Original cataloging generally involves seven processes, some of which may occur at the same time.  The order in which they are performed depends on whether searching and inputting is done by the cataloger or a technician, whether the serial is cataloged on an integrated library system (ILS) or directly on a utility, whether the serial is straightforward or complex, and individual preferences.  A further step, creating authority records, may also be necessary depending on institutional policy and whether or not access points have already been established.

The seven processes are:

1)  Examining the issue(s) of the serial

2)  Searching

3)  Describing the serial

4)  Determining name and title access points

5)  Assigning subject headings and a call number

6)  Inputting the record

7)  Updating related records

1.3.1.  Examining the issue(s) of the serial

Once a cataloger determines that a resource is a serial (see Module 2), he/she takes a quick look at the serial to answer the following questions:

What is the chief source?

What is the title?  If there is more than one issue, does the title appear to have changed?

What is the numbering system (i.e., a number or date that identifies the issue)?

Is this the first issue?

Are there corporate bodies given on the serial?

Does the publication mention a relationship to other resources or an earlier title?

What is it about?

Are there changes evident on later issues?

1.3.2.  Searching

Depending on the type of institution in which you are working, searching may include shared utilities (e.g., OCLC, RLG), the local OPAC and catalogs of other institutions, and, in some cases, manual files, such as old card catalogs and check-in files.  Different files may need to be searched for different reasons.  For instance, in order to be sure that the title has not already been cataloged by your institution, you may want to begin searching a local file.  If the serial is fairly old, manual files may need to be consulted.  Once it has been determined that the serial has not already been cataloged within your institution, the next step is to search a utility to determine whether it has been cataloged by another library.  The cataloging database for LC/CONSER catalogers is OCLC.  Since Part I of this manual relates to original cataloging, it will be assumed that no record is found.  (If a record is found, you may want to consult Part II which covers record identification and modification.)  Serial catalogers must also consider the following when searching:

Is there another serial with the same title (i.e., will a uniform title be necessary)?

Are there related records that will affect the cataloging, requiring links to the record being created?

Are all of the headings that will be used in the record established in the LC/NACO Authority File?  Are there appropriate subject headings to cover the subject of the serial?

Is the resource one of a group of similar publications and if so, is it desirable that the serial being cataloged be described in a similar manner?

Are there monograph records for the publication that might indicate that the publication is not really a serial?  For instance, there may be several editions with a wide range of publication dates that indicates no clear pattern of issuance.  Or, is there a succession of monograph records for each year indicating that the title should be redone as a serial?

1.3.3.  Describing the serial

Once the searching has been done and you have quickly glanced at the serial, now is the time to consult the rules and rule interpretations.  What do the various elements found on the issue represent and how will they be transcribed in the cataloging record?  Will information have to be supplied that does not appear on the issue?

Locating the essential elements that will compose the cataloging record as required by the rules

Deciding what to do with what is found on the issue

Both activities are interrelated.  To locate the essential elements, a knowledge of what the rules consider to be the essential elements is necessary.  Deciding what to do with what is found on the issue is the more difficult aspect because it involves interpreting the information to determine what the publisher is trying to convey and knowing where the information will best fit in the catalog record or whether it should be omitted.

Keep in mind that description according to AACR2 is just what it says--description!  While the rules do allow for some modification of the data, in most cases, data is given in the form in which it appears on the item.  But, the data must also be interpreted and given in its appropriate place.  It is important to know what elements need to be included in the record whether or not they are found on the chief source, when to piece together information from different sources, and when to supply information that doesn't appear in the issue.

The following charts list the descriptive elements that must or may be given in the cataloging record for a serial.

Descriptive elements that must be given for serials at all levels in CONSER records (full, core, minimal)

Title proper

Designation of the first issue (except for unnumbered series) or a "Description based on" note

Place of publication or "S.l."

Name of publisher or "s.n."

Date of publication when first/last issue is in hand


Descriptive elements that may be given depending on what appears, level of cataloging, or type of material

Other title information

Parallel titles

Statement of responsibility

Subsequent statements of responsibility

Edition statement

Place and name of distributor

Physical description (extent of item)

Illustration statement and size of publication

Series statement


Links to related records


1.3.4.  Determining name and title access points

"Access points" are the entries under which the serial can be searched in the catalog.  The first decision is usually what will be the "main entry" (see Module 4).  For serials, this is generally a question of corporate body/conference heading vs. title.  Added entries may be made for corporate bodies that have not been given as the main entry, persons responsible for the serial (in some cases), or conference names.  Added entries are also given for the title when it is not the main entry and, in most cases, for other titles or variations of the title.  If the serial is issued within a series, the series may also be given as an access point (see Module 12).  Since access points are critical to the retrieval of records, many of them, such as series titles, series like phrases, and corporate names are established in authority files.

1.3.5.  Assigning subject headings and a call number

Determining what the serial is about and where it should be placed on the shelf requires different thought processes from those used to determine the bibliographic description.  For this reason, subject analysis is usually done as a separate process, whether by the same or another cataloger (see Module 15).  Note that supplying a classification number is not mandatory for CONSER because many libraries choose not to classify some of their serials (e.g., newspapers, microforms).  But CONSER members are encouraged to add classification to full level CONSER records.

1.3.6.  Inputting the record

Before inputting the new record it is advisable to search the title again if much time has elapsed since it was first searched.  If the serial is new it is possible that another library has input a record during the time you were composing the content!  Records must be input with the appropriate tagging.  The primary tool consulted for questions relating to tagging is the CONSER Editing Guide.

1.3.7.  Updating related records

LC/CONSER catalogers are not only responsible for inputting new records to the database, but also for updating those already online.  This may mean adding a linking entry field, closing off a record for a "dead" serial, correcting a heading, or identifying a duplicate record for deletion.  For instructions on duplicate records, consolidation of records, and general updating, see Module 21 in Part II and CONSER Editing Guide, Section C .  Other catalogers may report needed updates for online entry to those authorized to make the changes (OCLC, etc.).

See also:

Module 1.  Introduction to Serials Cataloging