Survey Says: strong appreciation and support for the library’s video collection

Second in our \"Media Librarianship in the 21 Century\" series, aka Library Zoopraxographers.

Linda Engelberg writes: \"A recent survey at UH Manoa Library documented how heavily faculty on that campus depend on videos for both instruction and research. The responses to the survey were overwhelmingly positive, indicating a strong appreciation and support for the library’s video collection and a recognition that today’s students often learn more from video than from lectures and the printed word. BACKGROUND

A large gift from the Harry C. and Nee-Chang Wong Foundation in the mid-eighties enabled the UHM Library to create the very attractive and spacious Wong Audiovisual Center, a program that the Foundation continues to support with purchases of equipment and compact shelving. John Haak, the University Librarian at the time, saw the growing importance of media to education and strongly supported the purchase of video. In addition, other campus organizations and funding sources began contributing to the collection ($79,204 to date). Thus UH got a head start from the rest of the country in collecting videos.

By the mid-nineties, we had created one of the best video collections in the world, including the most comprehensive collections anywhere on Hawaii and most of the Pacific Islands. Our English language documentary collections on Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia are the largest in the world. So UH faculty and students, unlike faculty and students at most universities, have, for years, had access to an outstanding video collection. The figures show that they make good use of it; last year’s loans from our 22,000-title collection made up 31% of the UHM Library’s total circulation.


The faculty video use survey (Fall 2001) encouraged faculty on the Manoa campus to address whatever issues interested them regarding how they were using the collection and how they would like to see it improved. 308 instructors answered the survey, including 35% of the faculty in the Colleges of Arts and Humanities, Languages and Literature and Social Sciences. Since most faculty dislike e-mail surveys, this high level of response was gratifying. In the Departments of Anthropology, Family and Consumer Science, and Theatre and Dance the response was 100%. Almost all Ethnic Studies faculty responded along with 50% of the English Department. The Departments of Art, Communications, Speech, Journalism, Linguistics, Language, History, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, Asian Studies, Women’s Studies also made substantial showings.

Thirty-five faculty in business and the sciences responded; some enthusiastically described their use of videos. But, clearly, the areas of greatest use lie elsewhere.


Many faculty talked about how today’s students learn. They explained that students’ learning styles have changed significantly in the past few years; students’ attention span for material presented in lectures has become quite short. In fact, one instructor stated that research indicates that lectured material has only about a 10% retention rate. Because they grew up watching television, they learn most effectively through the visual medium. Another respondent noted that most Americans get over 60% of their information via television or the internet. His conclusion was that it is, therefore, impossible to teach any subject with contemporary relevance without including a media literacy component.


One frequent use of videos for instruction is that of stimulating discussion; videos give everyone a common ground from which to discuss the material at hand. Faculty report that students are often reluctant to talk about course readings. They are, however, open to talking about videos. Several faculty noted that by raising interest in a subject through the use of video they are able to bring students back to the written word.

Some of the other teaching uses mentioned (often repeatedly) were: requiring students to watch videos and write papers on them as a way of honing their writing and critical analysis skills; encouraging students to use videos in their classroom presentations; putting a visual face on an historical period, social situation or the experience of ethnic groups; showing the human or emotional dimension of family and human development issues; displaying the characteristic cultural features of a particular region; allowing students to practice their language listening skills; and introducing students to highly creative individuals and their work. One respondent stated that because visual media has become the dominant form of presenting knowledge in today’s world, teaching media literacy and critical viewing must be an essential goal in education.


These days it is not surprising that, given access to a large collection of videos, instructors would use them extensively in their teaching. The surprise was that so many faculty and students are now using videos in their research. One respondent noted that he relies heavily on film and video to explore the emotional depth and texture of whatever subject he is researching. Ethnomusicology and history students regularly use video as a resource for thesis, dissertation and project research. This type of use is common in other departments as well.

Among the many examples of research material mentioned were videos on the martial arts, feminist documentaries, retellings of the Arthurian legend, representations of Elizabeth I in film, television shows that contribute to Queer Theory, documentaries on fashion designers, photographers, artists, musicians, tapes made in or about the Pacific Islands and Asia, documentaries about how ethnic or other identity groups, e.g., the disabled, are portrayed in film and television, and interviews with contemporary philosophers. The research possibilities of videos are as rich as those for instruction.

Many faculty members in the humanities and social sciences are now engaged in cultural studies; there are about 100 faculty at UHM who study cultural texts as a focus for their research. An American history professor shared that she is working on cultural constructions of ‘lethal women’ and that much of this research comes from filmed and televised representations of women. The same professor is working on a cultural and intellectual history of the 1950’s. Films and television shows from that decade will constitute some of her most significant sources.

The survey results made it clear that for some faculty the collection was not providing adequate coverage for their needs. Many complained about outdated videos. Some of the topics whose representation in the collection needs improvement were American Indians, feminist and gender studies, drawing and painting, contemporary architecture, disabilities, information technology and telecommunication, current mental health practice, cancer, childbirth, nutrition, special education, writing, Islam and the Middle East, teaching strategies, linguistics, Greek and Roman mythology, aging, cross-cultural studies, animal learning, operant conditioning, obesity, electrical engineering, landslides and earthquakes, social science research methods, poverty, diversity, art history, puppetry, and theatre production. The faculty expect that the video collection should encompass all subject areas taught by the university that are appropriate to the video format.


Among the comments gleaned from the survey results were four pages expressing general appreciation for the Library’s video collection and the AV Center’s service. They described the collection in glowing terms, describing it as an “immeasurable service,” a “vital, valuable and intellectually crucial resource, and “one of the most valuable resources available to this university.” They indicated their awareness that few universities offer such a great service. Indeed, many see the Audiovisual Center as indispensable to their own education as well as that of their students.

Another four pages of comments addressed the issue of funding; these responses mentioned their fear of budget cuts and their hopes that there be maximum budgetary support for the Center. In conclusion, the results of this informal, but very successful, survey left no doubts as to the importance of video to a large segment of the UHM campus’s instructional staff.

For further information you may contact Linda Engelberg, Video Librarian, UHM Library, 808-956-5414, [email protected].


I can’t stress enough how important films are for my teaching and students’ learning; I include films in every course I teach.

The Wong Audiovisual Collection stands as a testament to the best our university has to offer.

The center is almost a do-it-yourself university within the university.

Your ability to keep up with current materials is vital to teaching and research.

Supporting Wong AV Center -- and supporting it generously -- is supporting undergraduate education.

I strongly favor expanded funding and support for AV materials and would be happy to do whatever is necessary to see that this happens.

Linda Engelberg
Video Librarian
Wong Audiovisual Center
Sinclair Library
University of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI 96822
[email protected]

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