The Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Kent Underwood, Head of the Avery Fisher Center


The Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media was founded with the purpose of providing access to multiple forms of communications media: audio, visual, and interactive multimedia. It is the nature of these technologies to be constantly evolving, and this has given rise to a variety of media and formats, each with its own special strengths. Because of the diversity of media formats, only the major ones will be systematically collected and made available within the academic environment of New York University.

Titles are acquired that emphasize the strengths of the University and/or supplement the special holdings of Bobst Library such as:

  • Fales Library: French and Italian screenplays, novels on film, John Canemaker Animation Collection
  • Script Collection: screenplays, theater and television scripts
  • Tamiment Library: history of the labor unions and radical political movements
  • Verdi Archives


  1. Included

    • Those subjects which lend themselves especially well to presentation through the use of media, particularly where there is a dearth of materials for study or research in more traditional formats, are given the highest consideration. The relationship of the topic to the format of presentation must also be appropriate.
    • Interdisciplinary productions receive the highest priority.
    • For any given topic, an effort is made to determine how a particular work compares to others on the same subject. In general only the best, or most representative, productions are acquired.
    • The materials acquired must be appropriate for undergraduate or advanced level users.
  2. Excluded

    • Material requiring equipment or facilities currently unavailable in the Avery Fisher Center.
    • Works so highly specialized that they require extensive preparation and thus are appropriate only for classroom viewing.
    • Works in which the information is very rapidly dated, and thus has a limited shelf life.
    • Titles that do not meet normally accepted minimum levels of technical quality.
    • Material requiring a license agreement deemed unacceptable.

Types of Materials

  1. Moving Image


    VHS half-inch videocassette is the standard format for the video collection. Laser discs will be considered:

    • as a backup to the original video copy if the title is of high use.
    • if the laser presentation, including sound and visual formatting, is improved over the video version of the same title.

    Laser disc back-up copies of VHS titles are not systematically purchased.

    When a title is only available in 3/4 inch U-matic cassette, it may be acquired if high usage is assured and it is judged to be of unusually high quality or importance. Due to the significantly higher cost for purchase and maintenance, film formats will not be acquired.


    The strengths of the video collection are in the following subject areas: media (cinema studies, television, video art); music and performing arts; journalism and mass communications. Feature films, video art, music video, and educational or documentary video may be purchased to support any subjects.

    Newer areas that are receiving greater current emphasis include: American history; multicultural approaches to history and culture; labor history; sociology; Latin American documentary; Middle East, African and East European cinema; nursing; education; food service and nutrition; and gay/lesbian studies.

    • Cinema

      Both feature films and documentary films are purchased to support Cinema Studies. Documentary films are purchased based on the reputation of the director, the documentary style employed, or the subject of the work. Feature films are acquired based on director, genre, and, under specific circumstances, content.

      Directors--Comprehensively collected are those directors who:

      • have a direct relationship with New York University.
      • have created a body of work that invokes New York City as primary place or character.
      • have been consistently judged by cinema scholars to be of lasting significance.

      Other directors are collected selectively, based on the merit of the individual work.

      Genre--genre films will be collected selectively, based on the work's ability to illustrate the elements of the genre it represents, and its potential to support curriculum.

      Content--Cinema Studies, as a discipline, encompasses not only the canon of great films and directors, but also popular culture and includes the study of film as cultural artifact. Because of this broad focus, a title may be more interesting because it reflects a particular place, time, event, or condition, rather than for its cinematic or artistic qualities. In order to support this use of video, not only in Cinema Studies, but inherent also in American Studies, Performance Studies, History, and other disciplines, feature films beyond the canon of great films and directors will be acquired. These popular titles will be acquired selectively, based on faculty recommendation and in support of specific courses. An effort is made to acquire the recorded versions of titles in the Script Collection and the Fales Library's collection of screenplays, and the original screenplay collection housed in the Reserve Reading Room.

    • Video Art

      Video art is acquired, based on the same criteria applied to Cinema Studies videorecordings.

    • Dance

      Performances of all styles of dance, both contemporary and historical, are considered. Special attention is directed to those works specifically choreographed for video. Biographical and historical documentaries are also considered.

    • Television

      All genres of original video productions and pre-recorded commercially-available television programming are selectively acquired, including documentary, narrative, and video art.

    • Music

      The collection concentrates on those productions in which performance enhances the understanding of music. The categories acquired follow the guidelines of the policy statement for Music. Operatic works and those productions appropriate for the study of ethnomusicology receive special attention.

    • Musical Theater

      Performances of musical theater productions are acquired. Works illuminating the dramatic process or that are significant examples of set design, costumes, etc., are also considered.

    • Drama and Performance Studies

      Selections represent the broad spectrum of Western and non-Western performance traditions, from theater and dance to ritual and popular entertainment.

    • Journalism and Mass Communications

      Works dealing with the news media's coverage of war, peace, and nuclear disarmament issues are emphasized. An effort is made to acquire productions that provide an international perspective on these topics.

    Newer areas that are receiving greater current emphasis include: American history; multicultural approaches to history and culture; labor history; sociology; Latin American documentary; Middle East cinema; Nursing; Education; and Food Service and Nutrition.

  2. Sound Recordings


    Wherever possible, audio recordings are acquired on compact disk because of its superior fidelity, durability, and programmable features. In other cases, cassettes are acquired. The phonograph record is the least desirable format.

    • Music

      The selection of musical recordings is determined according to the priorities indicated in the policy statement for Music.

    • Foreign Language Instruction

      Foreign language recordings for use in the Language Laboratory are provided by the department giving instruction.

    • Literature

      Readings of poetry and other literary forms are acquired. Books-on-Tape are not acquired.

    • History

      Recordings of speeches and other newsworthy events are considered as primary source material.

    • Radio

      Examples of dramatic, documentary, and historical radio broadcasts are selectively acquired.

    • Sound Effects

      These are added to support departments teaching media production.

  3. Still Image


    This kind of material is primarily acquired on videodisc. Photographs, posters, filmstrips, other similar reproductions will not be acquired. Slide sets are not systematically collected, but may be considered for purchase on a case by case basis by the appropriate selector and bibliographer. Only those very exceptional slide collections, containing information unavailable elsewhere in the metropolitan area, will be considered.


    Although open to all subjects, acquisition of still images is extremely selective.

  4. Print Resources

    Indexes and directories, especially of a locational nature, are selectively acquired for all the media formats. An effort is made to acquire special mediagraphies in subject areas appropriate to the University's diverse programs. A file of catalogs from dealers and distributors is maintained for all software formats and types of audio-visual equipment. Indexes and directories of media and hardware are selectively acquired.

Future Directions

It is difficult to predict exactly which communications technologies will emerge in the years ahead. However, there are two areas where expansion is imminent: interactive video workstations and the intra-university transmission of video signals.

The former is an area of tremendous potential for training students in what amounts to an entirely new dynamic of communication: a merging of microcomputer and video technology to create programs that are extremely versatile. Several multimedia workstations are available to patrons and the selective acquisition of software has begun. Initially, focus has been on subjects previously identified, e.g. cinema studies and music, but materials outside the focus areas are considered on a case-by-case basis, particularly in disciplines such as foreign language teaching, which lend themselves to interactive media treatments.

The intra-university transmission of video builds upon existing software strengths and extends its accessibility throughout the University by delivering information beyond the physical limitations of the library directly into classrooms, offices, and dormitories. Currently, most of the video programs acquired for the AFC include public performance rights and therefore may be shown over closed circuit and/or cable for education and cultural purposes within NYU. The major exceptions are feature films acquired on video licensed only for home-use. At present, in accordance with copyright law, this type of programming may only be used within the AFC and in face-to-face teaching situations during regularly scheduled classes.

In the future, if demand grows for incorporating the AFC's video holdings into classroom multimedia presentations developed by faculty or students, it will be necessary for the client creating the multimedia piece to comply with those guidelines developed and approved by parties central in discussing issues related to copyright and multimedia, such as the Consortium of College and University Media Centers (CCUMC) and video distributors.

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