1.2.1.  Characteristics of serials

Serials are different!  They don’t always look or behave like other types of publications.  Here are some of the characteristics of serials.

Serials are extremely diverse, including scholarly journals, popular magazines and newspapers, newsletters, annual and statistical reports, directories and yearbooks, and monographic series.

Serials are issued on a continuing basis, often with a regular frequency (e.g., annual, monthly, etc.).

Many serials do not have a title page.  Instead, the title is found on the cover or at the beginning of the text.  This is particularly the case with periodicals (magazines, journals, etc.), newsletters, and newspapers.

Most serials have numbering -- numbers or dates or combinations of both that distinguish the individual issues.  The only category of serial that does not routinely bear numbering is unnumbered monographic series.

Serials do not usually have personal authors.  Most persons associated with serials are editors or compilers.  Serials are more often the work of one or more corporate bodies that have "issued" the serial.

Serial titles are often given in more than one place in the issue and sometimes in different forms.

Serials are often related to other serials (or monographs or integrating resources) -- as earlier or later titles, companions, sections, language editions, translations, etc.

Serials may have supplements, indexes, reprints, or special issues or may, themselves, be a supplement, index, reprint, or special issue.

Because serials are issued continuously, the information presented on them may change.  Such changes may be in the title, issuing body, form of numbering, frequency, size and physical appearance, or just about anywhere else!

1.2.2.  How cataloging a serial differs from cataloging a multipart item or an integrating resource

Serials, incomplete multipart items, and integrating resources are all issued over time and, thus, exhibit seriality.  However, cataloging practices differ.  In the case of multipart items, the distinguishing factor is the fact that multipart items are finite and serials are continuing.  In the case of integrating resources, it is the mode of issuance that is the distinguishing factor.

a.  Successive entry cataloging

A new serial record is created each time a major change occurs according to AACR2 21.2C1 and 21.3B1a.  This cataloging convention is called " successive entry cataloging."  (See Module 16 for a complete list of potential major changes.)  Each successive entry record contains information relevant only to the span of issues covered by that record.  The relationship of successive entry records is shown through linking entry fields (Module 14).  The record for the "dead" serial is "closed off"--i.e., data elements are added or changed in the record to show that the title is no longer current (see CCM 21.3).

Multipart items that are not complete as first issued are also successively-issued and changes in title or entry may also occur.  However, because multiparts are finite, a single record is made, rather than successive entry records, and changes to later parts are given in notes.  Multiparts are cataloged according to “earliest entry” conventions. (AACR2 21.2A1 and 21.3A2)

For integrating resources, because there is only one chief source at any one time, a single record is made and most changes ( FN1) are reflected in notes (field 247 , 500 , 550 , etc.).  This convention is known as latest entry cataloging and was also applied to serials prior to the adoption of AACR2 in 1981.

b.  Description based on the first or earliest issue

Serials consist of a succession of issues, but the basic description of the serial is created from one issue.  The primary difference between AACR2 and earlier rules is that under AACR2 the description is based on the first or the earliest available issue ( FN2).  Every AACR2 serial record must indicate the issue upon which the description is based, either in area 3 (field 362 , 1st indicator=0) or in a note.  Once a serial is described from the first issue, the " body of the entry" ( FN3) is not changed (except when adding successive numbering schemes, variations in physical description, or closing off the record for a "dead" title).  An indication of changes appearing on later issues, that do not require a new record, is given in the notes, as appropriate.  Serials described from issues other than the first, however, may be "backed up" when the first issue is available.

As mentioned above, generally multipart items are also described from the first issue with most later changes described in notes.

Integrating resources are described from the latest iteration.  The word iteration is used because there are no separate issues.  An integrating resource is described based on the information that is current at the time of cataloging.  If this information changes on subsequent iterations, the description is changed and earlier information is given in notes.

c.  Numbering

In citing the issue upon which the description is based, the cataloger also describes the numbering system used by the serial.  Numbering is a collective term that may consist of numerical (or alphabetical) designations (volumes, numbers, etc.), chronological designations (dates), or a combination of the two.  Numbering is important to serials because it provides the only means for distinguishing the individual issues of the serial.

Multipart items may or may not be numbered.

Integrating resources do not use numbering in the same way that serials do.  While updates to a loose-leaf publication or database may be numbered or bear revision dates, this numbering refers only to the update and not the publication as a whole.  Thus, while the numbered update of a loose-leaf  might be checked in according to that numbering, it is not reflected in the bibliographic record.

d.  Uniform titles (created according to AACR2 and LCRI 25.5B)

Because so many serials are entered under title according to AACR2, and because serials are frequently listed in other files, such as check-in files, it is important to be able to distinguish one serial from another.  AACR2 25.5B and the accompanying LCRI ( 25.5B ) provide guidance for creating uniform titles to distinguish different serials with the same title.  The uniform title consists of the title proper and a qualifier (see Module 5).  In determining whether there is a conflict, catalogers consider all other serials but not monographs or integrating resources.

Analyzed multipart items are assigned uniform titles according to LCRI 25.5B because they are treated similarly to series; unanalyzed multiparts are not given uniform titles according to the LCRI.

e.  Linking entry fields

Serials are often part of "family" relationships.  They may have parents (earlier titles), children (later titles), siblings (other editions, splits, etc.), and cousins (other related works).  AACR2 specifies that these relationships be mentioned in notes.  The MARC 21-defined linking entry fields ( 760-787 ) may provide such notes, when desired, as well as linking the related records in a database (see Module 14).

Linking entry fields are defined for monographs as well as serials, but have not been used on monograph records as extensively as with serials.  Because there is a single record for the entire multipart, there is no need to link to earlier or later titles.  Links to other physical formats may be provided, however.

Much of the same can be said for integrating resources, because a single record is involved.  However, there are cases where links are appropriate and Chapter 12 rules for linking notes apply also to integrating resources.

f.  The cataloging record must represent the entire serial

In general, information contained in serial records must be broad enough to pertain to the span of issues covered by each successive entry record or a subset of those issues as noted by date spans.  This is perhaps the most difficult concept for an experienced monograph cataloger to grasp.  Information that is specific to a single issue is usually omitted because it does not relate to the serial as a whole.  For example, dates and numbers that represent the issue are dropped from the title statement, titles specific to one issue are omitted, and so forth.  When information is given that relates to certain issues but not all, dates are given to indicate the span of issues to which the information pertains.  Such dates are most often given with notes.

Because multipart items are finite, more detail can be provided in the record, such as a complete contents note.

Integrating resource records are very similar to serials in that they too must cover the entire resource.  It may be the case that earlier information has completely disappeared from an online integrating resource and catalogers must use judgment in determining what to retain in notes.

1.2.3.  Serial vs. monograph cataloging:  economy and access

Module 2 discusses the criteria that are used to determine whether a publication is cataloged as a serial, a monograph, or an integrating resource.  While the distinction between a serial and an integrating resource is based on the manner in which it is issued and is usually clear, the distinction between monographs and serials is based on whether or not the resource will continue over time, and this is often not clear at all!  Frequently the cataloger is left to decide the most appropriate treatment.  The following considerations of economy and access are presented for situations in which a publication could be cataloged as either.

a.  Economy

When a title is cataloged as a serial, all issues are represented by one record--at least until the title changes.  If successive issues are received, they can be checked-in and added to the shelf without further cataloging.  Other types of records (e.g., check-in records) are also created.  If nothing else is received (i.e., the publication is really a monograph), nothing need be changed.  Just think of it as a "dead" serial!

When a publication is cataloged as a monograph, however, and turns out to be a serial, the monograph records have to be canceled and the publication recataloged as a serial.  On the other hand, treatment as a monograph is preferable when it appears that each issue will have a different title.  If separate records are going to have to be made for each issue due to constant title changes, it is more economical to catalog as a monograph because the records do not have to be linked nor do check-in records or union list records need to be created.

b.  Access

If serials are classed by a library, treatment as a serial enables the shelving together of all issues, regardless of title changes.  Usually the title will also be accessible in sources other than the catalog, such as union lists, check-in files, and so forth.  The cataloging record, however, will be less complete than individual monograph records would be, since one entry must serve for all issues.  If there is important information that is specific to each issue, treatment as a monograph may be preferable.  This is often the case for monographic series whose individual titles may require separate subject headings and classification numbers to provide the appropriate level of access.

See also:

Module 1.  Introduction to Serials Cataloging