In considering " looseleaf" it is first of all necessary to distinguish between publications that are merely issued in looseleaf format (1) and those that are issued in this format for the specific purposes of updating. This online help deals only with the latter type, which is called "looseleaf for updating."

"Looseleaf for updating" is defined as a mode of publication in which the material is published on separate, usually perforated pages in special binders; the pages can be easily inserted, removed, and substituted. This physical feature allows a publisher to update the text through continuing edition, introducing what is new, and removing what is superseded. Publications in this category are single or multivolume monographs, or they may be serials (see Library of Congress Rule Interpretation (LCRI) 12.0A: Cataloging Service Bulletin, (CSB) no. 44 (spring 1989), an excerpt of which is given below). No matter whether the bibliographic condition is serial or monographic, all such looseleaf publications are continually updated. A clear majority of these is in the field of law. The particular method of updating varies from publisher to publisher, and sometimes there is no uniform practice within the output of a single publisher. Looseleaf publications in specific subject areas containing both primary and secondary source material are frequently referred to as "looseleaf services."

The greatest advantage of a looseleaf publication is its capacity to disseminate up-to-date information. Such dissemination, however, may also greatly affect the bibliographic record, for it is often necessary to adjust the bibliographic record to reflect updates to the publication, especially when such updates result in changes or substitutions tin relation to the title page or another comparable source (e.g., the binder).

Several phenomena associated with looseleaf publications create a measure of confusion: The updates, which, depending on the subject matter and the frequency of revision, may vary from a single page to hundreds of pages, are usually called "releases" or "supplements" and are generally numbered, e.g., "Release 58, Jan. 1986." The identification of the updates is often on a special sheet or on a wrapper with instructions for interfiling. The updates once interfiled lose any identification as a unit, e.g., as "Release 58" per se. The wrapper is discarded, but the instructions-for-filing sheet is usually kept for control purposes. The numbering system is of no use to the patron and has no other purpose than that of assuring the purchaser that all updates have been received. A new title page is issued frequently (because of new material having been newly copyrighted) along with instructions to discard the previous one. A new title page is issued also when a change in title or authorship, editorship, etc., occurs (with instructions to discard the previous one).

The phenomenon of replacement title pages needs some elaboration, for it occurs frequently and is unique to looseleaf publications. As stated above, the title page of a looseleaf publication can be, and often is, a nonpermanent feature. A new title page supersedes the previous one, which is to be discarded. Some libraries retain the superseded title pages for bibliographic history; the Library of Congress does not retain them at all. In spite of the substitution of title pages, the cataloger’s task is to create a single bibliographic record, not an endless succession of records for nonexistent "related editions".

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Cataloging Rules for the Description of Looseleaf Publications: Contents