Definition of a serial What is a serial? It is not something one eats for breakfast. Definitions, although sometimes boring, are essential – especially because over the years many key terms, such as periodical and serial have been used inconsistently. Moreover, many other terms, such as magazine, little magazine, zine, review, journal, newspaper, underground press, and newsletter need clarification.
The precise definition of terminology is not simply an academic question, although some have questioned its usefulness (Mary Ellen Soper, Larry N. Osborne, and Douglas L. Zweizig, with the assistance of Ronald R. Powell, The Librarian’s Thesaurus, ed. Mary Ellen Soper (Chicago: American Library Association, 1990), 35-36. They state: “Many terms have been used to describe various kinds of serials, such as ‘periodicals’, ‘magazines’, ‘newspapers’, ‘annuals’, ‘journals’, ‘bulletins’, ‘memoirs’, ‘proceedings,’ ‘transactions’, ‘papers,’ and so on. But a closer look at these terms’ overlapping definitions supports the contention that there are really few useful distinctions among these serial types.). Bill Katz has said, “Obviously, the child next door can tell a librarian what a magazine is, or is not, and the average adult doesn’t confuse the Reader’s Digest with a new edition of Tarzan of the Apes, so why all the fuss?” (Bill Katz, Magazine Selection: How to Build a Community-Oriented Collection (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1971), 1). Nevertheless, defining terms is significant. In a practical sense, definitions might affect the organization of work flow, budgeting, the division of staff responsibilities, how an item is cataloged, and what is included in an union list. Theoretically, a serials textbook should explain what a serial is and address the conflicting terminology.
The 1988 revision of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules second edition (AACR2R) defines a serial as “A publication in any medium issued in successive parts bearing numeric or chronological designations and intended to be continued indefinitely. Serials include periodicals; newspapers; annuals (reports, yearbooks, etc.); the journals, memoirs, proceedings, transactions, etc. of societies; and numbered monographic series.” (Michael Gorman and Paul W. Winkler, eds., Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2d ed., 1988 revision (Ottawa: Canadian Library Association; London: Library Association Publishing; Chicago: American Library Association, 1988), 622).
This definition has nearly achieved general acceptance in North America. It has been adopted by the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science (Heartsill Young, ed., ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science (Chicago: American Library Association, 1983), 203.), the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) Guidelines for Handling Library Orders for Serials and Periodicals (Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, Guidelines for Handling Library Orders for Serials and Periodicals, rev. ed. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1992), 1), and the ALCTS Serials Acquisitions Glossary (Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, Serials Acquisitions Glossary (Chicago: Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, 1993), 27).
Three key elements form the definition of a serial: the item is issued in separate parts on an ongoing basis, the parts are numbered or contain a chronological designation, and no discernable end is in sight – that is, it is “intended by the producer to continue indefinitely.” The producer’s intention is critical because even a single piece would be considered a serial if the publisher had originally intended it to continue indefinitely (Soper, Osborne, and Zweizig, The Librarian’s Thesaurus, 35). If a definite end is in sight (e.g., an encyclopedia issued in separate volumes, each covering one letter of the alphabet), it is not a serial. The very word serial implies continuation, such as an old-time “serial movie” or, as a more ghoulish example, a serial killer. Arguably, ongoing televisions shows, such as the nightly news or soap operas, are serials (Brian O’Connor, “Moving Image-Based Serial Publications,” Serials Review 12 (summer and fall 1986): 20). As G. E. Gorman states, “It is the ‘intended to continue indefinitely’ aspect which contributes to the uniqueness of serial literature and which is the source of most problems associated with serials librarianship.” (G.E. Gorman, “The Education of Serials Librarians in Australia: A Proposed Course in Serials Librarianship,” Serials Librarian 17, nos. 1/2 (1989): 53)
What is the relationship between periodical and serial? The precise meaning of these terms varies depending on time period, country, author, library, or purpose for which the terms are used. Depending on the context, at least four relationships exist between the terms periodical and serial:
- They are synonyms.
- Periodicals are a subset of serials.
- Serials are a subset of periodicals.
- Periodicals and serials are mutually exclusive phenomena.
In popular usage, among nonspecialists, the terms serial and periodical are sometimes used as synonyms because the difference between the two is not fully understood. Specialists almost always differentiate between serials and periodicals but not consistently.
Most current North American usage tends to conform to the second relationship outlined above – that periodicals are a subset of serials. Although the AACR2R’s glossary does not define periodical per se, its above-cited definition of serial specifically lists periodical as a category of serial. Likewise, the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science defines periodical as a type of serial:
A serial appearing or intended to appear indefinitely at regular or stated intervals, generally more frequently than annually, each issue of which is numbered or dated consecutively and normally contains separate articles, stories, or other writings. Newspapers disseminating general news, and the proceedings, papers, or other publications of corporate bodies primarily related to their meetings, are not included in this term.
(Young, ALA Glossary, 166.)
Magazines and journals (the distinctions between the two are analyzed in the next section) are almost invariably considered periodicals, but much inconsistency exists about whether newspapers are periodicals or a different type of serial. The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science, quoted in the above paragraph and in the Serials Acquisition Glossary (Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, Serials Acquisition Glossary, 23), explicitly excludes newspapers from the definition of a periodical. Yet many authorities, including Marcia Tuttle (Marcia Tuttle, Managing Serials (Greenwich, Conn.: JAI Press, 1996), 5), classify newspapers as a major category of periodical.
The third logical relationship, serials as a subset of periodicals, has been used in the past in the United Kingdom. Tuttle wrote in 1996, “In the United Kingdom, until recently, serial was a specific term, comparable to what Americans know as periodical. British librarians used periodical as the broader term.” 13 Now British usage is essentially in agreement with North American terminology, as indicated by the definitions in the 1995 edition of the British publication Harrod’s Librarians’ Glossary. 14
Some users conform to the fourth relationship, applying the term periodical to periodical serials and reserving the term serial for nonperiodical serials. (The distinction between periodical and nonperiodical serials is explained below.) For example, an article describing binding expenditures at the Georgia Institute of Technology library reported them separately for periodicals and serials as if they were two totally separate categories. 15
The terminology used in this book conforms to the definition outlines in AACR2R, with periodicals considered a subset of serials. However, throughout the text the terms are sometimes used interchangeably for stylistic variation when the concept under discussion is equally applicable to both serials and periodicals.
Many experts, including N. Bernard Basch and Judy McQueen, differentiate between periodical serials and nonperiodical serials. According to Basch and McQueen, the former are issued on a regular basis at an annual or greater frequency and include periodicals, newspapers, and legal and business services. The latter, which “are issued less regularly and more infrequently,” include proceedings, biennials, sets, and monographic and multivolume series. In contrast, many authorities consider annuals to be serials but not periodicals. Basch and McQueen assert that annuals “straddle” the two categories. They explain that annuals regularly issued in the same months (e.g., April 1995, April 1996, etc) “behave like periodical serials,” whereas ones issued in different months (e.g., March 1995, June 1996) correspond to nonperiodical serials. 16
Andrew D. Osborn identified three types of what Tuttle terms “near serials”: 17 “continuations,” “provisional serials,” and “pseudoserials”. In Osborn’s scheme, a continuation is a nonserial set for which a library places a continuing order, for example, a multivolume monographic title. A provisional serial refers to a monographic set with ongoing supplements, such as the yearbook for an encyclopedia. “A pseudoserial is a frequently reissued and revised publication which quite properly may be, and on first publication generally is, considered to be a monograph”18 – in other words, a work issued in repeated editions, such as Burke’s Peerage.
The relationship between a serial and a series is somewhat complex and requires examination. AACR2R defines a series as follows:
- A group of separate items related to one another by the fact that each item bears, in addition to its own title proper, a collective title applying to the group as a whole. The individual items may or may not be numbered. 2. Each of two or more volumes of essays, lectures, articles, or other writings, similar in character and issued in sequence (e.g., Lowell’s Among my books, second series). 3. A separately numbered sequence of volumes within a series or serial (e.g. Notes and queries, 1st series, 2d series, etc.). 19
Definition one covers a monographic series. If numbered, a monographic series meets the criteria for being considered a serial; but if unnumbered, it does not. As indicated in the AACR2R’s third definition, a serial can be suborganized into separate series.
Serials are often thought of as a distinct format. Yet periodicity – being regularly recurrent – rather than format is crucial to the definition. The AACR2R explicitly states that a serial is “a publication in any medium.” 20 Accordingly, a serial can assume a paper, microfiche or film, online, or CD-ROM format.
Types of serials
The major types of serials are discussed in this section. Some of the distinctions between specialized types may not be especially significant for processing purposes but might be useful in collection development and for a full understanding of the diverse range of serials.
One must distinguish between a definition and a characteristic. Men generally weigh more than women, but weight is clearly not the defining difference between a man and a woman. A review of the pertinent literature indicates that many types of serials are described by their major characteristics rather than precisely defined.
The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science defines a journal as “a periodical, especially one containing scholarly articles and/or disseminating current information on research and development in a particular subject field.” 21 The American Political Science Review, the American Historical Review, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and Journal of Applied Physics are typical examples of journals.
A magazine is defined by the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science as a “periodical for general reading, containing articles on various subjects by different authors.” 22 Time, Sports Illustrated, People, or Playboy are examples of magazines. Ironically, not all magazines meet the technical definition of a serial. A phenomenon, termed a “temporary magazine,” is geared towards a specific event. One can cite Sports Illustrated Olympic marketed only in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics or the Ryder Cup Journal sold at the biannual Ryder Cup international golf competition. When the event is finished, the magazine ceases, thus failing to meet the “intended to be continued indefinitely” criterion. Temporary magazines produce lucrative advertising revenue and are often “thick and glossy, coffee-table worthy,” 23 but are seldom collected by libraries.
What is the difference between a magazine and a journal? Chuck Dintrone outlined nine criteria for distinguishing between the two: authors, notes, style, editors, audience, advertisements, look, the contents, and index coverage. A magazine’s authors are journalists or laypersons who write in a journalistic style for the general public on current events or general-interest topics. A journal’s authors are experts who write in a scholarly style for a specialized audience on research topics. A magazine tends to have a glossy look and few, if any, footnotes; but it is likely to include advertisements and pictures (often in colour) and to be covered by general indexes such as the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. In contrast, a journal tends to have a sedate look, footnotes and bibliographies, an editorial board, and outside reviewers as well as to be covered in specialized subject indexes; but it is less likely to have advertising or pictures. 24 Although not mentioned by Dintrone, magazines tend to have larger circulations than journals.
The preceding discussion focused on characteristics. At the risk of over simplification, the defining difference is that a journal disseminates information to scholars, whereas a magazine entertains or informs the general public or a specialized interest group. Whether a particular tile is a magazine or a journal is not always clear-cut and, in fact, might not make any difference for many library-processing functions. The Katzes’s Magazines for Libraries contains many titles that are without a doubt journals (e.g. Libraries and Culture: A Journal of Library History).25
According to the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science, a newspaper is “a serial issued at stated, frequent intervals (usually daily, weekly, or semiweekly), containing news, opinions, advertisements, and other items of current, often local, interest.26 Practically every community has a local newspaper. Several U.S. newspapers with circulations extending far beyond their local communities have achieved status as “national newspapers,” for example, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Los Angeles Times. Other national newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, or the Christian Science Monitor, do not serve a specific geographic locality. Ethnic newspapers, such as the China Daily News or Novo Russkoe Slovo, represent another distinct type. Lubomyr R. Wynar and Anna T. Wynar define the American ethnic press “as consisting of newspapers and periodicals published either in English, non-English, or bilingually, published by ethnic organizations or individuals in the United States, and specifically aimed at an ethnic readership.” 27 In mid-1996 several hundred ethnic newspapers in at least 40 languages were published in the United States. 28 Although many people would consider Computerworld and the Daily Racing Form to be newspapers because of their appearance, they do not, according to Joseph A. Purrico, meet the technical definition. Puccio writes “to the library world, any publication that has a subject orientation and is reporting something other than general news is not a newspaper.” 29
The term tabloid, which is often used in association with newspapers, can have two meanings. One refers to the physical format; the other is a derisive term applied to the sensation-seeking (some might even say “sleazy”) news items frequently seen at grocery store checkout lines that proclaim Elvis sightings and alien abductions.
A newsletter is defined by the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science as “a serial consisting of one or a few printed sheets containing news or information of interest chiefly to a special group.” 30 The Oxbridge Directory of Newsletters, which in 1994 listed more than 20,000 newsletters published in the United States and Canada, states that newsletters raise revenue primarily through subscription sales rather than advertising “but there are many exceptions.” 31
A house magazine is defined in Free Magazines for Libraries as “a publication available without charge to its readers, carrying no paid advertising, and produced ... with the intention of promoting the sponsor’s interest.” It can be distinguished from a trade publication, which deals with an entire industry, carries advertising, and charges a subscription fee. A house magazine may be “internal” (for employees only), “external” (for outsiders), or “combination” (for both employees and outsiders). Such publications are issued by both commercial entities – especially in the areas of manufacturing, banking, insurance, and utilities – and by the nonprofit sector – including government agencies, trade associations, universities, libraries, and foundations. Self-promotion of the sponsoring agency is often a prime motivation for publication. Examples of a house magazine would be the Dartmouth College Library Bulletin and the Statistical Review of the Arkansas Employment Security Department. This category often overlaps with newsletters. 32
Little magazines form another genre. A little magazine may be viewed as the periodical equivalent of a small press monographic publication. They are “little” from two perspectives: circulation and the number of pages in an issue. “Their format is usually characterized by eccentricities in size, illustrations, and printing – all the way from mimeographed to conventional.” 33
A chapter in Katz’s text on magazine selection lists six “principle characteristics” of little magazines:
- Circulation seldom exceeds 500 to 2,000.
- Financial support is primarily from subscription and donation with minimum advertising.
- Most seldom survive more than a year or two due to poor financial support.
- They are often difficult for librarians to deal with from a business perspective.
- They may have unusual sizes and formats as well as inconsitent numbering.
- They “are ‘little’ only in terms of circulation, not physical size ... [which is] a far cry from the standard sizes” (somewhat repetitive of the previous point). Katz carefully distinguishes little magazines from literary reviews, the underground press, and established sociopolitical magazines such as the National Review or the New Republic. 34 Formalist: A Journal of Metrical Poetry, Mississippi Mud, and Exquisite Corpse: A Journal of Books and Ideas serve as examples of contemporary little magazines.
Literary reviews (sometimes simply called reviews) can be difficult to distinguish from little magazines. According to Katzes, literary reviews contain “critical analysis and evaluation ... [and] fiction, poetry, drama, interviews, and graphics, and they may extend their boundaries beyond pure literature to the arts, social commentary, politics, history, and other areas.” 35 Some of the best-known literary reviews include the Antioch Review, the Paris Review, the Partisan Review, and the Southern Review.
What is the difference between a little magazine and a review, as both contain literature as well as sociopolitical commentary? According to Clara D. Brown and Lynn S. Smith, reviews are such “close relatives” of little magazines that they may be called “hybrid littles.” Brown and Smith note that reviews are usually published by colleges or universities and contain the word review in the title. 36
Another closely related genre is the “underground press.” Writing in the context of the 1960s, Katz asserted, “There is no completely satisfactory definition of the underground press,” but then he stated that they tended to be
- opposed to the Vietnam War,
- in favor of “legalization of marijuana, but not necessary all drugs,”
- “politically to the left,”
- culturally avant-garde,
- representative of the “under-thirty” generation, and
- staffed by volunteers or poorly paid workers. 37
The East Village Other, the Berkeley Barb, and the Great Speckled Bird were among the most famous underground press periodicals of the 1960s.
Another category sometimes confused with little magazines or the underground press are the “fanzines” – an obvious combination of the terms fan and magazine. Fredric Wertham defines fanzines as “uncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their editors produce, publish, and distribute. They deal primarily with what they call fantasy literature and art.” 38 Wertham defines some terms used in the fanzine world of the 1970s. A “poorly done” fanzine was a “crudzine” contrasted to a more professional looking “ultrazine.” A “Gerzine” was a German fanzine, and underground comics were know as “undies.” 39
Zines developed from fanzines or fan magazines. Precise definitions of a zine are elusive. Even Mike Gunderloy and Cari Goldberg Janice, authors of a guide to zines, admit, “It’s hard to say what defines a zine.” 40 However, zines are characterized by self-publication on a nonprofit basis and typically focus on a specific subject. 41 They have been compared to the “low-tech print equivalent” 42 of a World Wide Web (WWW) home page where the creator has almost total autonomy. In 1995 the average zine was reported to have a run of 200 copies and a production cost of $500. 43 According to Chris Dodge, zines are “Notorious for their ephemeral nature ... sloppy production values and dubious credibility.” 44 Dodge further states, “Often produced by disaffected sorts, zines’ contemporary audience is the same: marginalized people of all kinds.” 45 Zines about their publishers’ lives have been appropriately termed “personal zines.” An example would be the Pathetic Life: Diary of a Fat Slob, by Doug Holland. 46 Other categories of zines, as listed in Gunderloy and Janice’s guide, include “fringe culture,” comics, sports, hobbies, music, reviews, politics, literary, people, “love, sex & relationships,” travel, spirituality, and “movies & television.” 47
Traditionally, most libraries have not collected zines to any appreciable extent. However, the New York State Library, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, and Washington State University reportedly have strong zine collections. 48 In any case, zines represent a significant cultural phenomenon that needs to be addressed in a survey of serial genres.
The term newsstand magazine has been used for magazines sold at newsstands, smoke shops, drug stores, groceries, or supermarkets. 49 Different categories of “newsstand magazines” have been identified as “sports,” 50 “detective,” 51 “bridal,” 52 “humor,” 53 and “confession” 54 magazines plus “superhero comic books.” 55 Other types could also be named.
A trade journal, as discussed earlier, is devoted to a particular business or industry, carries advertising, and charges a subscription fee. An example would be Blood-Horse, which covers the thoroughbred horse racing industry. Bank Card Industry Report and Drug Store Market Guide are also trade journals.
Serials that support the reference function are called reference serials. Many of the most important sources in a reference department, such as abstracts, indexes, yearbooks, and almanacs, would be included in this category. In 1984 the journal Reference Services Review stated two criteria for defining reference serials:
- they must be useful as reference sources, and
- they must be issued as serials or be titles superseded periodically by new editions. 56
One sometimes hears the term controlled circulation applied to a journal or serial. The ALA Glossary states these serials are “available (usually without charge) only to those specified by the authors or publisher.” 57 They are usually intended for “designated market sectors at predetermined circulation levels.” 58 Ulrich’s International Periodical Directory lists more than six thousand controlled-circulation serials. 59 Examples would be college or university alumni magazines (e.g., Columbia College Today), professional publications (e.g., the Florida Independent Accountant), state publications (such as North Dakota’s Highway Safety Plan), or serials for hobbyists (such as the Green Thumb Gardening Newsletter). Controlled-circulation serials, contrary to what the term implies, are frequently available to libraries. 60
Standing orders are sometimes confused with serials, yet the two are distinct concepts. A standing order is not a type of serial, but as logically implied, a type of order. (Most serials are acquired by an order type known as “subscription.”) Most, but not all, standing orders are for certain types of serials. For examples, annuals (e.g. the World Almanac or the UNESCO Yearbook), are serial types that are commonly acquired through standing order. In library budgeting, serials and standing orders are sometimes grouped together because both represent continuing financial obligations on the library’s part. The distinction between serials and standing orders can critically affect budgeting and technical services organization. For more detailed discussions of budgeting, see chapter 3.
Serials classification scheme
A serials or periodicals classification scheme systematically defines the categories of publications that compose the serials universe or a particular type of periodical. Theorectially, one should be able to place every title within a single category, although some schemes have overlapping, nonmutually exclusive categories. Over the years, many schemes have been proposed for serials in general or for various serial types. Because classification schemes can illustrate the functions serials perform and help impose order on the sometimes chaotic world of serial publications, this section reviews some representative examples.
As far back as 1937, J. Harris Gable classified periodicals into three broad categories: “Those intended to foster the interest of knowledge,” such as professional journals; “those indended to foster the interests of a trade, profession, or society;” and “money-making ventures,” for a popular audience, which Gable subdivided into ten groups: literary, fiction and short story, features, news and comment, family or women’s magazines, reviews, juvenile, humorous, cheap story, and sex. 61
Even fairly narrow periodical categories, such as ethnic publications, have been classified. In addition to general ethnic newspapers and periodicals, Wynar and Wynar identified 12 specific types: political and ideological, fraternal, religious, scholarly and academic, educational, professional and trade, cultural, youth-oriented, women-oriented, sports and recreational, veterans’, and bibliographical periodicals. 62
Apparently, a variety of schemes, often quite different, have been proposed, thus testifying to the variety and elusiveness of the serials format. The schemes typically merge such factors as audience, publisher, purpose, frequency, and subject. Most serial classification schemes do not address electronic publications, which are discussed in the next section.
Electronic journals and other electronic publications
In recent years, electronic journals have grown explosively, as have a variety of other electronic phenomena – including listservs – that have some of the characteristics of a serial. Accordingly, several important definitions should be addressed. What is an electronic serial? Are all titles termed “electronic journals” genuine serials? Is a listserv a serial?
No generally accepted standard definition exists for electronic serial publications. The terminology itself and the definitions have varied over time. Before the terms electronic journal and e-journal came into vogue, a variety of terms, including the “virtual journal,” “the paperless journal,” and the “online journal,” were used. 70
In 1992, D. Scott Brandt offered a definition applicable to early generation electronic journals: “In its broadest definition, an e-journal is some grouping of information which is sent out in electronic form with some periodicity.” 71 Some definitions limit the concept to networked journals. For example, Gail McMillan defines electronic journals as “any serials produced, published, and distributed nationally and internationally via electronic networks such as Bitnet and the Internet.” 72 Lawrence R. Keating II, Christa Easton Reinke, and Judi A. Goodman use “a scholarly journal delivered electronically over networks” as the definition. 73
According to other definitions, an electronic counterpart of a print journal is not considered a genuine electronic journal. For instance, Marian Dworaczek and Victor G. Wiebe “consider a true e-journal to be a serial whose creation and distribution to the public is entirely in electronic format.” 74 Tom Moothart reserves the term electronic journal for “those titles only available electronically” and uses the phrase “online journal” for “titles that have a print counterpart.” 75 Other analysts use the term networked to distinguish journals available on the Internet from those that are on CD-ROMs. 76 Hazel Woodward and Cliff McKnight differentiate three types of electronic journals: online (which are available through a host such as DIALOG), CD-ROM, and networked (i.e., on the Internet). 77 One might conclude that the terminological inconsistency reflects the fact that electronic journals themselves are in a state of flux, yet terminology for print serials and periodicals that have been in existence for centuries is still sometimes used inconsistently.
This book uses a broad definition of electronic journal to cover any serial or serial-like publication available in an electronic format. Accordingly, networked, nonnetworked, electronic only, and dual print and electronic titles are considered electronic journals. Conforming to Woodward and McKnight’s terminology, this book uses online for journals available through such services as DIALOG and networked for journals on the Internet.
Note that many titles that call themselves and are generally referred to as “electronic journals” do not meet all the requirements of the AACR2R serial definition. Marilyn Geller states that many so-called electronic journals such as the Journal of Electronic Publishing or Olive Tree are really cumulative electronic archives to which articles are continously added. However, they lack chronological or numeric order and the grouping of articles into issues. 78 In a similar vein, Ed Jones terms electronic indexing and abstracting services, such as Library Literature, “dynamic databases, in a perpetual state of cumulation (and not serial cumulation).” 79 In the online version, the new entries that are continously added lead to new cumulations of the entire database without producing separate parts. Likewise, each quarterly Library Literature CD-ROM disk contains a total cumulation of the database back to 1984. In contrast, the print versions of indexes and abstracts are genuine serials because each issue represents a separate part. Print cumulations usually compile several previous issues but seldom the entire backrun of the service.
A related question concerns the classification of listservs. According to Sharon H. Domier’s thoughtful analysis, electronic conferences and listservs share with serials the intention to continue indefinitely and a list of subscribers. A serial and an electronic conference are similar in that a serial has a publisher and an electronic conference has a host computer; a serial has an editor and an electronic conference has a list owner; and a serial is characterized by numerical or chronological numbering, while an electronic conference contains messages with a time and date. But Domier concludes that many electronic conferences “would seem to fail the ‘serials’ test because they do not have consecutive numbering schemes.” She notes, however, that an electronic conference digest, which compiles and sends messages on a daily basis to designated users, could be considered a serial because of its consistent chronological organization. 80
Crystal Graham and Rebecca Ringler have, perhaps facetiously, used bibliographic hermaphrodite to describe publications that display both monographic and serial features. They state that a bibliographic hermaphrodite possesses three characteristics: completeness in one part, the potential for updating, and the potential for indefinite continuation. Included in this category are listservs and electronic bulletin boards; WWW, gopher, and ftp (File Transfer Protocol) sites; online indexing and abstracting services; and Online Public Access Catalogs (OPACs). These publications are monographic by virtue of being complete in one part but serial in that they can continue indefinitely through limitless updating. 81
The question of whether the AACR2R serials definition should be expanded was debated in Serials Review’s spring 1996 issue. 82 Geller argues that the profession should “start stretching the definition of a serial” to accommodate continuing electronic publications that are essentially serial even if they do not meet all the requirements of the AACR2R definition (e.g., numbered parts that package articles). 83 Arguing that expanding the AACR2R definition would confuse the treatment of print serials, Graham and Ringle advocate a third category in addition to serials and monographs, based on Adele Hallam’s Cataloguing Rules for the Description of Looseleaf Publications, for items displaying both serial and monographic characteristics. 84
Authoritative but probably not final answers to several of these issues are provided in the CONSER Cataloguing Manual, Module 31, which addresses the cataloguing of electronic serials. This document explicitly asserts that OPACs, gophers, listservs, WWW home pages, online services such as DIALOG, and listserv digests should not be considered serials. It also states that the “current serial⁄monograph distinctions may need reconsideration” because “the transition from print to online format may result in a serial becoming a monograph. For example, a directory issued semiannually in print can be updated continously online without the existence of distinct issues or editions.” 85
In conclusion, a technical discussion of whether various electronic entities are authentic serials might appear somewhat academic. However, resolving these definitional issues can have practical implications for library operations, determining how and by whom electronic phenomena are catalogued and processed.
Evans, G. Edward, with the assistance of Zarnosky, Margaret R. Developing Library and Information Collections, 4th ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2000, pp. 1-12.