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Collection Development

batteriesCreating and maintaining a collection of electronic materials for children and young adults requires planning. Not only do you need to consider the physical resources in your library, but you also must plan for remote access of virtual collections.

Recharging batteries, reformatting hard drives, backing up software, and cleaning mice are only a few of the many tasks involved in dealing with technology resources.

Many library websites showcase electronic materials on their website.

Go to the the JUMP section at Ann Arbor District Library. Notice how Music for Kids, Audiobooks for Kids, DVD & Blu-ray, and other cool collections are featured. Items related to electronic materials are also woven into their blog.

Go to the Indianapolis Public Library eBooks, Audiobooks & Downloadables page. Notice the resources available.

Rather than housing electronic materials themselves, some libraries are seeking outside vendors such as Overdrive or Freegal Music. It's important that patrons are aware of their options and opportunities.

Go to The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Teenspace and Kidspace. Notice how the electronic materials collection is woven into the website.


Collection Development & Electronic Materials

Is it important to catalog electronic materials? How do I process an e-book? How can software be effectively circulated? These are common questions faced by librarians dealing with electronic materials collections.

Collection development is the process of building, managing, maintaining, and evaluating a cohesive set of materials. The collection development policy guides these activities.

A collection development policy provides a way to systematically select materials for the library or information center. The policy should be flexible enough to adapt to changing environments. For example, as new technologies arise, the policy should be revised rather than rewritten.

A collection development policy should contain an overview of key issues followed by specific criteria for selection. Rather than creating a new policy to handle electronic materials, start with your current collection development policies. Many libraries have a general collection development policy for the whole library. However, it's important that the youth services division is involved in updating this policy to include youth needs and electronic materials. Consider elements that need to be added or expanded to handle electronic materials.

Go to Teen Services Collection Development Policy. How do they address teen needs and electronic materials? Are these elements that are missing?

Considering Electronic Materials

emmaDeveloping an electronic materials collection is very much like creating and maintaining a print collection. However, there are some special considerations that are important as you plan. You need to make some choices. For example, how will you balance the need for materials in many areas with the limited funds available for their purchase?

In addition, libraries have different purposes. While a public library may not spend $50 dollars for a 20-minute children's video, it might be perfect for a teacher trying to address a specific curriculum standard. For example, the video Anna, Emma and the Condor is an award-winning film focusing on climate change and environmental challenges facing the California Condors. The video can serve as a powerful springboard for discussions about these issues.

Explore the Options

As you develop electronic materials collections, you’ll find that there are many options. Before investing in materials, be sure you’ve considered all the possibilities.

Quality versus Demand

It would be easy to go out and buy all the “hot” music CDs and movie DVDs; however, that would not address the mission of your library. Who comes to your library for these materials? What are their specific interests? What informational or educational materials could you provide that others might not be able to provide? It comes down to quality and demand.

Demand selection is providing patrons with what they request and want. Quality selection is based on what patrons should have. The quality issue is easier to deal with in a school than in a public library setting. In school libraries, everything comes back to standards and meeting the educational needs of children. In public libraries, there’s more of an emphasis on personal interests and life-long learning.

To create a balanced collection, compromise is essential. Although dystopian e-books, monster truck books, and blockbuster DVDs may be popular items, quality documentaries should not be overlooked. Although it’s a mistake to base collection development on circulation, it’s also a disservice to buy things that won’t be used. Although an Italian Opera DVD might have gotten great reviews, it’s important to determine whether anyone will ever check it out.

Find out what people want by asking. Provide a place for users to post their requests online or through an old-fashioned paper request.

Go to the Request for Purchase page at Memphis Public Library. Notice the format options that encourage users to request electronic materials.

When choosing video games or fiction videos consider those materials viewers might not see on television or online. What areas of the curriculum or general public information materials should be included in a well-rounded collection? Ideas –

This versus That

There are a growing number of electronic materials options. From e-books to DVDs, how do you decide what technologies to support? Look at the community. Where are the demands? What equipment is available to play or use the resources? What materials could be accessed through other means? Do you have enough funding to sustain a new collection area? How quickly will the technology evolve? When is it time to stop supporting an older technology such as CDs and DVDs? These are all questions that need to be asked before jumping into a new technology area or eliminating an old one.

Go to TouchPress and explore their many popular apps. What are the advantages and disadvantages of mobile apps? How would they work in a library collection for children and young adults? How could they be used in recommended lists for teachers and parents?

Site-based versus Virtual Collections

Many collections now have a combination of site-based and virtual materials. Like interlibrary loan and other programs, look beyond your library for ways to expand the resources available to patrons. Online resources provide electronic materials that can be saved on hard drives or mobile devices. Others can be streamed through the Internet. Some materials are free and others required a subscription.

Many libraries require users to enter their library card number to access these subscription services. When you purchase a subscription to an online service be sure to check the restriction on use.

Go to Ansel and Clair. Think about the logistics of how this app would be incorporated into a library collection.

Fiction versus Nonfiction

GettysburgThe issues you find in your print collection are similar in those for an electronic collection. How do you balance the need for fiction and nonfiction works? In general, nonfiction includes documentaries, educational materials, informational works, and how-to videos. Schools generally view fiction as either entertainment or linked to the curriculum. For example, Gettysburg could be considered part of the curriculum for a history class, while Monsters, Inc series would be strictly entertainment. A similar issue arises when allocating funds for audio materials. Do you purchase audiobooks or music CDs? How do you decide between print books and ebooks?

A majority of public libraries maintain around 60 percent of their collection as nonfiction. Some see the library as an important source for entertainment for people who can’t afford to rent videos. Your decision should be directly related to the needs and interests of your patrons and community. The same is true of school libraries. With limited budgets, the mission of the library must come first. Although it would be fun to watch a blockbuster video, educational video must be the priority.

Go to Al Gore – Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. Think about how fiction and nonfiction titles can be enhanced through the use of technology features.

Replace versus Expand

The electronic database is dated, the CD is scratched, or the DVD is cracked. Should it be replaced? Sometimes rather than selecting new items, your collection activities revolve around replacing items. At the time the item was purchased, it addressed a particular need in the collection. However before repurchasing the material, it's a good idea to examine the collection again. Does the audio or video have lasting value? Or, was it purchased to meet a popular demand that has fallen off? This often happens with "hot" movies and music CDs that quickly reach a peak. If the title is instructional such as a "how-to" woodworking video or informative such as a social issues documentary, do you have enough depth in the area already? For example, you may have several tapes on exercise and sign language, but only one on learning Japanese. Determine whether there is a newer title available with more up-to-date information. Also, does it make more sense to purchase the replacement in another format? You make have some great titles in books-on-tape, but it might be time to replace them with digital copies.

Go to Cinderella. You probably have lots of versions of Cinderella. Think about how the app could expand your offerings.

Consider All Areas

It’s unlikely that you’re an expert in every area of electronic materials. As a result, it’s important to explore all the areas of your collection and the needs of your patrons.

Genres. Consider a broad range of genres. Just with selecting books, the librarian needs to be aware of personal bias. If you’re drawn to romantic comedies, your patrons might miss out on some quality historical fiction films. A good representation of comedies, westerns, musicals, dramas, and action adventures is important. The same is true of musical genres from jazz and New Age to rap and bluegrass. It’s easy to get caught selecting based on personal preference rather than patron need.

Go to Fam Barm: Go To Have Music. Think about how this type of app could expand your music offerings.

Collections. Consider representation from a broad range of serious and popular filmmakers and composers from past and present. For example, you might include a DVD collection of the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille, or more recent directors. Also consider foreign and independent film titles. The same is true for music and audiobooks. People are always looking for series of books and the same is true of electronic materials. A set of Broadway musical DVDs, the entire Harry Potter series on audiobook, or the many Pokemon Nintendo games may be popular as a group.

Go to Britannica Kids Apps Series. Notice the variety of titles available.

Subject Areas. Consider materials from across subject areas. Follow the pattern of the library’s cataloging system as you look for nonfiction materials. Some areas will have more electronic resources than others. For example, science and history are two areas where an abundance of video materials can be found to support the rest of the collection. How-to’s in the area of home repair, cooking, crafts, and sports are another good area of exploration. Finally, performance videos on topics such as sports, concerts, and plays can be found.

Go to Shakespeare in Bits. Consider how these types of titles could be used with youth studying Shakespeare.

Patrons. Consider electronic resources for specific ages groups and populations. Although there are many popular children’s videos, there are also some exceptional educational programs that should be examined. In addition, consider videos that might be of interest to specific populations such as sports fans. English as a second language audios as well as materials for special populations and alternative views should be considered.

Go to SimplePhysics. Think about what specific library user might be attracted to this type of app.

Collection Development Policy Development

Most libraries already have a collection development policy in place. However, it’s important that this policy be updated regularly to ensure it reflects current practices, changes in law, and emerging technology.

Explore each of the following elements of a collection development policy.

Purpose/Mission. Start with purpose. What’s the mission of the library? How does it fit into larger groups such as the school or community?

Patrons. Describe the demographics of the center users. What are their needs? For school libraries consider the children as well as the teachers. Provide a statement about the size of the population, age range, ethnic and racial makeup, socioeconomic makeup, and languages spoken. How are special needs accommodated? Consider a statement about varied formats to meet individual differences.

Materials. What materials (i.e., books, audio, video, computer software, equipment) are housed and supported in the collection? What’s the purpose of each resource? What areas will be included: fiction/nonfiction, children/young adult, popular, informational, specific interests, special collections, special needs?

Structure. Discuss the organizational structure of the library and who is responsible of different aspects of selection and collection management.

Budget. Provide an overview of the budget structure. Describe the percentage of the materials budget spent on various materials including audio and video. Many libraries base the budget on circulation. In other words, if the videos are 20 percent of the library’s total circulation, then 20 percent of the materials budget should go to video purchases.

Selection Methods. Describe factors in selection such as funding, cost/benefit, relevance, effectiveness, artistic merit, aesthetic appeal, technical quality, and content quality. State the specific selection criteria for different material types such as print, audio, and video. Describe the selection procedure.

Selection Tools. State the tools used in selecting titles such as journal reviews, online reviews, prizes and awards, word-of-mouth, catalogs, personal evaluations, and consultation. What materials will be used in the selection process?

Collection Composition. Describe the makeup of the collection terms of fiction/nonfiction, child/young adult, entertainment/educational/ informational, special populations, and special collections. State how materials will be selected in particular subject areas. Will priority be given to favorably reviewed or highly recommended items? What about materials that address a specific need to balance the collection or address a specific curriculum standard? How will requests be handled?

Languages. Discuss the language of the collection. Is the primary language of the collection English? Will materials be purchased to meet the needs of patron groups? For example, Spanish language materials may be acquired in some areas. Or, foreign language titles may be purchased with subtitles.

Formats. Identify the formats that will be supported by the library. Will the formats be dependent on the needs of patrons? What about the availability of equipment? Will you include DVDs, CD, and multimedia kits? Some older formats may still be available, but will new materials be purchased?

Reformatting. Describe the center’s position on reformatting materials. For example, will old slides be digitized? Exceptional materials may be reformatted (if unavailable commercially in a supported format) when age or damage prevent circulation of the original.

Replacement. Describe what will happen to lost or damaged items. Will they automatically be replaced? Replacement decisions are often based on demand, copies held, existing coverage of area, and availability of item.

Publication Date. Discuss currency issues. In most cases, emphasis is placed on acquiring new titles (within the past five years) rather than retrospective materials. However materials may be replaced as needed.

Acquisition. Discuss how materials are acquired. What distributors (vendors) will be used? How will items be ordered and tracked? How will items be processed?

Gifts and Donations. Describe the process for dealing with gifts and donations. Be sure to state that only legally acquired materials will be accepted as gifts.

Cataloging and Classifying. State how materials will be cataloged and classified. In most cases, all items including audio and video should be fully cataloged, classified and filed in the electronic cataloging system.

Physical Space. State how materials will be organized. Where will the collection be placed? Some libraries choose to separate special collections such as audio and video, while others intershelve them. If they are separate, how will patrons find out about the availability of a media resource? How will the items be stored, displayed, and arranged? How are security issues addressed?

Circulation. State how materials will be circulated including length of loan period, how many can be borrowed concurrently, fees, and interlibrary loan policy. For example, some libraries use a one or two-tiered approach to circulation of videos such as two to three days for fiction and a week for nonfiction. What is the time limit? How many books, audios, or videos may a patron check out at a time? What’s the age limitation for use of the collection or any part of the collection? Can hardware be checked out? Are directions provided for its use? What are the overdue fines? How are these collected? What is the replacement or damage policy? Is it a sliding scale based on use or replacement cost? Are items available on interlibrary loan?

Collection Mapping and Circulation Statistics. Describe how the collection will be tracked. How often will inventories be done? Discuss how circulation statistics will be kept. What other data will be collected?

Copyright Policy. State how the library will address the copyright law. For example, the library will not knowingly acquire materials that have been copied without the authorization of the copyright holder. Be sure to include a statement that materials will be circulated based on the requirements of the producer’s licensing agreements. For example, faculty may place personal copies on reserve as long as they meet the Copyright Law.

Access. State how materials will be accessed. Many people include the ALA Library Bill of Rights in this section. Be sure to consider special sections for audio and video access. Visit Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials for ideas. Also, adopt the ALA Freedom to View and Freedom to Read statement. Include a statement about access of minors

OutsidersReconsideration Policy. State the reconsideration policy. What if a parent objects to the book The Outsiders? What if another parent challenges the DVD version?

Be sure that the policy can be adapted for use with audio and video materials. Visit ALA's Challenged Material section for ideas.

Weeding. Discuss how items will be withdrawn from the collection. To maintain an active collection, materials should be periodically re-examined based on the selection criteria. In addition, issues such as lack of use, physical damage, accuracy, and datedness should be considered.

Evaluation. State how materials will be systematically reviewed. Collection development is an ongoing process. The collection will be constantly evaluated in terms of performance, currency, content inclusion, scope and depth of coverage, and popularity.

Selecting Electronic Materials

Selection is the process of choosing those materials that will be added to the collection. How will you decide which titles to purchase? Will you choose audio and video based on their educational, cultural, and/or artistic value? Or, will they be based on pleasure and entertainment value? How does the mission of your center impact your choices?

i spyIn schools, your electronic materials choices should be based upon curriculum goals and matched with the hardware and software you already own. They should also meet a need that is not already being met through other means.

If you're focusing on purchases for a public library setting, consider complementing the school collection with selections that combine information, learning, and fun such as I Spy: Spooky Manison Deluxe.

Let's take the award-winning video Are You a Bully? Test as an example. This 23 minute live-action film would be a great way to begin a discussion with youth about bullying. However before making the purchase, talk with teachers who might be interested in using the film. What are their thought? Do they need this time of film or do they already have quality resources in this area?

Selection Considerations

From DVDs to mobile apps, it’s easy to get caught up in the glitz of educational software. “Bells and whistles” such as bright color, clever animation, and interesting background music don’t necessarily mean that a product will be effective in the classroom. These extras may distract the learner rather than focus on a learning goal.

Before you buy, determine whether the product fits your needs. Producers often have useful information at their websites.

Needs Assessment

Living Books BoxBegin with a needs assessment. If you're focusing on increasing fluency in reading, consider interactive books such as Just Grandma and Me (shown on the left). These are available on DVD or as mobile apps.

What software do you currently own? What do you do with this software? Next, consider the units you are planning for the near future. What kinds of activities are you planning? What types of materials will you and your students need to accomplish the goals of your unit?

Do you already have other types of materials such as books or videos that will fit the need, or would the computer environment be more effective for the concept you are trying to teach? Where do you need additional software?

By exploring your needs, you’re better prepared to make informed decisions about software purchases. You’re also less likely to buy on impulse if you have a list of those areas where you really need additional resources.

Ease of Use

One important selection consideration often overlooked is ease of use. Software that is difficult to use is unlikely to be used in the classroom. Do you have the time to learn the package? By the time the students learn the package, is there any time to apply the package to the content area?


Explore the features of each software package. For example, are there provisions for printing? What tools are provided for information searches such as menus and indexes? Can the teacher control options such as sound and language? Also determine whether the product is sold individually, in lab packs, network versions, and/or by site licenses to meet your building needs.

As you consider the purchase of a piece of software, look at all the products available. For example, if you’re exploring the animals of the rainforest, there may be many educational software packages on the topic.

Evaluate each piece of software individually and then compare them. You may find that one does a better job for the particular needs of your classroom. Often the software considered to be “best” overall may not fit the needs of your grade or interest level. In addition to quality, also consider the cost. Is it worth paying $100 for a piece of software you may only use once per year? Are there other uses for the software? One reason that creativity tools are so popular is their multiple uses. The same goes for reference resources like electronic encyclopedias. Get the biggest “bang for your buck."


Reading Adventures BoxAfter awhile you’ll get to know the popular educational software producers such as Broderbund, The Learning Company (Reading Adventures shown on right), Microsoft, DK Interactive Learning, Knowledge Adventure, Edmark, Scholasic, Sierra, and Tom Snyder Productions. The software developed by these producers often reflects their particular philosophy about the role of technology in schools. You may find that you like practically everything developed by one producer that shares your educational perspective. For example, Edmark is known for their special needs resources, so their software is particularly good for meeting individual needs of students.

It's easy to get caught up in the marketing of educational software. Popular children's characters from PBS series, Disney, and children's books can be found on software. Try to focus on activities rather than on the glitz.

The area of software publishing for schools and libraries is remarkably small given the huge market. Over the past several years, some of the smaller companies have been purchased by larger groups making the pool even smaller.

Thousands of local distributors are available, but the pricing of software doesn't vary much. Do a quick check on Amazon or Academic Superstore to compare prices before purchasing.

Many of the publisher websites provide free trial versions or demonstrations that can be downloaded for free. Sometimes these have been noted in the descriptions.

General Software Publishers. You are probably aware of some of the big software producers.

Educational Software Publishers. Although thousands of different groups publish software for children and young adults. A few are listed below.

batsReview Sources

Although some specialty review sources exist, begin with your standard review sources for children and young adults such as Horn Book, School Libraryy Journal, and others.

Go to Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night. Think about how reviews for electronic materials are like and different from book reviews.

Software Evaluation

Before you invest in a piece of software, try it. You may not be able to do an extensive evaluation on every piece of software, but it's important to at least preview the materials before purchasing.

At the lowest level, you may only have time for a general screening. By opening and exploring each option in the package, you at least get a feel for the program's capabilities.

It's better to spend some time with the software and use your professional judgment to determine whether it will really be effective in your classroom. Explore the quality of content, reading level, instructional strategies applied, and flexibility of the program.  If you have time, the highest level of evaluation is best. An extensive evaluation involves examining all aspects of the program from multiple perspectives.

Clifford BoxTake a software package like Clifford Learning Activities (shown on the left). Explore the program from the point of view of various students in your class, consider it from different teaching/learning perspectives, look at the technical aspects of the program, as well as the software's aesthetic qualities. Examine the screen design, program structure, and instructional approaches.

Consider all the ways the software could be integrated into your classroom. This type of evaluation takes time, but it will help determine whether it's worth the time and expense to purchase and integrate the software.

It’s best to use a formal set of criteria to examine all aspects of the software, but it’s worthwhile if you can only spend a few minutes exploring the features. Some technology stores provide areas for evaluation. In addition, technology conferences often provide exhibits and testing workshops. Many areas have educational agencies sponsored by counties or the state that provide collections of educational software available for checkout and evaluation.

You may not be able to personally evaluate every piece of software you purchase. In some cases, you may need to rely on the advice of others. One of your best sources of information is colleagues who teach classes similar to yours. You can also use journal articles and professional reviews.

Be sure to explore the website for the software package. In many cases there's a wealth of materials that are helpful in integrating the package into your curriculum.

An easy way to evaluate software is by simply listing strengths, weaknesses, and possible uses. However, if you'd like to conduct a more formal evaluation consider developing a selection policy and software evaluation form. You'll need to consider both the content of the software, as well as the format and technical aspects.

try itTry It!
Go to  Children's Technology Review. Many schools and libraries subscribe to their publication. This is a well-known blog that has been evaluating technology for many years.

Areas of Evaluation

It's difficult to design an evaluation form that could be used for all types of software. Instead, consider developing a general form with components that deal with each type of software: informational, instructional, and creativity.

Below are some topics to consider when developing an evaluation form. Identify those areas you think are most important.

Name of Program
Package Contents
Subject Areas
Type of Software
Hardware Specs
Prerequisite Skills
Grouping Options
Age Level
Program Objectives

Content Aspects
Use of Examples
Search Tools
Info Accuracy
Reading Level

Technical Aspects
Ease of Use
Unique Attributes
Packaging Quality

Support Aspects
Technical Docs
Teacher Resources
Student Activities
Additional Media

Information Presentation
Screen Design
Functional Areas
Visual Appeal

Instructional Aspects
Lesson Sequence
Learner Control
Use of Student Input
Levels of Difficulty
Instructional Strategies

Motivational Aspects
Display aesthetics
Learner Control
Ease of Use
Student Appeal
Social Aspects

Productivity Aspects
Ease of Use
Ruler Control
Text Options
Color Options
Drawing Tools
Selection Tools
Calculation Tools
Graphing Tools
Interactive Tools
Animation Tools
Sound Tools
Video Tools
Printing Options

Website Evaluation

Students, teachers, and librarians need skills in evaluating, selecting, and integrating Internet resources into their classroom projects. There are many sites that can help you learn to critically evaluate web resources.

With thousands of web pages available on every topic imaginable, how do you decide which are best for your classroom? Careful evaluation is the key. You don’t need thirty web pages for a project. In most cases, you need to find three sites that contain accurate, useful information. Librarians have always done a great job evaluating materials for the library. The selection criteria used for evaluating books and videos can be applied to Internet resources and expanded to focus on some of the unique aspects of web materials. Let’s explore some key issues in selecting web sites for your classroom.

Goal of Site. Consider the purpose of the site. Is the goal stated? Is the mission served? Does the site possess literary, artistic, or social value? Does the goal match your needs? If you're seeking a great website that explores paintings, artists, and galleries, try BBC's Your Paintings.

Appropriateness of Site. Think about the grade level and ability level of your student. Is the site focused at an appropriate reading level? Is the site free of inappropriate language or graphics? Is any bias or opinion easy for students to identify and discuss? Does the site foster respect for all people including women, minorities, ethnic groups, disabled, and aged? Does the site reflect a culturally diverse, pluralistic society? Does the site reflect global awareness? Given the maturity of your students, can they "handle" the content of this site? Go to the ABOUT page at a website to find out the purpose of the website and how it's intended to be used. For instance, the iCivics About page describes the website contents and how they might be used to prepare young Americans as 21st century citizens.

Accuracy. The quality of information is critical. Is the information credible? Is the information fact or opinion? Is supporting material provided? Are associated links provided? Do the links work? Is a web master listed? Can this person be contacted? Is the site well-maintained and frequently updated? Are comments requested? These are things that can help you make a decision about accuracy. For example, if the site originates at a Presidential Library and is frequently updated, it is probably more reliable than a site sponsored by an individual without any special skills or resources. If I were looking for information on Elvis Presley, I’d go straight to the official site in Graceland rather than the “Recent Elvis Sightings” page.

Scope & Sequence of Content. Examine the scope and sequence of information. Is the content well-organized? Is the breathe of coverage appropriate? Is information presented in a logical order? The Presidential Libraries area at the National Archives is easy to use. Readers can learn about the libraries, visit the libraries, explore documents or learn about White House transcripts.

Depth of Content. Consider the depth of the content. Is the site thorough? Are links provided for expansion? Are they good? Is the site complete? Does the site provide "real-world" applications? If your students are studying business, the Internet is an excellent tool. Rather than reading dated information from a textbook, students can track the current status of any company from Apple Computer to Burger King using resources such as the CNN Money. This resource provides annual reports, statistics, graphs, and charts.

Screen Design. Another important consideration is screen design. If the lettering is too small or the background too cluttered, the page will be hard to use. Ask yourself: Are elements such as navigation tools consistent? Are functional areas provided so you can consistently find the same link options in the same place on the page? Do backgrounds and animations contribute rather than distract? Are the font styles and sizes easy to read? Are graphics large enough to see? Are graphics small enough to load fast? The Newseum website uses thumbnail images of the front pages of newspapers to navigate.

Aesthetics. Web pages should have interest and appeal. Is the site easy to use? Does the site have visual appeal? Are the graphics worth the wait? Is the site of interest to the imagination, senses, and intellect? Is the site interesting, stimulating, and engaging? Is the site thought provoking? The National Geographic Kids website is attractive and easy for youth to navigate.

Technical Aspects. Explore the technical aspects of each page. Does the site run without error? Are directions provided for downloads? Does loading take a reasonable amount of time? Do most browsers work with the site? Is a text-only option provided? Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. The Charters of Freedom website allows readers to zoom in to read documents or download them.

Accessibility. Examine the site for ease of access. Is the site available and easily loaded? Is the site restricted through password or subscriptions? For example, Journey North is a popular project for children tracking the migration of the monarch butterfly. There are different levels of involvement with the project. People can join for free or pay a subscription fee for additional resources and levels of access and involvement.

Navigation. Consider the ease of movement within the site. Is it easy to move between pages? Could you easily return to previous parts of the site? Is an easy-to-use table of contents or index provided? Were links clearly described? Were page lengths kept short to limit options and confusion? The National Gallery of Art uses the layout of the sculpture garden as an easy to follow guide through the site.

Real-World Applications. Consider whether the site contains authentic resources. Does it blend theory and practice? Are there real-world applications of the information? Is the content relevant? Is the site fun? Let’s say you’ve just completed a unit on botany. Students have learned about the parts of the plant and how plants grow. You might take them to Kid’s Garden Tour to connect botany with gardening.

Mediums. Explore the channels of communication represented in the web site. Does it contain text, graphics, photos, maps, charts, tables, timelines, historical documents, audio, video, and animation? Do you need varied channels of communication for your topic? For example if you’re studying the anatomy of a human body, a human body simulation.

As you evaluate websites look for what’s practical. Sometimes a simple website has quality information. Look beyond the flashy entry page and consider content first.

Look for variety:

Website Selection for Educators

As you select sites for use in your curriculum, be realistic and practical. Do you really need the Internet? Would other resources work faster or better? Why the Internet? For example using the Internet version of the dictionary can be a waste of time unless you have a computer nearby. If you need to look up the word frog, why not just use the old fashioned paper dictionary? On the other hand, if you’re looking for the sounds of frogs and pictures of frogs from around the world then the Internet is a logical choice. The Froggy site provides everything a student would need for a frog project.

On the other hand, there are many practical reference resources on the Internet. The Library Spot provides a good starting point for online references such as language dictionaries, global yellow pages, almanacs, conversion tables, and other useful information. 

Select only quality information resources. With thousands of choices, pick only the best. If it's not good, don't use it. Ask yourself: Does it fit your curriculum? Does it meet student needs? Is it written at the right level for your students? For example, the Windows to the Universe website site would be too difficult for younger children, but just right for middle school.

Consider the reading level of your students. If they can't read it, don't use it. Are students skimming or reading? Are the illustrations helpful? What are students doing with the information? Ask students to use the “five finger rule” of reading and web sites. As they read through a site, they should hold up a finger for each word they don’t know. If they reach five fingers before the end of a page, the site may be too difficult. Although students may be able to use the pictures or videos, the text may be beyond their comprehension. Check out the Enchanted Learning website also known as Zoom School. This website is popular with teachers seeking good content at an easier reading level than most websites.

Match the interest level of your children with the Internet site. Internet should be motivating. Can Internet bring added interest and excitement to a topic? Can you match student interests with Internet resources? For example if you’re beginning a unit on biographies, read about athletes a tSports Illustrated for Kids.

Compare the maturation level of your students with the information in each site. Most Internet resources are written for adults. Is the information written at your level? Is inappropriate information included? Is it "over" their heads?

Select timely topics for your activities on the Internet. Use Internet for "one-shot" timely topics such as an election or the Olympics. The Iditarod is an annual sled dog race. Many classes read a book such as Dog Song or Stone Fox as they follow the race live on the web.

Internet is best for current information not available in other formats such as the latest economic, weather, and human conflict news. You can find out about conflicts in places like South America and Africa that are often ignored in North American newspapers.

Internet provides first-hand information not available elsewhere such as primary materials, historic documents, real data, and personal interviews. The National Archives Documents site provides the entire document, not just an excerpt, which is often the case with a textbook. The use of authentic documents such as letters, diaries, and journals is becoming increasingly popular in schools. The National Archives has an online Digital Classroom that contains primary source materials and lots of great lesson ideas.

Steven’s Institute of Technology is a great source for links to primary sources and real-time datasites.

Help students focus on relevant information by providing evaluation tools, lists of sample sites, keywords, and leading questions.

Even without a networked classroom computer, you can use Internet resources. Consider printing out activities. They can be laminated or placed in notebooks.

Use the Internet for remediation and challenge. There are many websites where students can practice their basic skills. Teachers can develop and post quizzes or use one of the thousands of quizzes already available at websites uch as FunBrain.

Consider the following areas:

Selection Criteria

When selecting electronic materials materials, you’ll probably start with some general criteria, then identify specific criteria based on the particular media type.

Although the criteria will vary from library to library, the following resources will help you get started.


Need and Usage

Content Quality

Technical Quality

Packaging Quality

Specific Media

ookeedokeeAudio Books. Add some of the following items: Does the book expand the thinking of the reader? Does the material lend itself to the medium? Is the narrator effective? Is the spoken word and cadence effective? Is the tone and tension of the voice effective? Does the voice bring the story alive?

Look for innovative uses of audio. For example, the ALA notable audiobook called Can You Canoe? by the Okee Dokee Brothers offers a unique experience through music, storytelling, and video on this Mississippi River adventure album. 

Video. Add some of the following items: Will this format be used (i.e., download, DVD)? Do the users have convenient access to a player? Is this the best medium for the message? Does this duplicate something available at the local video store? Is it worth the price?

Software Criteria

The following ideas will help you develop a checklist for software evaluation:

Content Considerations
As you evaluate software, consider content. The software should ...
Support a specific objective or set of objectives in the district/library’s guidelines.
Meet the needs of teachers for flexible, user-friendly information resources that can be integrated into the curriculum (i.e., instructional styles, preferences, & priorities). 
Address learner needs and individual differences in physical, social, developmental, and emotional maturity (i.e., learning styles, skills, interests).
Meet instructional design standards. 
Present information in well-organized, challenging, and stimulating style.
Provide valid and complete information from reliable sources. 
Provide indepth breadth of coverage for age levels. 
Sequence information in a logical order.
Possess literary, artistic, or social value. 
Appeal to imagination, senses, and intellect. 
Foster respect for all people including women, minorities, ethnic groups, disabled, and elderly. 
Reflect a culturally diverse, pluralistic society and promote global awareness.
Balance opposing views of a controversial topic using factual and unbiased perspectives.

Technical and Format Considerations
As you evaluate software, consider technical and format design. The software should ...
Meet acceptable production standards of quality. 
Run without errors that disrupt program function. 
Be easy to install and use.
Provide documentation to support program installation and operation. 
Be compatible with your hardware, network, and system.
Provide user-friendly search capabilities that provide optimal access to information.
Provide searches in reasonable time. 
Provide flexible means to navigate and search.
Incorporate principles of effective screen design including readability, legibility, consistency, and use of functional areas. 
Allow you to vary the font size for easier reading.
Provide means of printing or downloading.
Be the best format for the information.

Sample Educational Software Evaluation Tool


Title of Software:_________________________________

Grade Level:______________

Content Aspects
SA A D SD NA The content is accurate.
SA A D SD NA The objectives meet my curriculum needs.
SA A D SD NA The reading level and vocabulary is appropriate for intended user.
SA A D SD NA The program has various levels of instruction for varied abilities.

Technical Aspects
SA A D SD NA Uses the unique capabilities of the computer.
SA A D SD NA Sound can be turned off.
SA A D SD NA Maintains a record of student performance/progress.
SA A D SD NA Instructions are clear.
SA A D SD NA User can skip over familiar instructions.

SA A D SD NA Graphics and sound add to effectiveness of the program.
SA A D SD NA Screen format is well planned and consistent.
SA A D SD NA Difficulty of instruction adjusts according to student response.
SA A D SD NA Feedback is effective and appropriate.
SA A D SD NA Students can access menu to change activities.
SA A D SD NA Responds to errors effectively.

SA A D SD NA Documentation is clear and comprehensive.
SA A D SD NA Print materials are provided for students.
SA A D SD NA Additional learning activities are suggested in the documentation.

SA A D SD NA The program is easy to use.
SA A D SD NA The students will like the program.

Three things I liked about the software:

Three things I disliked about the software:

My Overall Recommendation


Acquiring Electronic Materials

Electronic materials are acquired and processed just like an other material found in the library. Once you've selected items you're ready to purchase, it's time to focus on acquiring, cataloging, and processing materials.

videoWatch It!
Watch the YouTube video Buffy Hamilton on the Arrival and Setup of The Unquiet Library's New Kindles to see one library's experience processing Kindle e-book readers.

Before Ordering

As you explore catalogs and online sources, verify that you're ordering the correct item. Computer software comes in different formats such as Mac and Windows. It also comes in different media such as CDs and DVDs. There may also be different versions such as "basic edition" "school edition" or "deluxe edition". There can also be old and new versions.

There are many options for software purchase. Before you jump into a purchase explore the options. Ask yourself:

As you explore alternatives for purchasing software, consider the following options.

Suites and Grouped Software. In many cases, software is bundled together into suites or special purchase packages. For example, Adobe Suite includes Dreamweaver, Freehand, Fireworks, and Flash among other software. Although you may not need all the software at the moment, it may be more cost effective in the long run. For example, Dreamweaver users quickly find that Fireworks is a nice companion for Dreamweaver. Grouped education software is also common. For instance, you might find a series of Reader Rabbit software at a special price. Electronic databases are often discounted the more features you purchase.

Education or Library Special Buy. Some companies provide a special software package and purchase price for individual copies. Before you buy, be certain that this software is fully functioning. Some educator packages contain fewer features or special restrictions. Sometimes the education edition comes with free materials such as lesson plans or school templates. If the functions meet your needs, this can certainly save you money.

School Pack. A "school pack" can mean many things. In most cases, the package includes multiple copies of the software CD. This usually means from 2-10 copies. In many cases, the pack comes with only one set of documentation.

Lab Pack. A "lab" pack is intended for use in a computer lab or a mobile set of laptops or tablets, so it generally contains from 10-30 copies of the software. Many times a system is available that provides better pricing for larger purchases.

Site License. A "site license" is intended for a particular building or district. Sometimes it allows installation and use of the software on any computer within a particular physical area. Be sure to make certain that the license applied to your need. For example, does it apply to the "portable classrooms" next to the main building. Or, does it apply to library branches as well as the main library. In some cases, the price is based on the total number of computers, students, or teachers in a school district. Also ask if teachers or librarians are free to take the computer software home.

Network License. A "network license" allows your organization to place the software on a computer network that can be accessed by any computer within particular parameters. Sometimes, the software is restricted to so many "simultaneous" users. In other words, you may have 200 computers in your building, but your network license may only allow thirty computers to use the software at once. Again, ask about restrictions before purchasing a network license. In addition, be sure the software will run on your particular network. In some cases network software can be slow, consider a trial that allows you to do some testing before committing to purchase.

crayon physicsWeb Considerations. Increasingly, software is offered over larger networks such as the Internet. Be sure that you check restrictions before opening any networked software to be accessed from the web. For example, are students allowed to access the electronic encyclopedia on the school computer from home? Can local patrons access electronic databases from their home computers?

Also, look for whether the publisher provides additional resources online. For instance Crayon Physics is a great software package that includes a blog at the software website. They also have a way to subscribe to updates.

Apps. Many blogs are available that review mobile apps. Explore some of the following resources for ideas:

Visual ThesaurusTrials. Trial versions are intended for software evaluation. In some cases the software is fully functioning but becomes unusable after a period of time such as 30 days. Sometimes, the program has some options such as printing or saving disabled.

If you've used a trial version of a software package on your computer, it's a good idea to uninstall the program before installing the purchased package.

Browse a review of the CD-ROM software Visual Thesaurus from School Library Journal. Then, go to the Visual Thesaurus website. Try to demo. Explore to options for purchase. What are the pros and cons of each option?

Acquiring Materials

The process of acquiring the items will vary depending on specific guidelines for purchasing set up by the fiscal agent of your institution. Most centers use purchase orders, but some libraries require a requisition be completed first. Larger organizations may have open accounts and charge cards available for purchases.
A series of steps should be followed in the acquisition of electronic materials.

Verify Item. Check the bibliographic information for the item, identify present holdings, check availability. Double check the format (i.e., CD, DVD, download).

Place Order. Select a distributor, complete the requisition and/or purchase order form, send the order

Receive Order. Match items to packing slip before opening the shrink wrap. Compare order with invoice. Do a “quick viewing” to be sure the product matches the packaging and it is not damaged. Check for backorders. Maintain record of receipt of materials.

Test Order. Discs commonly have manufacturer defects. Do a quick check before processing.

Cataloging Electronic Materials

Once materials have been acquired, they'll need to be added to your collection.

videoWatch It!
Watch the YouTube video Kindle in the Library to see how one library added the Kindle device MARC record in Destiny Library Manager. You can also watch a video on the topic How The Unquiet Library is Cataloging the Actual Kindle eReader Device. A lot has changed since these videos were produced, but they should give you a feel for the overall approach.

Cataloging Materials

Cataloging your electronic materials is easy. Use the same procedures as with print materials. Like print materials, you can use online resources to locate MARC records. Use the title main entry rather than the author main entry. Use the same subject headings as with books.

Many busy librarians choose to have their cataloging and part of their processing done by the vendor. As a result, the cataloging process may only involve editing the MARC record provided on disk or online. Other librarians will go through the process of cataloging and classifying the item. Most librarians now do full cataloging on all items including software and include them in the automated catalog.

Some libraries use code prefixes in the call numbers.

Go to Cataloging and Processing Specifications for examples.

MARC Records

MARC records for electronic materials are available on the Internet three ways. First, you can subscribe to a large organization such as OCLC online. Many libraries use the copy that provides their automation system such as Follett. Second, you can purchase your materials preprocessed from audio or video vender. Third, you can search the web for MARC records. For example, many libraries have their catalogs online. Some producers provide MARC records for free.

Learn more about MARC standards at Library of Congress and OCLC.

Read Where's Waldo: An OPAC Adventure by Karen Steinberger.
Karen provides a wonderful walk-through MARC records related to the Where's Waldo books and software.

PBS Teacher Source provides MARC records for PBS programming you tape off-air. Examine the MARC record for Newton's Dark Secrets.

try itTry It!
Try World Cat at
For the complete MARC record, explore the records provided by different libraries.

try itTry It!
Go to the Library of Congress: Old Catalog or Library of Congress New Online Catalog for a software example such as SimCity or Kidspiration. Do a search for "Freddi Fish" to see many different electronic resources in this series of software for kids.

try itTry It!
Some online sales websites provide MARC records. For instance, go to Recorded Books. A MARC button is provided for their items such as Nancy Drew: The Clue in the Library eAudiobook in the .mrc MARC file format.

try itTry It!
If you're not having any luck finding a particular title, try doing a Google Search for the title plus MARC record such as Divergent audiobook MARC record. Sometimes you'll need to look for the MARC record button on the page to display the record. Go to Noblenet for an example. The MARC RECORD link is in the lower left corner.

Software Cataloging Basics

Let's explore some basics.

Go to Divergent (sound recording) for an example.

Chief Source. Start with the item itself including the (CD-Audio, DVD, CD-ROM) title and/or startup screens. Next, examine the label and container if they are original elements of the package. Other materials include accompanying material, other packaging, and finally other resources.

Statement of Responsibility. Usually the producer can be listed.

Publication Area. Use the name of the publisher (or distributor), date of publication (or distribution, release, version (such as Mac OSX).

Notes. These can be extensive. Included form, language, statements of responsibility, edition, publication, physical description, accompanying material, series, audience, summary, contents, numbers, copies

Description. Use computer file, video recording, or sound recording, whichever is most descriptive. If you want to be very descriptive you can use 1 computer laser optical disc for a CD. Others just use the word compact disc.

MARC Tag. Include the following areas of the MARC record:

  1. 245 Title and statement of responsibility
  2. 250 Edition statement
  3. 260 Publication and distribution information
  4. 300 Physical description
  5. 4XX Series statement
  6. 5XX Notes (system requirements)
  7. 6XX Subject access
  8. 7XX Tracings
  9. 8XX Series

If you're forced to make your own for class and you haven't taken cataloging, use the following model to "fill in" and do your best. This is an example from Library of Congress.

245 00  |a Scooby-Doo! and the spooky swamp.
250 __  |a Wii.
260 __  |a Burbank, CA :  |b WB Games :  |b Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, |c [2010]
300 __  |a 1 computer optical disc :  |b sd., col. ;  |c 4 3/4 in.
500 __  |a Title from container.
500 __  |a 1-2 players.
500 __  |a "Warning: If you have epilepsy or have had seizures or other unusual reactions to flashing lights or patterns, consult a doctor before playing this game."--Video game container.
520 __  |a "Play as any character at any time to solve the mystery"--Video game container.
521 8_  |a ESRB rating: E 10+, everyone 10+ (animated blood, comic mischief, cartoon violence).
538 __  |a System requirements: Nintendo Wii.
650 _0  |a Scooby-Doo (Fictitious character)  |v Computer games.
655 _0  |a Video games.
710 2_  |a WB Games (Firm)
710 2_  |a Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
710 2_  |a Copyright Collection (Library of Congress)  |5 DLC
753 __  |a Nintendo Wii
906 __  |a 0  |b cbc  |c copycat  |d u  |e ncip  |f 20  |g y-movingim
955 __  |b qm03 2011-02-23 z-processor

Use the following resource to locate MARC records for nonbook items.

If you're looking for MARC records related to electronic materials, try the catalogs of the following libraries:

Read Cataloging Electronic Resources: OCLC MARC Coding Guidelines and browse Remove Access Electronic Serials.
Create your own quick reference sheet for cataloging electronic resources.

try itTry It!
Open the Provider-Neutral E-Resource MARC Record Guide:P-N/RDA version (2013). It's a Word document that you can use to take your own notes. For more ideas, go to the Library of Congress: Cataloging and Acquisitions page or the Library of Congress: MARC page.

Processing Materials

The desire to preserve your collection should be balanced with patron needs for access. You can eliminate some problems with damage by carefully packaging items before circulation. Removing extra items, putting small pieces in zip locks, and repackaging flimsy items can save time and money later.

Firmly affix labels on DVD's, CDs, and other materials that will go into machines. Or, use permanent markers or stamps instead. A list of the contents on the lid of the container will help too. Consider whether people will be returning items in a drop box and whether they will fit. Carefully packaging and processing will extend the life of a media collection. Explore creative ways to store and circulate items to encourage their use.

From ripped book pages to CD scratches, all materials deteriorate over time. Establish criteria for what constitutes normal wear and tear. Continually assess media. Develop a consistent policy for dealing with damaged items. A fair policy will encourage reporting of damage and reduce frustrations. If there are penalties, they need to be clear and posted. When an item is damaged or lost, there should be a process to determine whether it will be repaired or replaced.

Processing involves getting the material ready to put on the shelf. Developing a processing procedure can save time. Special considerations need to be taken with each media type.
Identification. Be sure to carefully label all the materials that come with the item. For example, place stamps on both the tape and the accompanying materials. It's safe to use a felt-tip permanent marker on a CD or DVD. Do not use a ballpoint pen. Adhesive labels aren't a good idea on CDs and DVDs. They can easily be caught in players.

Packaging. Audio and video materials often need to be repackaged or re-enforced. Sometimes, empty cases are placed on display. The original DVDs or CDs are kept behind the desk in notebooks and/or plastic sleeves. Some libraries have innovative programs where they place audiobooks in plastic carrying bags or entire thematic kits in inexpensive backpacks. Check out the Buddy Family Backpack Project website. Be sure to circulate items in a rigid case such as a "jewel-case" rather than a flimsy plastic sleeve.

Security & Barcode. Many libraries require a security strip and inventory barcode. It's important to identify a standard location for these labels that doesn't interfere with reading directions or using the software.

Reminders. Place copyright warning on item. Add a label reminding people to rewind tapes.

Other Items. Add labels, pockets, cards as needed. 
Processing Services. When selecting a service consider what they offer. If you order from a library service, they may provide MARC records, bar code labels and everything you need to process the materials for various automation systems.

videoWatch It!
Watch the YouTube video Reflections on the Initial Process of Preparing Kindles for Circulation at The Unquiet Library to see how one library is processing e-book readers.

For more videos related to e-book reader processing, go to

Circulating Materials

After processing, how are your library's audio and video programs made accessible to your users? Where are they located, how are they stored, and are any restrictions made for their use?

Housing the Collection

Once your materials have been processed, you need to consider access. Make the materials accessible while weighing issues such as durability and security. The media collection should be placed in a prominent area where it can be seen from the front door to encourage browsing and easy access. Both patrons and staff must be able to access material easily. As you select shelving, keep in mind that you should provide adequate space for five


The placement of media has always been a controversy. It generally comes down to whether or not to intershelve books with audio, video, and other nonprint items. Most libraries now interfile all catalog records in one catalog. Separate printed lists are often developed for convenience such as a list of video games or audiobooks in the collection. However when it comes to shelving, practices vary widely.

A dynamic collection should be easily browsed and retrieved by patrons. Reasons for intershelving include providing all subject materials together saving time in only looking in one area for a single topic. It also eliminates the need for "special" areas. On the other hand, the size of objects can be a problem with intershelving and some people prefer browsing by media. For example, someone might come looking for a video to watch or an audiobook to play in the car. It often comes down to the history of your library. Is there a compelling reason to change from the practice currently being used?

Many libraries integrate their nonfiction audiobook and video titles with their print collection. Fiction videos are then housed together or by genre such as musical, comedy, and action/adventure.


A few tips for care of discs are in order. First, avoid the extremes of either hot or cold and moisture and dryness in their storage and shipping. Cold, freezing conditions can condense or freeze moisture onto the tape and cause damage to both the disc itself and playback machines if use is attempted. Allow DVDs to warm-up if they arrive in a cold or frozen condition.

Avoid exposing the DVDs to dust, dirt, smoke, and grime. Protect from water and especially salt-water exposure. If shooting video at the seashore or on an ocean, take added steps to protect the DVDs and the recording equipment from saltwater corrosion.

Discs should be stored in an upright position on their edge or vertically. Do not store the collection in direct sunlight. Also, keep audios and videos in collection in a cool, dry location.


With easy access and reduced costs, security is no longer a huge problem in most libraries. On the other hand, DVDs are more likely to be a problem because of their small size. If theft is a problem, use a dummy or empty container. Store the actual item in a separate jacket at circulation desk.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Circulating the Collection

Before circulating items, you need to review your procedures for handling audio and video items.

Scan the Guidelines for the Interlibrary Loan of Audiovisual Formats from the American Library Association (ALA)

Consider the following questions:

Maintaining Materials

Once the collection is in place, it's time to think about maintenance, preservation, and de-selection.

Preserving the Collection

Preservation has become an important consideration in maintaining effective technology-rich collections. Films, audiotapes, and videotapes produced more than a few years ago are already showing signs of wear. Many old films and television programs are lost forever because people weren't aware of the importance of preservation. While digital technology won't experience the same problems as film and tape technology, other preservation issues exist. For example when a website goes down, is the information lost forever? Without standards for digital archiving older documents may be exist, but they may not be able to be retrieved. Could you open an old VisiCalc spreadsheet created on an old TRS80 computer? Probably not.

Whether you're concerned about developing an archival collection or just want to maintain your current holding, explore the following links pages to learn more about this important area of media librarianship.

Maintaining the Collection

Maintaining a vital audio and video collection requires ongoing attention.

If you circulate lots of DVDs, you might consider a professional level video cleaning machine.

Generally, CDs and DVDs are very durable. Handle discs by their edge and center hole only. Clean them with a soft, clean, lint free cloth. Water or disc cleaner can also be used. Wipe out from the center to the edge.

Weeding the Collection

Deselecting electronic materials is an important part of collection development.

The skills used to weed a book collection are similar to a media collection. However keep in mind that media collections often require special equipment. When the equipment is no longer available, it's difficult to justify keeping the media.

Skim CREW: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries. How can this be applied to media collections?

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