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History of

Film and Media in Libraries

The use of film in public libraries has a long history nearly as old as the medium itself -- a past we must consider in order to help us better imagine the future of film and media in school, public, and academic libraries.


During the 20th century, as television and film rose in popularity and significance, librarians and educators gradually adapted to society’s shift from a print to visual culture and recognized that audiovisual media, including radio, film, and television, could promote learning.


In CHAPTER 7, we examine the beginnings of film programs in public libraries, where, in the early 1910s, film programs were used to promote the library as well as generate interest in books. During this time, public libraries were shifting from primarily serving academics to catering to the needs and interests of the general public. During this time, debates over the positive and negative influence of the moving image and effects of screens were underway.


How did movies find their place in library collections, from documentary-style educational films to Hollywood blockbusters on VHS tape? Learn about how librarians continue to address changing film and media formats, as they face the rise of streaming services and the tasks of preserving and digitizing physical collections.

Documenting Community History

At the small Everson Branch Library in the state of Washington, the warm and inviting space of the Nooksack Valley Heritage Center (NVHC) continues to fulfill its purpose of actively engaging community members around their own local history.

Volunteers use digital technology to help patrons digitize documents, cassettes, and VHS tapes, and to record their own personal life stories.

Volunteers help patrons with genealogical research on, a database made available throughout the Whatcom County Library System branches.

Another volunteer oversees and updates the display cabinet, refreshing the historical artifacts every quarter. NookChats, a monthly program hosted by local historian Jim Berg features special guests who talk about Nooksack Valley heritage.

The Chats are videotaped and made available on YouTube, thus augmenting the Nooksack Valley historic record by creating and preserving oral interviews. Raw footage is uploaded to YouTube; edited sessions are also shown on local TV.

Learn more about the history of film & media literacy education in public, school and academic libraries:

Hobbs, R., Deslauriers, L. & Steager, P. (2019). The Library Screen Scene: Film and Media Literacy in Schools, Colleges and Communities. New York: Oxford University Press.

History Comes Alive

Community Heritage and History
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