Before cataloging a microform, a number of questions must first be answered:

Is the microform an original or a reproduction?

Is the microform a serial?

If the microform is a serial reproduction, will the record reflect the service copy alone or a preservation master?

32.1.1.  Is the microform an original or a reproduction?

The first decision that must be made is whether the microform has previously existed in some other format.  In most cases, the other format is "hard copy" (i.e., it was issued as a traditional paper serial).  The decision is critical because it will determine the rules applied to the cataloging of the microform.

a.  Original microforms

Original microforms, also called micropublications, are first issued in microform (usually microfiche), rather than being reproduced from an existing publication.  Many original microforms are computer-output microfiche (COM) which are produced from computerized digital data.  A COM catalog of a library's holdings or the union listings of a consortium are common examples of this kind of microform.  Original microforms often contain information that needs frequent updating, such as statistical data.

Some original microforms were once issued in hard copy but now are issued only in microform.  An example is the Catalog of Copyright Entries, which was issued in book form and now is issued only in microfiche.  (Note:  when such a change occurs, a new record is created (see CCM 32.2.2b).)

A microform that is published simultaneously with a print (or other format) version is treated as original because the print does not "preexist" the microform and both are being generated from the same source at the same time.  In case of doubt, treat the microform as an original.

Microform sets, which contain a number of bibliographically unrelated titles, are treated as original microforms because, as a bibliographic item they are unique, even though the individual contents may consist of reproduced items.  For example, the American Periodical Series reproduces a large number of periodicals from the 19th and 20th centuries.  Because these serials never existed in such a collection prior to their filming, the series is considered to be an original microform.  The individual titles composing the set, if separately cataloged, are treated as reproductions.  See CCM 32.1.2c to determine whether a set should be cataloged as a monograph or as a serial.

b.  Reproduction microforms

A reproduction microform is a work having a bibliographic and/or physical identity which pre-exists that of the microform.  (See this module's Definitions of Terms for a more complete definition.)

c.  How to distinguish original from reproduction microforms

1)   Appearance

Original microforms are often computer-produced and have a formatted title frame that does not resemble a title page as to its typography, layout, etc.  Reproductions, however, are copies of the original publication and thus, the title frame will consist of the original title page of the serial or a volume title page.  Sometimes the cover and other preliminaries are also reproduced, but in many cases the covers were removed prior to filming and are not present on the film.

2)  Presence of a catalog record for the hard copy serial

Another way to determine whether the microform is original or reproduction is to search databases and catalogs.  If a hard copy record is found, then the microform is no doubt a reproduction.  Make sure that both hard copy and reproduction cover the same or part of the same span of time (i.e., one does not continue the other).  (If the latter is the case, see CCM 32.2.2b.)

32.1.2.  Is the microform a serial?

a.  Original microforms

For original microforms, follow LCRI 1.0 in determining whether the publication meets the criteria for a serial.  The intended publication pattern of original microforms can be difficult to determine when the information has been computer-generated and no introductory text has been added.  Very often there is no information other than the presence of some form of numbering or chronological designation that might indicate that the microform is a serial.  In such cases, consider the type of information contained and the probability that it will be issued on a recurring basis.

For example, Dun's Business Identification Service is published on microfiche.  The only identifying information appears on the eye-readable header as:


There is no indication of frequency and the date "Dec. 1992" is not a clear chronological designation.  The title, however, indicates the type of information that would require routine updating.  (This publication has been cataloged as a serial and is, in fact, issued semiannually.)

b.  Reproduction microforms

For reproductions, the treatment of the hard copy usually determines the treatment of the microform ( FN 1).  It doesn't matter whether the publication being reproduced is ongoing or complete (i.e., dead).  For instance, a single microfilm reel containing a serial that was issued from 1901 to 1903 is treated as a serial.

c.  Microform sets

A microform set which contains bibliographically separate titles, including serials, such as English literary periodicals, is treated as a monograph if the set is finite and not intended to continue indefinitely.  If a set is continuous, such as a collection of annual reports that itself is issued annually, the set is treated as a serial.

32.1.3.  Will the record reflect a service copy alone or a preservation master?

Microfilming activities may result in three "generations" of microform:

1)   a preservation master

2)   a printing master (from which service copies are made)

3)   a service copy

When a library acquires a microform from an outside source, it is the service copy that is acquired and used by the library patron.  The catalog record reflects only the service copy.

When an institution is cataloging a title produced through a preservation microfilming program, the records created represent the preservation master, the printing master, and the service copy (if all three are generated).  All generations are represented by a single bibliographic record.  Under no circumstances should separate records be made for different generations resulting from a single filming operation, so long as they are in the same physical format.  (If the first generation is a microfilm but the subsequent generations are on microfiche, separate records are required.)

Distinguishing preservation masters from "commercial" service copies is important because policies relating to their cataloging vary, as described below.  (See also CEG 533 , 776 , Appendix M .)

See also:

Module 32.  Microform Serials