Friday, April 21, 2006

Series Work at LC

This is a memo distributed April 20 to LC staff.

The Director for Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Announces the Library of Congress's Decision to Cease Creating Series Authority Records as Part of Library of Congress Cataloging April 20, 2006

The Library of Congress has determined that it will cease to provide controlled series access in the bibliographic records that its catalogers produce. Its catalogers will cease creating series authority records (SARs). The Library considered taking this step over a decade ago, but decided against it at that time because of some of the concerns raised about the impact this would have. The environment has changed considerably since then--indexing and key word access are more powerful and can provide adequate access via series statements provided only in the 490 field of the bibliographic record. We recognize that there are still some adverse impacts, but they are mitigated when the gains in processing time are considered.

As the Library was considering introducing this change, it was heavily swayed by the number of records that included series statements. Using statistics for the most recent year with full output of records appearing in the LC Database (fiscal year 2004) gives a sense of the impact on the cataloging workload:

Total monograph records created: 344,362 Total with series statements: 82,447 Total SARs created: 8,770 (by LC catalogers); 9,453 (by Program for Cooperative Cataloging participants)

As a result of the Library's decision, the following explains what catalogers will and will not do, related to series.

What LC catalogers will do:

  • Create a separate bibliographic record for all resources with distinctive titles published as parts of series (monographic series and multipart monographs).
  • Give series statements in 490 0 fields.
  • Classify separately each volume (i.e., assign call number and subject headings appropriate to the specific topic of the volume). (Imported copy cataloging records will have series access points removed and series statements changed to 490 0.)
What LC catalogers will not do:
  • Create new SARs=20
  • Modify existing SARs to update data elements or LC's treatment decisions
  • Consult and follow treatment in existing SARs
  • Update existing collected set records=09
  • Change 4XX/8XX fields in completed bibliographic records when updating those records for other reasons
The Library's rationale includes:
  1. Eliminates cost of constructing unique headings; searching to determine the existence of an SAR; creating SARs; and adjusting 8XX on existing bibliographic records.
  2. Maintains current level of subject access.
  3. In some instances, increases access because more titles will be classified separately
  4. Maintains current level of descriptive access other than series. Uncontrolled series access will remain available through keyword searches.
The Library will be working with affected stakeholder organizations--OCLC, RLG, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, and the larger library community to mitigate as much as possible the impact of this change.

The Library will implement this change on May 1, 2006. The Cataloging Policy and Support Office is revising affected documentation to be reissued to reflect these decisions.


Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous, seems to me. Indexing and keyword access? It seems to me that the _main utility_ of series information is being able to collocate by series. Abandoning authority control of series, you can't do that reliably anymore.

Why does the cataloging world seem interested in getting rid of as much control as possible, at the same time the non-cataloging world seems to be recognizing the importance of control?

You can't collocate by series on Amazon (give it a try, and you'll see what a mess it is; soon library catalogs will be the same)---in an effort to remain 'competetive' with the non-controlled IR systems of 'the internet', the cataloging world is abandoning the only things that _actually_ distinguish cataloging from that world; it's a recipe for guaranteeing the irrelevance of cataloging, not a recipe for remaining 'competetive'.


burlapwax said...

Hey David -- thanks for posting the full text! I was trying to find this on Autocat after I got home on Friday and had trouble. Mixed feelings. Very mixed feelings. I'd like to see the search statistics for users searching by monographic series -- guessing it's slim-to-none percentages -- but the administrative utility of the 440 series statement is huge for those working with rare materials. I work in Poetry/Rare Books cataloging, and we share responsibilities for selection, acquisitions, cataloging, and processing...the selection process for poetry depends entirely on these series statements, as the 490 series title can change on every book in the series.