Columbia University Libraries Develops Open Access Survey Tool for Audio and Moving Image Collection Preservation

NEW YORK, June 24, 2008 Columbia University Libraries has developed and tested a tool to inventory and assess the physical condition of audio and moving image materials. The Preservation Survey Tool for Audio and Moving Image Collections is now available for download to anyone interested in surveying a collection at

The survey tool is designed for use by librarians and archivists who are not media experts. It provides a mechanism for recording quantities and types of audio and moving image materials, documenting the physical condition of the media and their housings, collecting information about existing levels of intellectual control and intellectual property rights, and evaluating their potential research value. Columbia tested the tool by surveying 42,000 items from its own collections.

Applicable either to an item-by-item inventory or a random-sample survey, the survey tool allows for but does not require collection of a great deal of detail about each item. Most fields provide drop-down menus to minimize keying and to assure consistent use of vocabulary. Technical terminology is based on that used by the Audio Engineering Society, Association of Moving Image Archivists, and other relevant organizations.

Survey-wide and collection-specific reports can be generated, as well as lists of collections ranked by research importance and degree of physical damage, and lists of the different media.

Funding to design the tool and carry out the survey of Columbia’s collections was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“Thanks to the Mellon Foundation’s generosity we have a survey tool that gives us a clear understanding of our collection’s condition and identifies the highest priorities. With this information we can now plan the preservation of audio and moving image materials that offer significant value to future researchers, educators, and students,” said Janet Gertz, director of the Preservation & Digital Conversion Division at Columbia University Libraries. “We hope other institutions will find it equally useful.”

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 25 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at is the gateway to its services and resources.

Established in 1974 with responsibility for preserving Columbia University Libraries’ collections in all formats and genres, the Preservation and Digital Conversion Division added digital conversion to its regular operations in 1995. The Division provides a comprehensive program to prolong the existence and accessibility of the collections for current and future students and scholars, by acting to prevent or retard deterioration of physical materials through correct housing and environment; where possible, to improve their condition through conservation treatment; and, as necessary, to change their format in order to preserve their intellectual content, including conversion of analog content to digital form. The Division participates in establishing technical standards for creating digital content and for the accompanying metadata. More information about the Division can be found at


06/24/08 LMK