Film and Video Librarians
Exploring this Job
A part-time job at a local library or your school's media center is a great way to explore this career. As a student you will probably be assigned small clerical tasks such as staffing the circulation desk or straightening the stacks, but with some experience you may be assigned duties with more responsibilities. You might be able to eventually work as a media center aide, who sets up and maintains audiovisual equipment.
You may want to participate in online discussion groups to get a feel for the industry. The American Library Association (ALA) sponsors the Film and Media Round Table (http://www.ala.org/rt/vrt/aboutvrt/aboutvrt), an organization that addresses the interests of those working with video collections, programs, and services in libraries. This service is available to all ALA members.
Libraries are no longer limited to traditional collections of books and periodicals; they now include all forms of media, including music, film, and video. Those in charge of a special department or collection of film and videos are called film and video librarians. Their duties are similar to that of reference librarians, except their expertise is in film and video in all formats. Film and video librarians work in all types of libraries: public, governmental, corporate or special, and schools.
Film and video librarians are responsible for maintaining their library's collection of film and video. They catalog the items into the library's database according to their title, subject matter, or by actors/actresses and director. To prepare each film or video for circulation, each must be put in a protective covering or case, labeled with the library's name and address, and given a barcode and checkout card. Film and video librarians also archive and preserve existing material. They may also be responsible for the purchase and maintenance of audiovisual equipment. Librarians may also manage video assets that are only available online.
It is the film and video librarian's responsibility to ensure that the collection meets with the specific interests of the institution. For example, medical libraries would be interested in health care issues; the library of a women's studies department would be interested in biographies, history, and events regarding women, women's rights, and other related issues. Film and video librarians at public institutions have the harder task of building a collection that appeals to different tastes or needs. They have a working knowledge of many different subject areas, including biographies of famous people, historical events, health, theater and the arts, popular culture, anime, and children's interests. This knowledge is important because they have to acquire items covering a plethora of topics and genres.
Librarians rely on reference guides, reviews, and recommendations from distributors when making important decisions on new acquisitions. They also take into account their department's budget, the school's curriculum, the needs of the educators, and patrons' requests. They must negotiate with distributors regarding pricing and public performance rights.
Film and video librarians may also plan special media events revolving around a film presentation or video night at their facility. In this instance, they would be responsible for scheduling the event, deciding on a theme, and marketing it to the public. At times, they may be asked by the school's faculty to help search for films to accompany a particular lesson plan or assignment. Librarians employed by government agencies may help acquire videos for special educational or training programs, such as a "Say No to Drugs" campaign.
Film and video librarians also have managerial duties. They hire, train, schedule, and supervise department staff. Along with the library director, or advisory board, they review the needs, policies, and direction of the department. They write reviews on new materials, compile bibliographies, and, at times, give a lecture on a particular film or video. They also help students or library patrons find information, answer questions, or give instruction on the proper use of audiovisual equipment. Film and video librarians rely on conferences, continuing education classes, and discussions with their peers to keep abreast of new technology or industry changes.