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Why this company just donated 20 years worth of media to Michigan State

Looking for pretty much any song, movie, TV show or video game from the last 20 years? You can probably now find it at Michigan State University.

Rovi, the world’s largest provider of digital entertainment guides, has donated its media collection to the school, adding nearly 1 million CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, and video games to the library’s collection. The collection will be used by the university to aid its media studies programs—and will also be made available to thousands of people throughout the state through an electronic cataloging system.

Rovi (ROVI) collects data from the physical mediums, such as cover art, descriptive content and digital footprints that aid in cataloging the music, video content or game. But after a while, that many products started to take up a lot of space.

“We started looking into what we were going to do with it,” says Kathy Weidman, SVP and general manager, metadata for Rovi. “We thought rather than store it in some storage space, why not put it to use for the public or for educational purposes?”

MSU has an extensive arts program, with a college of music, a film studies group, and an available minor in video game design and development. Cliff Haka, director of MSU Libraries, says the donation will dramatically expand its media collection, giving students a much wider catalog to study.

For example, before Rovi’s donation, the school owned 14,000 albums and CDs. Rovi is supplying 681,000 more.

The video game collection could be much more valuable than the music or film libraries, though, as research libraries have only recently begun to build those collections—and Rovi supplied PC and console titles that date back to the early 80s.

“While it’s easy to say ‘oh films, music and games—that’s just for entertainment,’ we believe they’re actually scholarship,” says Haka. “There’s been a great deal of research recently about what it is about games that captivates young adults. What is it that they can learn about these games that they can transition into educational modules?”

While other schools were considered, MSU got the nod, in part, because it was able to take in such a large collection in a short period of time. The whole process came together in under 2.5 months, says Haka. And Rovi says it was impressed with the archival abilities of the university.

“They understood the historical value,” says Weidman. “They already had a major historical collection in the library [and] … they have a very good sense for the preservation on everything from books to maps to, now, media.”

Beyond MSU, the catalog will be available to other members of the Big Ten as well as the University of Chicago, via the Committee on Institutional Cooperation consortium, which allows schools to share expertise, leverage campus resources, and collaborate on programs.

It’s not just students who will benefit from the relationship, either. MSU’s library is part of the MeLCAT—Michigan Electronic Catalog—program, which ties together 400 library catalogs and promotes sharing between the systems, meaning the Rovi collection will also be shared with the general public.

That’s creating incredible demand—and despite reassigning one employee and hiring a second to handle requests, the MSU library still can’t keep up. Haka says it may begin looking for foundation support to make the collection as widely available as it can.

The extra staff could come in handy. Weidman says Rovi expects this to be an ongoing partnership, meaning even more discs will be on the way to the library. And there’s already some early discussion about academic collaborations tied to the catalog.

“We’re hoping by combining their research capabilities and our tech capabilities that there might be some interesting collaboration we could work on,” says Weidman. “It’s not a term of our agreement, but the more we see the capabilities they have and Rovi has, the more we say ‘this could be really interesting’.”

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