Serial publications have always presented unique problems for the cataloger by their very nature, which seems to be one of perpetual changes.  But, to be sure, librarians have also added to the problems by changing the rules by which serial records are created.

For the monograph cataloger, a change in rules is far less dramatic.  Because monographs are most often complete in themselves, the cataloging records for monographs rarely need to be revised or updated, with the exception of the form of headings used in the records.  When rules change or a card catalog is closed, the impact on monograph records is minimal.

Serial bibliographic records are another matter.  Because serials continue to be published and to change, the records created for them continue to be used and updated.  Serial catalogers today are faced with a "mixed bag" of serial cataloging records:  ALA and AACR records found in card or book catalogs, or in databases; AACR records input directly online; and AACR2 records created according to changing rule interpretations.  There is often no way of knowing exactly what set of rules was used to create a pre-AACR2 record.  For LC records, the date of the card number ( FN 1) may provide a clue as to whether the 1908, 1941, or 1949 ALA rules or the AACR code of 1967 were applied.

While it is not necessary for a serials cataloger to be able to catalog according to earlier codes, or to know exactly which set of rules was applied to a record, an understanding of the basic principles upon which the records were created is a distinct advantage for the following reasons.  Serial catalogers must understand records created according to earlier rules when using pre-AACR2 online cataloging for a title newly received, when performing regular maintenance to records occasioned by changes in the serial, or when participating in retrospective conversion projects.  They must also be familiar with the rules of entry and rules for establishing corporate bodies when searching for serials in publications such as the National Union Catalog, Union List of Serials or New Serial Titles, in card catalogs, or in databases.  Increasingly fewer of today’s catalogers are familiar with even the AACR rules, let alone the ALA codes.

The following is not an exhaustive discussion of the cataloging codes per se, but an explanation of the records and practices that resulted from their use.  The rules that are described are those that most affect serial records:  rules for description, choice of and changes in entry, and the establishment of corporate body headings.  By necessity, the discussion and examples of earlier pre-machine-readable (MARC) cataloging will be limited to records created by the Library of Congress as found on LC cards, since these are the only older entries for which there can be some certainty as to the source of their creation.  Discussion will also be limited to the ALA rules of 1908, 1941, and 1949 and the AACR code of 1967 because these are the codes used by the Library of Congress.  There is no separate discussion of AACR2 because this explanation is written primarily for catalogers who are familiar with AACR2; however, comparison is made where appropriate.

See also:

Module 22.  Interpreting Pre-AACR2 Serial Cataloging Records