Libraries are the major purchasers of streaming media for their universities, and they face numerous challenges meeting the growing demand for these resources from students and instructors. Understanding how libraries are currently responding to these challenges and planning for future acquisitions of streaming media are important for both university decision makers and vendors hoping to serve this market.

Today Ithaka S+R releases the findings from the most comprehensive survey to date of academic library streaming media approaches at four-year institutions in the US and Canada. The survey explored the range of vendors providing streaming media, acquisition models and licensing approaches, current and projected budgets, as well as libraries’ own digitization activities. Our key findings provide insight into how libraries’ streaming media strategies are evolving. Notable trends include:

  • The impact on instruction is the top factor driving academic library decision-making related to purchasing and renewing streaming licenses.
  • Streaming media is a growing segment of the library materials budget and is projected to double over the next five years.
  • Libraries are not investing heavily in digitizing VHS tapes and DVDs
  • Libraries in Canada and the US are taking a similar approach in their streaming media strategies, with a major exception being the extent to which their strategies evolved in response to the pandemic.

Decision making around streaming media licensing reflects the library’s prioritization of  supporting teaching and learning in a budgetary climate defined by resource constraint. As streaming grows to represent a larger and larger proportion of library spending, libraries will need to articulate how this expense aligns with their institutions’ core pedagogical goals. Vendors hoping to thrive in this space will also have to demonstrate this alignment clearly to their customer base.

What’s next for Ithaka S+R?

The survey was conducted as part of a unique partnership between Ithaka S+R and 24 academic libraries that are collaborating to explore how to advance streaming media strategy in libraries. Our partners recently conducted in-depth interviews with instructors about how they teach with streaming media content and the aggregate findings by Ithaka S+R will be made publicly available this fall.

Looking ahead, we will continue to explore collection building and spending and other strategic priorities in academic libraries. This fall we will publish a workbook on diversifying collections for library leaders, made possible through sponsorship from EBSCO. We will also field our latest triennial survey of US library directors and are now welcoming expressions of interest from prospective sponsors. If you are interested, please contact Danielle Cooper (