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University Library Video Collection

The invention of videotape helped to broaden the range of material which could be made available within educational establishments. As a generalisation, the new universities tended to move into this area much more than traditional institutions. The making and holding of off-air recordings is legitimised by a licence issued by the Educational Recording Agency (ERA). This states that recordings are only to be used for the non-commercial educational purposes of the establishment.

Unlike some universities, Warwick University did not choose to select recordings via a centralised point; individual departments arranged to record material via the Audio-visual department (now part of IT Services), and so collections remained scattered throughout campus.

The Department of Film and Television Studies was for obvious reasons the heaviest user of the recording service; the earliest tapes in their collection date from 1983. By 1998 the collection had grown to more than 10,000 tapes, and the space available within the Department became inadequate. It was therefore decided to house the collection within the main Library SRC, giving the additional benefit of widening access to the whole campus community, and for longer opening hours. Material had to be re-catalogued to the format of the Library online catalogue. 99% of the tapes are either films or tv  programmes related to film & television studies, a fact which does cause some disappointment among students of other departments expecting to find documentaries on their subjects. Recordings are searchable on the catalogue either by title, or by inputting the director's name in author search.

The fragility of the medium has been an issue over the years; videotape easily snaps, gets twisted, or becomes so downgraded through repeated use as to be unwatchable. The British Universities' Film & Video Council runs a service to provide new or replacement tapes, but this only covers material broadcast after June 1st 1998. The establishment of DVD as a robust, higher-quality format promises to help alleviate this difficulty. The Audiovisual Department can now record off-air onto DVD; the medium has not yet superseded vhs, mainly because the cost of individual disks is so much higher than blank vhs tapes. The Library now also purchases pre-recorded DVDs.

The BUFVC has recently announced a new digital off-air recording service. Copies can be made (in MPEG2 files) and transcoded to MediaPlayer or QuickTime versions. Copies are burned to CD and delivered to the licensed institution,  where the files can be transferred to a central server for storage, to be accessed only on campus by staff and students. This service has not yet taken off, as it remains more expensive and bureaucratic to use than to simply record in-house.