Because serials are ongoing, they have special needs for control and for the recording of holdings.  Catalogers may or may not be actively involved with these additional aspects of control.

1.5.1.  Check-in and holding records

Most libraries maintain a separate file containing records in which individual issues of a serial are "checked-in" upon receipt.  This file may be automated or manual.  Frequently, information from the cataloging record is used as the basis for the check-in record.  The cataloging entry may serve as the entry for the check-in record and the numbering selected by the cataloger may set the pattern for the check-in of future issues.

Check-in records normally contain:

bibliographic data pertaining to the serial--the title, responsible issuing body or publishing information, frequency, references to earlier or later titles, etc.;

instructions for the disposition of the issues--whether to keep or discard, how many copies to retain and bind, where to send the issues, and so forth;

holdings of issues; and

the local call number.

Also included may be notes pertaining to supplements not separately cataloged, numbering irregularities, information regarding the source of the item, etc.  Automated check-in systems may also have functions for binding and claiming of issues not received.  Often the check-in component is part of the acquisitions module within an ILS and check-in records may be connected to purchase orders or other types of acquisition records.

Many libraries have implemented systems that use the MARC 21 Format for Holdings Data (MFHD).  The display in the OPAC of holdings of unbound issues is generated from the check-in component, but the display of bound holdings comes from a separate holdings, or in some cases, item record.  One of the keys to MFHD is the publication pattern.

1.5.2.  Publication patterns and the CONSER Publication Pattern Initiative

A publication pattern consists of coded data that describes two things:  1) the captions that are used for enumeration and chronology and 2) the frequency and regularity of issuance of a serial.  This data enables systems to:  a) predict upcoming issues of serials to facilitate check-in and claiming, and b) to display the holdings of a library in a standardized manner according to the ANSI/NISO standard Z39.71.  In 2000, CONSER began an initiative to add the publication pattern for each serial to the CONSER record so that it could be shared with all libraries.  While the pattern, as created in MARC 21, is universal to the serial, not all systems can fully use the pattern in the MARC 21 format.  But it is hoped that presence of this data in CONSER records will encourage systems to fully implement the format, enabling more sharing, and greatly reducing the burden on libraries to individually set up patterns for each serial.  It will also enable libraries to transfer data from one system to another in the future.  For more information, consult the CONSER Web site (

1.5.3. Union lists and consortia

Union lists are a primary tool for interlibrary loan.  Frequently, the cataloging record or the "cataloging entry" is used as the basis for union lists.  The printed book catalog, New Serial Titles, which ceased in 1999, indicated the holdings symbols for a number of reporting institutions, based exclusively on CONSER cataloging records.  Today, union lists are more likely to be online, such as MINITEX.  OCLC and RLG also serve as primary sources of library holdings.  Many libraries also participate in consortia, such as the California Digital Library, or OHIOLINK and the bibliographic record is used for sharing data related to holdings.

See also:

Module 1.  Introduction to Serials Cataloging