Germanists/Romance Languages Discussion Group Minutes – 2021 Annual

ALA Annual Meeting, Virtual

Monday, June 21, 12-1pm CST


  • 30 attendees total
  • Discussion led by Walter Schlect and Jeannie Berroteran


I. Welcome and introductions

II. Discussion Questions

When in the film acquiring process is your expertise asked for? From searching the title, acquiring the title, handling rights, etc? Are you only asked if the film is particularly difficult? Do you get asked at all?

  • Varies by institution. Some have a dedicated department that deals with requests and selectors are only called in when a title is particularly difficult/requires area studies expertise. Sometimes the film librarian deals with requests, or the area studies librarian will do a lot of research on where the distributor is because the reserves/acquisitions departments are short staffed/have to process too many requests. 
    • Stanford has a film expert housed in acquisitions that is really helpful, particularly for purchasing films directly from the distributor and negotiating licences. 
    • University of Minnesota has another unit on campus (similar to a Foreign Language Department Lab) that offers streaming services, and they follow different copyright protocols than the university libraries too, so this creates a lot of confusion.
    • Selectors spend a lot of time managing faculty expectations (e.g. explaining why there is no institutional subscription to Netflix). On the other hand, sometimes there is an institutional attitude that “A faculty requests it so we have to find a way to give it to them”.
    • Workflows are often unclear and have been made more unclear by the pandemic.  Some libraries have a centralized way to request streaming film, but others often direct questions to various people (selectors, film studies librarians, acquisitions) and often the communication can get confused.
    • Budget for film requests are often from a centralized reserves budget, while DVDs for the collection come out of subject-specific budgets but this varies by institution, or how exhausted the budgets are at a given moment.

Are the DVDs you collect strictly on professor/classroom request or do you actively develop a film collection or both? Are you ever able to purchase streaming in perpetuity?

  • Many people mentioned that they no longer buy DVDs for collection development (except on request).  Some still buy DVDs on approval plans, or select a handful of DVDs every year that they know will go out of print. Before the pandemic some institutions had DVD players they would rent out to students (particularly now that students are less likely to have DVD players).
  • In theory copyright law explicitly allows digital copies of DVDs to be made for preservation purposes but they can only be used in really limited ways once the carrier stops working.
  • Kanopy allows for some “perpetual licenses” but these have an administrative fee tacked on and there is no sunset clause.  One attendee mentioned that they were able to negotiate a cap on the administrative fees.
  • Some filmmakers interested in “depositing” their films at an institution where they can be preserved, and in these film archive arrangements there is often the possibility of negotiating streaming licensing in perpetuity.  Princeton had a filmmaker interested in making his films open access, though that would have required ADA captioning for several hours of film.
  • For digital files purchased directly from distributors, or digital files created from ripping DVDs libraries have different systems (storing them in box/kaltura, on a centralized server, making them visible in catalog but restricted by password/proxy). Not all libraries have a digital infrastructure that is set up for this though.

What’s your library’s copyright policy on films for course reserves? Can you stream from a DVD? Are students required to get their own Netflix/Hulu/Etc. Accounts?

Is there a limit to how much streaming your library offers? When do you decide (or the reserves department decide) that a certain amount of films for a class is too much?

  • Some selectors have a rule of thumb (more than eight), or a hard cap on many total licenses can be purchased per year, some look at the Kanopy/Swank viewing stats if they are asked to renew and circle back to the professor to see if the film is really necessary. 
  • Professors often are unaware and shocked about how expensive streaming is. At the same time, some librarians don’t want to deter faculty from asking for streaming just because it is so expensive.

How far will you go to get rights/purchase a film? What are you allowed to do and not allowed to do re:acquisitions? Can you purchase films directly from a distributor?

  • Some libraries purchase films directly from a distributor (often the filmmaker) but this is a time-consuming process.  Particular kinds of film (like television) are often more difficult.
  • Because the process for buying from small distributors (as opposed to Kanopy) is ad hoc, and there’s not a good digital infrastructure for digital files that can be used longer than a semester.
  • Yale is looking into using a company called CD Source to find difficult-to-find films and negotiate terms with small distributors.

What vendors have you found particularly helpful with streaming film/DVDs?

  • Eastview for Russian/Slavic DVDs
  • Go2 Films for Israeli films

Are there any sites/tools you find particularly helpful in locating streaming film/DVDs?

III. Ideas for future meetings

More discussion of film, perhaps a speaker?

Speakers from the Video Round Table:

Conversation with vendors (like Kanopy?) about our needs?

Minutes submitted by Walter Schlect