capitalize on the public programming opportunities provided by the yoking of the library's events with the UN's celebrations ( Then, because the U.S. Office of the Aging continues to name the month of May as "Older Americans' Month," public libraries can initiate and advance plan each year for outreach to the community and collaboration with other like-interested agencies through programming of these Owl Award videos.

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a 57 minute video about a real person and real family enduring months and years of a life-threatening illness, such as we see in the splendid documentary
The Chemo Paintings, makes that which feels unspeakable almost eloquent. We and our society flinch from some of these issues, yet yearn to discuss them. Increasingly, experiences such as those endured in Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter can be articulated, especially by caregivers who see the library, its information resources, and community programming as an oasis.

But before one can plan for these special events with video programming, one must first build the library's collection. Though one's inclination is often to build a collection by deciding one title at a time based on a good review here or there, VideoCuration changes that with an assist from the three curators, as well as from the local librarian. Only the librarian knows what is already in the collection and only the librarian can assess community needs on a regular basis. For instance, shifting demographics can affect decision-making in collection development: has there been an increase in older persons? Are there more children as caretakers for parents? Are more grandparents caring for children? Have there been reports of elder abuse in the community? Has there been an increased recognition of diversity in the senior community, of different languages and ethnicities?
Most likely then, the librarian will respond with materials in all formats to meet these developing community needs. The librarian may feel less certain in selecting video so as to
enhance the print collection. The Library Media Project is responding directly to this uncertainty. Represented here is a core curated video collection on issues of aging, which can either be purchased with surety in its entirety, or in subject clusters correlated with these unmet needs in the community library's core collection. For instance, when Peter Davis, who has produced many documentaries, served as a juror in festivals, and published extensively about film, recommends certain documentaries such as Breaking Silence: The Story of the Sisters of DeSales Heights for purchase in an issues of aging collection, a librarian can have confidence in his criteria. Likewise, Jean Haynes, an experienced library film programmer, recommends titles within themes, clustering titles on specific topics such as sexuality and relationship issues, and including such titles as A Thousand Tomorrows: Intimacy Sexuality and Alzheimer's and For Better or For Worse. The decision process is contextualized in the larger collection development policy of the library's recognizing and responding to the underserved in its community. But it is also strengthened by the expertise of the three experienced curators presented here.

When received at the library, this curated collection development publication VideoCuration should be considered as a permanent reference tool. It can be utilized, not just in responding in the limited time of the consortium, but also informationally for the entire period of the distributors' offers, and beyond.
Though the Library Media Project plans to publish the essays electronically, there may be occasions when patrons and agency personnel working with concerns of aging and the aged want to borrow the publication or refer to it when the library's Internet access is unavailable. It may be that, initially, the librarian developing the core collection purchases videos that cluster around the human interest aspects of aging and exemplary lives, such as
Grace and Nobody's Business. Perhaps by next year's special month of May recognition for older Americans, the library will become the community meeting place for health caretakers. Then the librarian can refer to VideoCuration and expand the collection to include such supportive videos as Being Here Now: A Journey Through Death and Dying. In other words, selecting these Owl Award videos is analogous to selecting classics in the field, and an open-ended process.

What Dr. John F. dos Santos, Peter Davis and Jean Haynes have written about video collection development on issues of aging from a curatorial perspective transcends the immediacy of the publication and consortium. If the publication is catalogued, it can continue to be utilized over time by others involved with issues of aging. It should also be used in tandem with the electronic version published on the Library Media Project website ( By supporting both the print and electronic publishing of these materials, the Library Media Project has made a deliberate proactive decision to increase access, avoid disenfranchising any library users, and expand the potential for input to collection needs.

It is possible that the library already has some videos on gerontological topics. Then the Issues of Aging curated collection can be used to guide the choice of materials to supplement those owned, or its recommendation for the Owl Award winning titles can replace outdated ones. If the library is collecting so as to provide factual information, the criteria for content elucidated by Dr. John F. dos Santos, a leading gerontologist as well as film juror, merits attention. If exclusively for programming in collaboration with community agencies, then Jean Haynes has many suggestions.

One must keep in mind that the health field of which gerontology is a sub-specialty is changing so rapidly that some degree of skepticism may eventually be appropriate for selections. Then the electronic version of these essays on the Library Media Project website ( may provide additional input for decisions. An example of a difficult decision is to go with the fine award winning video
Check It Out presenting the issue of prostate cancer, but realize that it was made in 1988. Relevant Internet sites/links might expand on the Owl Award video information. It is also probable that another video of this quality on this subject has not yet been produced, evaluated and distributed for use in public libraries.

Over the past 14 years, 206 titles were honored with Owl Awards. After exhaustive research, the Library Media Project determined that approximately ninety titles were in distribution and also available for purchase by public libraries. From these, the editor and three curators selected the sixty-five titles now included in this valuable collection. Public library users are the beneficiaries of this effort as librarians respond to the consortium and develop core video collections on the issues of aging for the community library in this UN International Year of Older Persons and beyond. @

aging topics | a-z film list | links and resources | supplemental books
cinema classics DVD | visual arts | health | contact us | home

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