Criteria for selection of Notable Films for Adults

Purpose of the List

This list is compiled for use by librarians and the general adult populace. Its purpose is to call attention to those films released during the past two years that are significant contributions to those forms of media.

Years Eligible: Only those titles released for the first time on DVD during the previous year and current calendar year are eligible for inclusion in the final list. While titles previously issued are not eligible, the committee may select re-released documentaries that offer a significant addition or complement the originally released film.

Types of Films Eligible: Five categories of titles will be considered for inclusion. These categories are: animation, documentary/educational, personal essay, performance and video art, and how-to or instructional videos.

  • Animation – This category includes all types of animation, but excludes animated feature films.
  • Documentary/Educational – This category includes those titles based on facts, factual accounts, or personal experience. These titles may use dramatizations to recreate events they cannot record first hand.
  • Personal essay – This category includes programs that offer the perspective of an individual. It differs from a documentary in that the emphasis is upon the individual's unique vision and may or may not rely upon an accurate portrayal based upon facts.
  • Performance and Video Art– This category includes recordings of theater, dance, or music performances, performance art, as well as video art. It does not include those performances of theatrical pieces that have been released as major motion pictures (for example, Mel Gibson's Hamlet).
  • How-to or Instructional – This category includes titles that instruct the viewer on how to accomplish a specific goal or gain a specific skill.

The final list will consist of no more than fifteen titles representing the titles released during the years covered.

Categories of film that will not be considered are feature films and those directed at a very specific and highly specialized audience, such as clinical videos.

High quality production values are understood as criteria for inclusion on the final list. The committee is looking for uniqueness of vision and execution in its selections.

A title should meet at least one, and preferably more than one, of the following criteria to be included on the list:

  1. The title addresses a new topic that has not been addressed in another program.
  2. The title expands a viewer's knowledge of a particular subject.
  3. The title clarifies or explains a difficult topic, making it understandable to a general audience.
  4. The title promises to contribute significantly to the solution of a contemporary problem.
  5. The title expands the boundaries of the film or video medium, or application of film or video in a new and unusual manner.

I. Nomination Procedure: A title must be nominated by a librarian or other individual who is not directly affiliated with producers or distributors and who has viewed the title in its entirety. Appointed members to the Notable Films for Adults Committee may also nominate titles. A nomination should include the following information: title, director, producer, production company, year of release, distributor, distributor’s contact information (such as website or phone number) and if possible, a review of the title addressing why it should be considered for inclusion on the list. Suggestions can be made through the committee's online suggestion form or emailed directly to the Chair of the committee at As suggestions are received, the Chair of the committee works with distributors to obtain free screened access of nominated titles, so all committee members have the opportunity to view them.

II. Final Selection Procedures: In conjunction with the January conference (formerly known as: Midwinter Meeting) of the American Library Association, the members of the Notable Films for Adults Committee will meet and discuss the merits of those titles nominated for inclusion on the final list. Using the above criteria, and the nomination forms, a final list is developed and approved. The Chair of the Notable Films for Adults Committee moderates the deliberation and selection process.

The Notable Films for Adults Committee will consist of eight members, plus the chair. The chair facilitates the selection process. Representatives or employees of film producers or distributors are prohibited from serving. The membership of the committee should represent all types of libraries and media centers that serve adults. Each member will serve a term of two years, with a maximum number of terms not to exceed two, for a total of four years of service. The Film and Media Round Table Chair will appoint the Chair of the committee. The committee Chair, in consultation with the Chair of the Round Table, will appoint the committee's membership. Reappointment to this committee is at the discretion of the Chair of the committee, with input from the Film and Media Round Table Chair. Appointments will be staggered to prevent the complete turnover of the entire committee every two years.

Members of the committee must be members of the American Library Association and the Film and Media Round Table, and, in cases where the final deliberations are held in person at the American Library Association Conference, are expected to attend that conference in order to participate in the creation of the final list. Members together with the Chair arrive at mutually agreeable arrangements as to preference for virtual versus in-person attendance.