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South Asia Cinema

Collection Development Policy

I. Purpose

The purpose of the film collection is to create a research resource for the academic community interested in the study of cinema in South Asia. The library also supports the instructional and research needs of Penn faculty, students and staff. The collection consists of ½" videocassettes and DVDs. The collection is presently housed in the Van Pelt video collection located at the main circulation desk.

II. Scope of coverage

The collection can be divided into two separate categories: feature films (largely popular cinema) and documentaries.

  • Feature films . The South Asia section collects popular Indian cinema that fits within certain selection criteria: themes such as partition, notable historical events, specific cultural and social issues, important classical films, and films which have a diasporic connection are primarily acquired. From 2012 onwards, the library plans to acquire Indian cinema with an emphasis on films that have won critical or popular awards. The catalog records will note such information, allowing searches by acclaim.
    • A much smaller collection of films from the other South Asian countries are also acquired as they become available. A number of Pakistani TV dramas and some films have been acquired.
  • Documentary films are purchased that cover a wide range of topics and readers are encouraged to make use of Franklin to locate possible titles of interest (see section IV below on searching Franklin for films). Documentaries also include instructional videorecordings, performances, and performance art.

III. Language

For popular South Asian cinema, a film in any language that meets the selection criteria will be obtained. For documentary films, English is the preferred language. An effort will be made to acquire titles with English subtitles and only films of particular importance will be acquired without English subtitles, more as the exception than the rule.

IV. Finding Film Titles

Because the film collection is a dynamic one and is constantly being enriched and all titles are cataloged for Franklin, maintaining separate film lists is not feasible. Instead, readers are encouraged make use of the search capabilities of VCAT in order to locate films of interest. The catalog records of individual titles invariably have summary notes and subject headings which allow for the construction of complex searches on Franklin.

V. Circulation Policies

The South Asia film collection is a circulating collection and following the general circulation guidelines for the Van Pelt video collection, that is, up to four titles can be charged out and circulate for one week. Renewals are not permitted. The films are also available for interlibrary loan.

VI. South Asia Outreach

A substantial portion of our current documentary collection was formerly housed with the South Asia Studies Department ( These materials were transferred to the Van Pelt Library for custody. They have all since been cataloged are all available through our interlibrary loan system. However, individuals should request specific titles through their respective library’s interlibrary loan office. For those not affiliated with an institution of higher learning, they should make use of their local public library to place the loan request.

VII. Responsibility

Teaching faculty are encouraged to suggest appropriate titles for classroom use. Please contact Jef Pierce, South Asian Studies Librarian, for suggestions. Other non-instructional titles that are suggested should be accompanied with a short statement regarding the value of the film vis-à-vis our selection criteria (II and VIII.b.1-8).

VIII. General selection criteria

a. Only DVD and later formats will be considered for acquisition.

b. In addition, the following criteria may be considered:

1. accuracy/authoritativeness
2. timeliness of information
3. level of treatment (analytical vs. descriptive)
4. technical quality
5. aesthetic appeal
6. relative cost
7. intended audience (age or grade level)
8. reputation of producer/distributor

c. Previewing of DVDs to determine if they meet intended curricular needs is strongly encouraged, particularly when items are costly or when purchase may be problematic.

d. Format. Although the collection includes materials produced throughout the world, most are obtained through United States distributors due to compatibility issues.

IX. Replacements

a. Items will be considered for replacement when they are in poor physical condition, damaged, or missing, if their content is still deemed useful.

b. An item may be replaced in a different format if there is value added in either the quality of the resource, the convenience of using one format over another, or instructional appropriateness.

X. Preservation

Videos and films may be repaired if that is feasible and if the item has continuing value.

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Send mail concerning this page to: Jef Pierce, South Asian Studies Librarian
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia , PA 19104-6206