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The Keys in Our Culture

Gift from Rovi builds largest U.S. media collection at MSU

Clifford Haka and the MSU Rovi Media Collection

The Keys in Our Culture

Gift from Rovi builds largest U.S. media collection at MSU

What does listening to pop music do to our brains? Has the internet altered our tastes in entertainment? Can video games transform teaching and learning?

Thanks to a recent gift, the answers to these and thousands of other germane questions can be more thoroughly explored through the collections at the MSU Libraries than most any place else.

This fall, California-based Rovi Corporation donated a nearly 900,000-piece collection that spans more than 35 years-worth of movies, music and videogames to MSU. The Rovi Media Collection, the largest housed by a U.S. library, vaults the MSU Libraries into the top echelon of audio-visual holdings and has made MSU a magnet for popular culture research of every stripe.

“MSU is extremely honored to receive this donation,” says Clifford Haka, director of MSU Libraries. “For us to amass such a collection on our own would have cost more than $11 million and—given that many titles are extremely rare—would have been nearly impossible. Its comprehensiveness will provide unprecedented support to enable researchers to look critically at music, gaming and film with profound implications on our understanding of education, psychology, history, communication and more.”

Researchers will be able to dive deep into the stuff of everyday life. The collection includes a nearly comprehensive roster of CDs that have been commercially available in the United States in recent years from the most obscure musicians to every pop icon imaginable. A DVD collection, started the year DVDs were introduced, similarly represents the vast majority of commercially released DVDs in the U.S. And the games archive includes titles dating back to the early ‘80s. Every title is unique, and all brand new.

The opportunity to study three decades of media is significant. Haka says video games are particularly distinctive, as research libraries have only just begun to collect them, adding that the music collection is ten times larger than any other academic research library. The new media complements other collections at MSU, including the G. Robert Vincent Voice Collection of over 100,000 hours of spoken words and the Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection, which houses the largest comic book collection in the world.

“The implications of an archive like this are staggering,” says Casey O’Donnell, associate professor in the Department of Media and Information. “I can imagine any number of dissertations or research projects leveraging an archive like this. Truly, it is career changing, if a games, art, media or cultural studies scholar wants it to be.”

In addition to media, the Rovi Media Collection includes 10 to 20 million data points. Metadata, or data that describe other data (such as author and date created), make it easier to find, use or manage an information resource. Rovi is a leading provider of metadata and the media collection, previously stored at a company headquarters in Ann Arbor, enabled the cataloging and description of the nation’s albums, movies, TV shows and video games.

The material is available to the MSU community through the MSU Libraries catalog and, through the state’s e-library catalog (MelCat), Michigan residents can request materials for delivery to more than 400 member libraries throughout the state. MSU is a charter member of MelCat and so far requests for MSU materials have more than tripled since the Rovi collection arrived.

Many other institutions, including the Smithsonian, competed to obtain the Rovi Media Collection.

“We chose MSU Libraries as the benefactor mainly because they truly understood the value and they vowed to make it available to students and the public alike,” says Kathy Weidman, senior vice president and general manager of metadata for Rovi.

For more information on making a gift to MSU Libraries, contact Director of Development Seth Martin at or call (517) 884-6446.

Author: Lois Furry