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Resource Description Procedures & Guidelines: Serials

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Cataloging Serials


Descriptive cataloging for serials, as for other materials cataloged by the Library, follows the OCLC MARC format. MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging) is an internationally recognized format which makes it possible for libraries to share the cataloging they have done with other libraries, so that everyone does not have to create an original record for every title received.
This library provides descriptive cataloging for all serials, but does not class periodicals for the general collection, i.e. most periodicals are not assigned a call number, but are shelved alphabetically by title in the Periodicals stacks in the Lower Level. There are a few exceptions which are classed and shelved in the general stacks; these are mostly older titles which have ceased publication, often reprinted sets. Periodicals are also classed for the Reference and Rare collections. Serials other than periodicals are classed.

Serials received for cataloging may be accompanied by various documents. Serial titles from the Acquisitions Department normally include prints of OCLC cataloging copy, and often also contain order request cards or slips from a vendor such as Blackwell North America (BNA). There may also be instructions to catalog for a specific location such as Ref. Be sure to look at all accompanying material to find such special instructions.

Periodicals are received in the Serials Department, and usually are not accompanied by an OCLC print. The Cataloger Assistant then searches OCLC for a suitable record.


There exist a number of different formats for various types of material – books, serials, scores, audiovisual materials, computer files, etc. – which share many of the basic fields such as title, publisher and so on, but also have additional fields related to the specific format. Serials, for example, need information such as frequency of publication which is not relevant to monographs. The Serials Dept. handles both Books and Serials formats, because we analyze some of the serials which are monographic, i.e. we describe each title within the series separately.

OCLC records consist of two main sections:

  • a paragraph of fixed fields at the top, which list the OCLC record number and various coded information about the type and source of cataloging, the language, country of origin, frequency, beginning and ending date of publication, etc.
  • a series of variable fields containing various identification numbers, OCLC symbols of the libraries which created or modified the record, and the actual cataloging data.

Each variable field has a three-digit tag which describes the data contained in it, and two indicators which further define its contents or how it files. Examples 1 and 2 are copies of a full-level serial and periodical record, respectively. Some of the key fields for serials are:

Fixed Fields

OCLC record number

Bib lvl (Bibliographic level) – indicates the type of material being described: s=serial, m=book

Enc lvl (Encoding level) – indicates the level of cataloging. The most common values are: blank = full-level LC cataloging

I = full-level cataloging input by a participating library

K = less than full level, input by a participating library

5 = partial level; no call no. and subject headings (LC)

7 = minimal level (LC)

Freq (Frequency) – even if the frequency code appears here, it is LC practice to put a frequency note in the 310 field (see below)

Reg (Regularity) – indicates whether the publication adheres to its stated frequency

S/L ent (Successive/Latest entry) – refers to the cataloging code under which the title was cataloged. If the code is 0, it means cataloged according to AACR2. If it is 1, check with cataloger.
Dates – begin and end date; for ongoing titles, DATE2 = 9999

Variable Fields

010 – LC control number

022 – ISSN (International Standard Serial Number). This is very important, not only because it is a unique identifier for the title, but also because it is the link that enables some of the indexes in ALADIN to identify which titles we own.

050 – LC call number, assigned by LC

090 – LC call number assigned by a participating library (this is where we put the call number when we do original cataloging)

110 – Main entry, corporate name; e.g. United States; American Management Association; Labour Party (Great Britain)

111 – Main entry, conference or meeting; e.g. World Peace Conference.

130 – Main entry, Uniform title. This is the 1XX field most commonly encountered in serials, because it is used to differentiate between works published under the same title. It consists of the title plus a qualifier enclosed in parentheses, e.g. International business (Rye, N.Y.) in Example 2. The qualifier most commonly used is the place of publication, sometimes accompanied by the beginning date of publication; the name of the issuing body is also used on occasion.

245 – Title. Most serials are cataloged under title.

246 – Varying forms of title.

260 – Imprint.

300 – Physical description.

310 – Frequency note (must agree with code in Frequency).

362 – Enumeration/chronology; beginning and ending vol. and date information. Date information here must match that in Dates fixed field.

500 – General note. There are also several specific notes that may be input in 5XX fields.

650 – Subject heading, topical.

651 – Subject heading, geographic.

780 – Continues note.

785 – Continued by note.

The data elements in many of the variable fields are subdivided by delimiters, usually letters of the alphabet; for example, in the 260 Imprint field, |a (which is understood and does not display on the OCLC screen) contains the place of publication, |b the name of the publisher, and |c the date of publication.


There may be more than one record in OCLC for a given serial title;

  1. it may have been cataloged both as a serial and a monograph. Usually, we will prefer the serial entry; we might use the monograph version if it is unlikely that we will ever get any more issues of the title, or if it consists of editions published at intervals of several years. In case of doubt, check with cataloger.
  2. there may be more than one entry in serial format. This may result from variations in cataloging practice over time, from batch loads of records which may contain duplicates of titles already in the database, or because someone failed to find an existing record and input another one. Use the following criteria to select the record to use:

Enc lvl =blank or I (full level)

S/L ent in Fixed field = 0 (record is successive entry)

040 shows DLC or other CONSER library (record has 010 LC control no. and 042 Authentication)

If none of the above applies, choose the record that appears most complete or has the greatest number of holding libraries. Check for:

022 ISSN: if this is not in the record but appears on the piece, it should be input in ALADIN

Call number (050 or 090) – needed if the piece is going to the stacks or Reference; in any case, absence of a call number indicates less than complete cataloging

6XX subject fields; if there are none, this indicates incomplete cataloging

If the title has changed, 780/785 fields

If the record appears incomplete, consult cataloger.


Most serials other than periodicals arrive accompanied by an OCLC print (or prints, if the searcher found more than one record). If there are more than one, select the best one according to the criteria described above.

Call number: LC call numbers consist of two parts, the basic number which describes the subject matter, and a book or Cutter number which is designed to arrange books on the shelf alphabetically by main entry. Serials call numbers are usually the first and most general within their subject range, e.g. HB1 is used for serials on economic theory; HF5601 for serials on accounting.

The Cutter number is derived from the first word of the main entry, usually the author’s name in the case of a monograph and the title in the case of a serial. It consists of the first letter of the name or title, followed by a number or numbers based on the table on the next page.

Check the print for the call number. There may be more than one call number field in the record. When the OCLC record is downloaded, ALADIN selects call number fields in this order: 099, 028, 090, 050. In practice, the two fields usually occurring are 050 or 090. The call number itself will appear in two subfields: |a for the subject portion, |b for the Cutter, in the format:
050 00 QD151 |b .A45 (|a is understood).

Sometimes the subject classification number itself includes a Cutter (e.g. HF5549.5.J6 Job analysis). In this case, the whole string will appear in subfield |a of the call number field: for example, the call number for a hypothetical title Journal of job analysis might appear like this:
050 00 HF5549.5.J6 |b .J68

Check that the call number has not already been used for another title.

If the call number is a duplicate, adjust the Cutter number to fit between those already in use. Its expansion is decimal, so if .C2 and .C3 are already in use, an entry falling between them could be cuttered .C25. Do not expand Cutters by just adding 1 to the existing number, because local practice is to use the final 1 to indicate a translation into English from another language. Be sure to make the correction on any other document you may already have marked.


In pencil, write the call number, with appropriate designation for the piece in hand, near the top of the title page, allowing room for possible trimming should rebinding ever be necessary.
Format the call number with each element on a separate line, e.g. Q 11 .P6 n.s. v.69

Choosing a designation: If the title is an annual, use the year as the designation; choose the year of coverage, e.g. for a conference, use the year or years in which the conference was held, rather than the year of publication, if the two differ.

Otherwise, use designations such as v., no., or pt., being guided by the designation used on the piece itself. The basic principles are:

  • make a clear distinction between the various volumes of the title so that they will be placed correctly on the shelves;
  • use terminology which will be useful to anyone who needs to retrieve the book in the future. Wherever possible, use the language of the text. There is a list of abbreviations at the end of AACR2.

Use the same designation for the ALADIN holdings record.

--EDIT-- Replace with current LHR instructions

Bibliographic and Local Data Records (LDRs) for titles new to the Library

Local Data Records is the OCLC term for holdings records input to our Union List on OCLC. Inputting our holdings to the Union List makes it possible for other OCLC participants to see exactly what we hold of a given title, which is particularly useful for interlibrary loan purposes.
Steps to create/edit/delete LDRs

Log on to OCLC Connexion Client and find the record you will be working. The record will say: “NOT IN EAU.” (If it says: HELD BY EAU, check whether an LDR already exists. This step can be done only on OCLC Online as up to Dec., 2007).

Once on OCLC Online, search the title and click on the “Action” button, from the pull down menu select “create local holding” or “edit local holding” or “delete local holding” whatever the case may be.

Once you have done working of a LDR, then hit “validate record” to update the LDR follow by the “add” the LDR is now created/updated.


Periodicals are handled in a similar way as far as cataloging is concerned, except that they are not classed unless they are going to a location other than the Periodicals stacks. They require some additional procedures because of the nature of the material and the workflow.

The Serials Department handles both the acquisition and cataloging of periodicals. Because of budget constraints, we do not order many new periodical titles. When the title is received, it is given to the Serials Cataloger Assistant for OCLC search.

Classed Periodicals

Periodicals which are not going to the Per. stacks – in practice they are usually to be cataloged for Ref or Ref Index – are treated much like any other serial. Check the print and code the 049 field appropriately (EAUR, EAUI etc.)

Unclassed Periodicals

To suppress the call number, type an x in the 090 field on OCLC. If there is more than one 090 field, delete the additional ones or the x suppression will not work. Use 049 code EAUP.

Download to both systems. The issue will be filed in a hanging folder behind the Periodicals desk.

Analyzed Periodicals

Although periodicals are not classed, there are a few which are in effect a series of small monographs and are analyzed. They do not have a call number; they are shelved by the periodical title, which thus serves the function of a call number. To enable patrons to locate the desired title, the title and issue number of the periodical must be provided. There are one or two titles short enough to be input as a call number, e.g. Worldwatch paper, but few are brief enough to fit. The periodical title is usually entered as a note in the 852 |l field on the MHLD record, which prints in the OPAC with the system-supplied caption: SHELVED AS: [title and issue as input]. For example, Sage professional papers in comparative politics is shelved as Sage professional papers. Comparative politics series, because this was the original title and has been maintained as a binding title to keep the set together. Each issue is a separate monograph. If you search ALADIN for the title Military government and political development, the Holdings screen in the OPAC shows the note: SHELVED AS: Sage professional papers. Comparative politics series. Vol.6, ser. no. 01-054. This note derives from the MHLD note in 852 |l.


Authority records is the rather forbidding term applied to those records which record the particular form in which a name, topical subject or series appears in the catalog. The purpose of authority records is to ensure that all the works of an author list together and that subject and series searches retrieve all the appropriate holdings within the library.

When a new title is being cataloged, ALADIN should be searched to see whether it contains other works by the same author (fi ja) or in the same series (fi jt) in order to ensure that the same form of entry is used. For further details, consult Access Points and Authority Records in the Procedures manual.


Serial title changes are all too common. If the change is minor, it can sometimes be handled by adding a 246 Alternate title field and a note saying when the change occurred. This has the advantage of not requiring a user to look in two places to find holdings information.

When the change is too extensive to be handled this way, the bibliographic and holdings information for the old title must be closed, and the new title cataloged in the usual way. Both titles need linking information; the old title gets a 785 note showing the succeeding title, and the new title a 780 note showing the former title. Procedure vary somewhat, depending on the type of serial and the retention status.

a) Classed serials

Unless the subject matter of the serial has changed so that the LC classification no longer fits, which is unusual, use the same call number for the new title so that the file stays together on the shelf. If the OCLC record we used for the old title includes closing information, the most efficient way to update the ALADIN record is to overlay.

If closing information is available on an OCLC record other than the one we have used, we can use it by changing the OCLC record number in field 035 on ALADIN to that of the record we want to download, because this is the data element on which a match is based. If there is more than one 035 field in the ALADIN record, delete all but the first; otherwise the program may fail to recognize the match and create a new record instead of overlaying.

If closing information is not available in OCLC, the following fields need to be updated in the ALADIN record:

008 Enter the closing date

008 Change Publications Status to “d” indicating Continuing resource ceased publication

260 – add closing date

362 – add closing information for holdings

785 – make Linking Entry note for the succeding title (usual format: 785::|t new title |w (OCoLC) [its OCLC record no.]

Close the holdings on the MHLD record.

LHR Maintenance:

Summary – add closing date

008 – change the [06] element (Receipt or acquisition) to “2” indicating that it is Received and complete or ceased.

The new title is handled like any other new title; be sure that the 780 linking field is present to relate back to the former title.

b) Unclassed serials

These are handled similarly to classed titles, except that there is no call number to be concerned about.



A serial is a publication, in print or non-print form, issued in successive parts, usually with numerical or chronological designations, and intended to be continued indefinitely. Examples of serials are periodicals, newspapers, annuals, journals, and the memoirs, proceedings or transactions of societies.

A periodical is a serial that is published more frequently than once per year.

A monographic series consists of volumes which have individual titles and are also issued as part of a series, e.g. Lecture notes in mathematics. Such series may be numbered or unnumbered.

A series is said to be analyzed when each monograph within it is given a separate cataloging record. If all titles within the series are on closely related subjects, the series may be classed together – that is, all volumes have the same basic call number and are distinguished from one another by a designation (v., no., year etc.). An example is Lecture notes in mathematics, in which the basic call number is QA3.L28 and each volume then carries its own number designation.

If the series includes titles on a variety of subjects, it may be classed separately – each volume is classed in the LC number for its particular subject.

If the series itself is a useful access point, it will be traced; that is, it will be coded in such a way that the series itself can be searched as a title.

A multivolume monograph differs from a serial in that, although it is issued in several volumes, often over a period of time, but is not intended to continue indefinitely. Examples are the collected works of prolific authors, or encyclopedias that come out over a period of time. Although these are not serials, they require receipt procedures similar to those for serials until they are completed.

OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) is the bibliographic utility located in Dublin, Ohio, of which this library is a member, and from which we obtain most of our cataloging records. If OCLC does not have a record for a title we need to catalog, it is part of our membership responsibility to create a record for the OCLC database.

CONSER is the acronym for the Cooperative Online Serials project, which is an association of research libraries which provide many of the serials records included in the OCLC database. CONSER libraries include the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, the National Agricultural Library and large academic libraries such as Cornell and Indiana. They are authorized not only to input new records but to modify existing records in the OCLC database.
A Union List of serials combines information on the holdings of a defined group of libraries. This library is part of the WRLC union list maintained in the OCLC database, which rejoices in the name CAOS.

A Local Data Record (LDR) is the OCLC term for a holdings record created for the online Union List.