Little-Known Center Offers Schools Its Video Gems
It's home to countless hours of educational programming, yet the National Audiovisual Center remains a mystery to many of the nation's educators.
The NAC, located in this Washington suburb, disseminates federally produced videotapes, slides, and audiotapes of educational programs, as well as technical and engineering information.
"We are not as well-known for our educational materials, and we need to get the word out," the center's manager, Janice Coe, said in a recent interview. "Our organization is such a great resource for educators."
The center houses 9,000 audiovisual products.
Those NAC materials cover a range of topics, including "George Washington's Headquarters" from the National Park Service, which highlights the problems and the lives of Revolutionary officers in George Washington's military headquarters during the winter of 1778-79, to "Music ... A Series,'' by the Department of Education, which introduces students to musical concepts and styles.
Many of the programs come with teachers' guides that include question-and-answer sessions. Some of the films in the NAC vaults have won Academy Awards. Others have been honored by the National Educational Film Festival and the American Film Festival.
The center was originally under the wing of the General Services Administration and later became part of the National Archives and Records Administration.
In 1994, the center merged with the National Technical Information Service, an arm of the Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, the central resource for federal scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information.
A majority of the center's materials are produced by about 200 other federal agencies. A few are the result of joint partnerships between the NAC and federal agencies.
Today, the center's biggest challenge appears to be getting schools to make use of what it has to offer.
To make the process as easy as possible, Ms. Coe said center officials will conduct free searches for schools looking for tapes and other materials.
Schools and other organizations may purchase copies of most NAC tapes and slides for prices ranging from $20 to more than $100 for complete training packages.
"We want to encourage educators to use us. That's what we're here for," Ms. Coe said. "We have help desks to answer any questions."
"We will be glad to take the phone calls and do the research," she said.
Dr. Jay Rappaport, a professor of pathology at Allegheny University of the Health Sciences in Philadelphia, stumbled upon the NAC while conducting cancer research for a class.
Dr. Rappaport is also the associate director at the Center for NeuroVirology and NeuroOncology at the university.
"They were very useful in finding the information I wanted while I was on the phone with them," Dr. Rappaport said.
"They have a lot of information that is available from the government that's hard to find anywhere else," he added.
If teachers or librarians have heard about a particular program, they can call the NAC and have it tracked down, Ms. Coe said.
"When there are special events on the calendar like Black History Month, Women's History Month, or Earth Day, we can help teachers plan their curriculum," added Lu Lathan, an NAC audiovisual specialist.
Schools can request a free catalog from the National Audiovisual Center by calling (800) 553-NTIS.
For a search by an audiovisual specialist, call (703) 487-4603.