For catalogers who lack familiarity with legal publications, the task of identifying whether a work should be cataloged as a monograph or serial may not prove as difficult as first identifying what the work is in terms of its legal characteristics.  A rule interpretation such as LCRI 1.0 may tell us to catalog court reports as serials, but what are court reports?  How can we distinguish session laws, which are supposed to be cataloged as serials, from codes, which are more often cataloged as monographs?  And what about those loose-leaf publications that have all those separately numbered parts that are issued weekly–are they serials?

To assist the cataloger with these questions, the Legal Serials module has been structured differently from others in this manual.  Rather than arrange the module by general serial characteristics such as designation, numbering, etc., Module 34 is designed to reflect a classification widely recognized within the discipline of law itself, in the text of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, and in the structure of the "K" law schedules within the Library of Congress Classification.  That is, we first look at what are called primary materials, then at secondary sources.

This module is designed to introduce the cataloger to the most common types of legal publications that are cataloged as serials, and to discuss the peculiarities of some publication formats that are unique to law.

This module will discuss

Descriptive and subject cataloging issues common to legal serials

Representative types of legal serials

Aspects of serials cataloging that are unique to legal publications


American Association of Law Libraries Cataloging Institute.  Program Materials for the American Association of Law Libraries Cataloging Institute, Santa Clara University, July 14-17, 1992.

Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. 2nd ed., 2002 revision. Chicago, Ill.: American Library Association, 1998.

Black, Henry Campbell.  Black’s Law Dictionary. 8th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Thomson/West, 2004.

Cohen, Morris L., Robert C. Berring, and Kent C. Olson.  How to Find the Law. 9th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West, 1989.

Jacobstein, J. Myron, Roy M. Mersky and Donald C. Dunn.  Fundamentals of Legal Research. 7th ed. Westbury, N.Y.: Foundation Press, 1998.

Lembke, Melody Busse, and Rhonda K. Lawrence.  Cataloging Legal Literature: a Manual on AACR2 and Library of Congress Subject Headings for Legal Materials. 3rd ed. American Association of Law Libraries publication series, no. 22.  Littleton, Colo.: Fred B. Rothman, 1997.

Library of Congress.   Library of Congress Rule Interpretations . 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Cataloging Distribution Service, Library of Congress, 1990-

Maben, Michael. "Cataloging of Primary State Legal Material."  Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 18, no. 1 (1993): 103-115.

McGrath, Ellen.  Guidelines for Cataloging the Files Available through LEXIS.  Chicago, Ill.: Publications Review Committee, American Association of Law Libraries, 1992. (Occasional papers, American Association of Law Libraries, no. 11)

Piper, Patricia L., and Cecilia Hing Ling Kwan. "Cataloging and Classification."  In Law Librarianship: a Handbook, edited by Heinz Peter Mueller and Patrick E. Kehoe, vol. 1, 329-385. Littleton, Colo.: Fred B. Rothman, 1983.

Stone, Alva T., and Jessie Tam. "Cataloging and Classification of Law Materials: a Survey of Recent Literature."  Law Library Journal 83, no. 4 (fall 1991): 721-762.

Subject Headings Manual. 1st ed.  Washington, D.C.: Cataloging Distribution Service, Library of Congress, 2008-.

Technical Services Law Librarian: Newsletter of the Technical Services Special Interest Section and the Online Bibliographic Services Special Interest Section, American Association of Law Libraries. [Chicago]: Technical Services Special Interest Section, AALL, 1979-

Definitions of terms used in this module

While several of the legal terms used in this module have been defined here for the cataloger’s convenience, it may be necessary to refer to Black’s Law Dictionary ( FN 1) or the glossaries in Fundamentals of Legal Research ( FN 2) or Cataloging Legal Literature ( FN 3) for more detailed definitions.

Accompanying material:  According to AACR2, "material that is issued with and designed to be used with another work."  This could include items such as a teacher’s manual, a pamphlet, a statutory supplement.  Supplements are the most common type of accompanying material found in legal publications.

Act:  Another name for statutory law.  A bill passed by one house and referred to another becomes an act.  After passage, the terms act and law can be used interchangeably ( FN 4).  Can also be a synonym for the term statute.

Administrative regulations:  Rules or orders promulgated by a governmental agency under statutory authority to carry out the intent of the law.  In the United States, regulations have the force of law.  In other jurisdictions, such as Canada and Great Britain, they are known as statutory instruments which are considered to be laws because the regulations are returned to the parliaments for review and enactment.  These distinctions affect choice of entry under AACR2 21.32.

Advance sheet:  A pamphlet or set of pages issued prior to (in advance of) the publication of a bound volume.  Frequently encountered in law reports, where advance sheets publish the decisions of a court long before the cases are compiled into bound volumes.

Cases:  Reported decisions of a court, usually first published in law reports.

Citation title:  The title or name of an act, which generally appears in one of the first sections of the text.  In United States federal law, the phrase "this act shall be known as ..." often precedes the citation title.  In descriptive cataloging, it is the preferred title to use in establishing a uniform title for an act.  Sometimes referred to as a short title.

Citations:  Stylized legal references to documents such as court cases, statutes, or law review articles ( FN 5).

Citator:  A compilation of citations to court cases or statutes arranged systematically under the court decision or statute.  The most widely used citators are Shepard’s Citations.

Code:  According to Black’s:  "A systematic collection, compendium or revision of laws, rules, or regulations (e.g. Uniform Commercial Code)."  Similarly, in civil law countries as well as some states, the term refers to a comprehensive law covering a broad subject area, such as a Civil Code, Criminal Code, Commercial Code, etc.  "A private or official compilation of all permanent laws of a jurisdiction that are in force, classified and categorized by subject matter (e.g. United States Code)."  A code may also be distinguished from a collection of statutes or session laws by virtue of having been recompiled and enacted as a collection, whereas the original statutes or sessions laws were separately enacted by the legislature.  Cf. Compiled statutes.

Compiled statutes:  A collection of statutes, existing and in force in a given state, recompiled and systematically arranged by some principle.

The terms compilation, revised statutes, and code are sometimes used interchangeably, but the preface to Minnesota Statutes, 1998 gives these definitions:

A compilation is a rearrangement by subject matter of current laws or statutes of general application without change in language or substance.  It is prepared either by persons or commissions officially authorized by the legislature or by private publishers without any official authorization.  A compilation is never enacted by the legislature as law.  It is, therefore, not law but merely evidence of it.  The original session laws remain the law, and in case of conflict between the compilation and the session laws, the session laws prevail. …

A revision is something more than a compilation.  It is, like a compilation, a rearrangement by subject matter of the current statutes of general application; but unlike a compilation, it almost always involves changes in the language of existing statutes so as to clarify ambiguities and reduce verbiage.  It may also involve changes in substance, particularly for the purpose of eliminating conflicts in existing statutes.  The scope of the revision can often be determined by reference to the statute or resolution which authorizes the revision and tells the revisors what they are to do.

The chief difference between a compilation and a revision is that a revision is always passed by the legislature as a separate law.  When the revisors have completed their work, the revision is introduced in the legislature as a bill and is considered and passed in the same way as any other law.  This means, theoretically at least, that the revision is the law, not merely evidence of it, and that in cases of conflict between the revision and the session laws, the revision governs.  Often, however, legislatures do not give full effect to this principle.  They frequently limit the effect of a revision by stating that its provisions are to be construed as continuations of the laws from which they were derived and not as new enactments.  …

A code is a systematic arrangement in statutory form of all existing statutory and common law.  Codification changes the form and may change the substance of the law.  New provisions may be added.  Codes, such as the Code Napoleon, are prevalent in civil law countries.  In the United States, modified forms of codification are found in specific fields where revisors or advisory commissions rewrite the law in the light of existing statutes, cases, and principles of law ( FN6).

Component parts:  Separately issued parts or pieces of a work that together form the work as a whole.  Distinguished from accompanying material in that the parts are more integral to the whole.  For example, a loose-leaf service may have, in addition to the main textual volumes, transfer volumes, an annotation service, and various supplements.  The component parts may be referred to in notes and added entries in the cataloging record.  Although it may appear that they require separate cataloging because they bear a title and a numeric and/or chronological designation, they are not usually cataloged separately.

Court reports:  See Law reports.

Court rules:  Regulations with the force of law governing practice and procedure in the various courts; rules governing the proceedings in a court.  May be promulgated by a court or courts, or by a legislative body.  In the United States, court rules that are promulgated by a legislature are laws.

Delegated legislation:  See Administrative regulations; Statutory instruments.

Digest:  A systematically arranged collection, usually by topic, containing summaries of court decisions, statutes, bills, etc.  Most commonly serves as an index to cases reported in law reports.

Earliest entry cataloging:  The practice of creating a single catalog record for a serial based on a description of the earliest issue, making additional title entries for all later titles in the same record.

Executive orders:  "An order or regulation issued by the President or some administrative authority under his direction..."( FN 7)  A chief executive may either be delegated the power to issue executive orders, or in some jurisdictions the chief executive may have the power to issue laws by decree.

Gazette:  A government publication, sometimes referred to as an official journal, that publishes official notices, proclamations, regulations, etc.  May also be the method by which new laws are published.  In some jurisdictions a law is not official until published in its gazette ( FN 8).

Jurisdiction:  (1) "A term of comprehensive import embracing every kind of judicial action.  …  It is the power of the court to decide a matter in controversy and assumes the existence of a duly constituted court with control over the subject matter and the parties." (Black’s); (2) "Authority of a sovereign power to govern or legislate; (3) the limits or territory within which any particular power may be exercised."( FN9)  In addition, the term is used in cataloging to differentiate a geographic name or heading which represents a government and is thus capable of authorship (e.g. Massachusetts) from a non-jurisdictional geographic name which is not capable of authorship (e.g. New England).

Latest entry cataloging:  The practice of cataloging serials based on the latest issue available.  Information about earlier titles and publication details is recorded in notes and added entries.

Law:  See Statute.

Law reports:  Reported (published) decisions or opinions of a single court or of several courts collected and arranged by some principle, such as chronology, jurisdiction, subject.  Also known as court reports, they are issued as the "official" or unofficial reports, depending on the status conferred by the court.

Law review:  A scholarly journal containing articles on legal topics and emanating from a law school, usually edited by students at the school.

Legislation:  Laws enacted by a lawmaking body, i.e. a legislature, as opposed to court-made laws.

Loose-leaf:  See Updating loose-leaf.

Loose-leaf service:  A comprehensive loose-leaf publication that usually contains several component parts, such as loose-leaf volumes, transfer binders, annual bound volumes, bulletins, and current awareness newsletters, all of which may carry individual numeric or chronological designations, and are intended to be updated.

Pocket part (or Pocket supplement):  A supplement intended to be inserted in a slit in the back cover of a book.  Often issued on a regular basis and cumulatively, so that the earlier is discarded when the next is received.  When a pocket part becomes too thick to fit in the back of a book, it is often issued as a separate soft-bound supplement to the book.

Primary sources:  Publications which contain the official statements of law enforced by a state and judicial decisions of governmental institutions.  They are published as session laws, codes, constitutions, executive orders and decrees, administrative regulations and court decisions.

Promulgate:  To publish; to announce officially ( FN 10).  To enact or issue laws or regulations.

Promulgating agency:  Also referred to as a "regulatory agency."  An administrative body, other than a court or legislature, that by statute has been delegated the power to make and issue regulations ( FN 11).

Regulations:  See Administrative regulations.

Revised statutes:  See Compiled statutes.

Secondary sources:  Statements about the law which are used to interpret, explain, develop, locate or update primary authorities ( FN 12).  Examples of secondary sources include law reviews, treatises, loose-leaf services, digests, citators, etc.

Session laws:  Laws enacted by a legislature during a legislative session.  "The name commonly given to the body of laws enacted by a state legislature during annual or biennial sessions.  Arrangement of laws enacted within a session may be by chapters of the compiled statutes or by number or date of enactment."( FN 13)  A collection of session laws is normally cumulated and bound at the end of an annual or biennial legislative session.

Short title:  See Citation title.

Statute:  An enacted piece of legislation, that declares, commands, or prohibits something ( FN 14).  May refer to an individual law, or to a body of laws, as in "compiled statutes", or "revised statutes."

Statutory instruments:  Administrative regulations and orders that are laws ( FN 15).  Countries such as Great Britain and Canada, among others, issue statutory instruments.  In Great Britain agencies must present proposed regulations to Parliament for approval.  The orders or statutory instruments then become law.

Successive entry cataloging:  The practice of creating a new record for a serial each time the entry changes in accordance with AACR2 21.2C and 21.3B1a.

Supplement:  An item, usually issued separately, that complements one already published by bringing the original work up-to-date.  In legal materials, the supplement often contains more recent case or statutory law.  May also contain material not found in the original work, such as a statutory supplement  volume that reprints  sections of statutes not printed in the main work.  See also Pocket part.

Transfer binder (or transfer volume):  Separate storage binders into which material of a permanent nature is placed when it is removed from the main volumes of a loose-leaf service because it has been superseded.

Treatise:  In legal literature, a comprehensive, scholarly monographic treatment of a legal topic.  By extension, the term is sometimes applied to any monograph in a law library which is not a primary source and does not fall into another recognized category.

Treaty:  A compact, agreement or contract between two or more nations or sovereigns, formally signed and ratified.  It is both a law and a contract ( FN 16).  According to AACR2, an intergovernmental agreement between two or more national governments, or between intergovernmental bodies and national governments, or between national governments and governments below the national level.

Updating loose-leaf:  An integrating resource that consists of one or more base volumes updated by separate pages that are inserted, removed, and/or substituted.  (AACR2)

See also:

Module 34.  Legal Serials