Monday, December 26, 2011



The Publisher is my Tormentor. I shall not smile:
He maketh me to work all day at my desk.
He leadeth me astray with misnumbererd issues:
His Roman numerals confound me.
He changeth titles over and over for His own sake.
Yea when I walk through the shadow of missing or irregular issues, I can find no respote, for He has moved
He answereth not my letters, not useth the correct mailing lab,
He starteth not when I ask and quiteth before it is time,
My work never endeth.
Rising prices and duplicate issues shall follow me all the days of my life; and
I shall moan and groan in the library forever.

(Evans, Developing Library and Information Center Collections, 2000)

• Serial: 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.
(AACR2, Glossary)

Key elements of definition
  • Any medium
  • Successive parts
  • Numeric and/or chronological designation
  • Indefinite continuation (no planned end)
Series 1. 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.
(AACR2, Glossary)

For our purposes, a series is not a serial.

Types of serials
  • Journal: periodical publication dealing with matters of current interest; often used for official or semi-official publications of special groups. Term often used for learned or peer-reviewed publications.
  • Magazine: periodical that usually contains a miscellaneous collection of articles, stories, poems, and pictures and is directed at the general reading public.
  • Newspaper: a serial issued at stated frequent intervals (usually daily, weekly, or semiweekly) containing news, opinions, advertisements, and other items of current, often local, interest.
  • Newsletter: a serial consisting of one or a few printed sheets containing news or information of interest chiefly to a special group.
  • House magazine (aka house organ, house journal): a periodical issued by a commercial, industrial or non-profit organization for distribution internally to its employees and/or externally to its customers.
  • Zine: Derived from “fanzine” (a contraction of “fan magazine”), the term came into use during the 1980s to refer to a small, low-circulation magazine or newspaper, self-published out of passion for the subject rather than for personal gain, usually with the aid of desktop publishing software and a high-quality photocopy machine. (ODLIS)
  • Trade journal: a periodical devoted to disseminating news and information of interest to a specific industry or trade, often published by a trade association. (ODLIS) It carries advertising and charges a subscription fee.
  • Controlled circulation serial: available (usually without charge) only to those specified by the author or publisher. (ALA Glossary).
    o Are frequently available to libraries.
  • Electronic journal: a website graphically modeled on an existing print journal (example: Library Journal), or which provides access to an online journal that has no print counterpart (Electronic Journal of Differential Equations). Synonymous with e-journal.
  • Electronic magazine: A Website graphically modeled on an existing print magazine (example: The New Yorker), or which provides access to an online magazine that has no print counterpart (example: Slate). Synonymous with e-zine, e-magazine, and Webzine. (ODLIS)
Selection tools
  • Ulrich’s International Periodical Directory
  • Serials Directory (EBSCO)
  • Standard Periodical Directory
  • Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media
  • Willings’ Press Guide
  • Magazines for Libraries (William Katz)
  • Serials in Cyberspace
Selection issues
  • Long-term commitment
  • Continuing costs of purchasing, binding, processing, etc.
  • Discouragement of “casual” initiation of new serial subscriptions
    o Due to budget pressure some libraries will only order a new serial if one of equal cost is dropped
    o On-going costs of serials may reduce budget available for purchase of monographs
Which titles?
  • Analysis of Ill data and citation analysis information helps in deciding if a title needs to be added
  • For new titles, the subject area, cost, and, when available reviews are elements to consider. Some libraries will only order titles that are indexed.
The problems with serials
  • Title changes
  • Title peculiarities
  • Numerous titles within same issue, e.g. Sea, Sea Magazine, Sea Combined with Rudder
  • Generic/overused titles e.g. Bulletin, Journal
  • Numbering oddities e.g. Vol. 2, no. 1 called also consecutive issue no. 3
  • Dating by season
Subscription agent
  • One order, one invoice service
  • Common renewal
  • Vendor handles any complaints about missing or overdue issues
  • Vendor tracks down addresses of publishers for your orders
  • Service charges may make prices on surface more expensive than direct purchase from publisher
  • Not all publishers will make their titles available through an agent
References: Collection Development Training for Arizona Public Libraries: Selection of Library Resources: Periodicals

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Serials Format

This chapter defines the term serial, describes different types of serials, examines some serials classification schemes, and finally, discusses definitional issues about electronic publications. The history of serials is covered in chapter 2.

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 brision 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:

  1. They are synonyms.
  2. Periodicals are a subset of serials.
  3. Serials are a subset of periodicals.
  4. 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:
  1. 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 inbridual 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 brerse 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 inbriduals 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:
  1. Circulation seldom exceeds 500 to 2,000.
  2. Financial support is primarily from subscription and donation with minimum advertising.
  3. Most seldom survive more than a year or two due to poor financial support.
  4. They are often difficult for librarians to deal with from a business perspective.
  5. They may have unusual sizes and formats as well as inconsitent numbering.
  6. 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
  • antiestablishment,
  • 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:
  1. they must be useful as reference sources, and
  2. 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 subbrided 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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Non-English language acquisitions

  • Canada is a country of immigrants.
  • o Because of this, the country is also bilingual. Numerous languages are available.
Immigrants by Source Area 2002
Where are people coming from to Canada? People from the U.S. and Europe will speak English. Citizens of South and Central America also speak Spanish and Portuguese.

Immigrants by top ten source countries
The Chinese language is written the same in all areas that speak and read Chinese. The dialect from different regions differs. India, however, has a numerous wide variety of languages.

Population by Mother Tongue
Non-English Why?
  • Public Library
    o serve all taxpayers
    * of different languages
    o interest in “reading” non-English materials by general public
    o non-English/French speaking immigrants
    o multiculturalism
  • School Library
    o support language programs
    * support classes and curriculum
    o mult-ethnic student backgrounds
    * recent immigrants
    * ethnic minorities
  • Academic Library
    o language and literature courses
    o higher level research
    * for foreign students
  • Special Library
    o major competitors in other countries
    * business contacts, culture information, what are they doing?
    o research in specialized fields
    o foreign trading partners
Obstacles to selection
  • Cost
    o Generally foreign language material will be more expensive to obtain
    o marketing, exchange rates, shipping charges, etc. must be taken into account
  • Lack of expertise in language/culture
    o talk to someone who does have expertise
  • Few selection aids
    o particularly in English language for foreign language materials
  • Time
    o Equals money. It will take longer to find and receive materials.
Review journals
  • New York Times Book Review
  • Times Literary Supplement
  • World Literature Todayo Review for major European languages
  • Booklisto The ultimate review
    o will review popular books in a certain language
    o will get citation and ordering information
    o Everyone will rush to get an item
  • Choiceo Academic review
    o A list of European books from the previous year
  • Horn Book Magazineo Children’s
  • Criticaso Spanish language library journal for school and public libraries
Sometimes reviews can be found for foreign language materials that have been translated.
Other sources
  • National bibliographies
  • In print (trade) bibliographies
    o French/German Books in Print
  • Online bookstores, e.g.
    o German
    o French
    o Austrian
  • Publishers’ catalogues
    o Available via Libdex
  • Ethnic bookstores/organizations
  • Lists from other libraries
  • Subject specialists
    o What is suited to a library?
  • Patrons
    o What are they looking for?
  • Foreign journals
    o Links from library websites

Monday, December 5, 2011

Multicultural resources

Feliciter issue 1, 2004
Theme issue on serving immigrants and multicultural communities. Articles in pdf format available through Academic Search Premier on Ebscohost.

Library and Archives Canada. Multicultural Resources and Services.
The Multicultural Resources and Services Program’s mandate is to support, promote, coordinate and deliver multicultural/multilingual collections and services. Includes links to a toolkit developed to help libraries in collection development, a directory listing multicultural collections, heritage newspapers, and vendors of multicultural materials, and a listserv. The site can be browsed by language.

French material
Online bookstores

Online catalogue for Renaud-Bray, a prominent Quebec bookstore chain. Has an English version but the content is primarily in French.

Librarie Gallimard
Online catalogue for Librairie Gallimard, a French language bookstore in Montreal. Has an English version but the content is primarily in French.

A French [France] online bookstore. Another online bookstore from France.

Another online bookstore from France.

Canadian Parents for French. British Columbia & Yukon. “Stores to Buy French Resources!”
Covers sources for books, films, software and videos.

Cataloguing databases Choix
A subscription cataloguing database for French language print materials. Includes an evaluation scale from 1-5 for each item. Choix is the French for Choice. The database is accessible through a paid subscription. Titles are available once they have been catalogued.

Choix jeunesse
A subset of Choix as a separate database covering materials for those up to 17. Accessible via password.

The audiovisual datasbase of the Choix family of products.

New Books Service
Lists titles processed by the National Library of Canada’s Canadian Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) program. The identification and description of titles are based on data provided by publishers before the titles are published. Includes French language publications. “Each New Books record will include (if available): cover art, table of contents, sample text, information about the author and illustrator, reviews, and details on awards and author readings, along with authorative Cataloguing in Publication data. The most recent additions to the service are featured in the “New this Month” section. Also, readers can take advantage of our powerful, user-friendly search engine to find favourite authors or search by title or subject.”

Provincial lists, etc. Service des bibliothèques de l’Ontario. Développment des collections et ressources littéraires.
Provides links to French language collection development resources.

Direction des resources éducatives françaises (DREF)
The French language counterpart of the Manitoba Education Training and Youth Instructional Resources Unit Library.

Prince Edward Island. Provincial Library Service. Elementary School – Selected French Language Titles.
Lists of titles selected to support the French immersion program in Elm Street Elementary School in PEI.

Prince Edward Island. Provincial Library Service. French Language Book List for Grades 1-12.
The titles include in this list are some of those selected for École Évangeline in PEI to support the French First Language program in grades 1 to 12.

Saskatchewan. Education. Core French.
Online curriculum guide and resource lists.

Other sources Le Choix
Un outil pour vous aider à constituer votre collection locale.
  • Publié 5 fois par année.
  • Comes out 5 times a year.
  • Répertorie 100 nouveautés par numéro.
  • 100 new titles per issue.
  • Donne les information bibliographiques, le prix et un résumé indicatif pour chaque titre.
  • Fives bibliographic information, the indicative price, and one resume for chaqure title.
  • Offre une sélection “Top Livres” des best-sellers les plus en demande.
  • Offers a selection of “Top Books” best sellers and more in request.
A French language journal from Québec dedicated solely to children’s literature. Each issue features an interview with an illustrator or author. On the Web site click “Liens” for links to related sites on French language children’s literature.

Read Up On It!
An annual listing of Canadian French and English titles for children to young adults from the National Library. A different theme is featured each year.

Association des libraries du Québec
Association of Quebec Bookstores site. Contains a monthly best sellers list (Meilleures Ventes).

Monday, November 28, 2011


Weeding is a library term for removal of items from a collection. It is the final step in the cycle of library materials. Like a gardener, the librarian goes through the collection systematically removing dead growth, looking at everything and pulling out items that detract from the collection. As in the case of a beautiful garden, your vertical file will thrive with regular weeding.

Purpose of weeding Weed to insure the quality of your vertical file as a resource. It is critical that your collection, which should seek to have the most current materials in certain subjects, be kept up-to-date in order to provide your patrons with resources they can depend on being accurate and current.

Weed to make your collection more appealing. As in a garden, if you do not pull the weeds, your patrons cannot see the beauty. Your files will look better and people will be able to find what they seek more easily.

Weed to conserve space. Even if you do not need the space now, you will someday. It is much better to stay on top of it than to wait until you run out of space and have such a huge job it will never get done.

Weed to save time in searching and maintaining the collection. Patron time and staff time will be saved by keeping files up-to-date. They will not need to reject outdated materials found in the files.

Weed to keep a close check on the collection. Regular weeding will keep you more familiar with the collection. You will be able to encourage use and see that the management of the files is carried out in the most efficent manner.

Weed to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the collection. Going through the collection in a systematic way will keep you aware so that you are subconsciously tuned in to this valuable resource. You (or the person responsible for the files) will be the most critical link in the development and use of the collection.

Negative factors to consider when weeding
There are several guides to help you in weeding library materials. (Stanley J. Slote’s Weeding Library Collections, 3d ed. (Englewood, Colorado : Libraries Unlimited, 1989)) is a standard reference for weeding book collections. Slote’s factors for weeding materials include attention to appearances, duplication, content, age, and use. Joseph P. Segal (Evaluating and Weeding Collections in Small and Medium-sized Public Libraries: The CREW Method, Chicago: American Library Association, 1980) developed a system of weeding called CREW, which stands for Continous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding. The system is based on the date of the material, time since it circulated, and whether or not the material is “MUSTY”:

M – misleading or factually inaccurate
U – ugly
S – superseded by newer information
T - trivial
Y – your collection has no use for the material or material is irrevelant to your patrons

The formula may not be applicable to your files, but the MUSTY factors are important to consider in weeding any collection. Using the negative factors as a guide gives you a basis for evaluating materials.) Many of the general factors for consideration also apply to vertical-file materials. Weeding is discussed in different terms, but the negative factors for consideration can be grouped in the following general categories.

Content. Is it accurate? Poor content or incorrect and misleading information is the most important factor in weeding.You must discard inaccurate information. Bad information is worse than no information at all.

Age. Age is a very important factor in vertical-file materials. Currency is one of the characteristics of supplementary materials. Ask yourself the following questions: Is the information more than five years old? Has the material been updated? Do you have a current address for the publisher? Age is easy enough to evaluate if it is printed on the item. The next best indication is the date that the item was added to the collection. You should be able to assume that the information was current when it was put into the file. Stamping the date received is important even when the date of publication is available so that you know that as of the date received it was considererd current.

Need. Is this the only source of this kind of information? Need based on extra copies is an easy factor. The difficulty is when you have the information available in a different source. Ask yourself the same questions you did before you added the material: Is this information somewhere else in the library? Or Is this information in another library in the area?

In the case of superseded information, there is probably no good reason to keep an old version of supplementary material when you get a new one. If you have questions about keeping older information, refer to the questions you asked yourself regarding the initial selection.

Is this information still needed? A number of items in your supplementary materials collection may seem trivial. The characteristics of supplementary materials include unique, unusual, and small segment of knowledge. There may be a fine line distinguishing unique from trivial in evaluating supplementary materials. You will have to answer that question for your own library.
Use. Is this material used? Is it used often? Circulation systems that leave a record of use make this an easy factor to evaluate. For example, the date due stamped on the back of item, a check-out card for the item, or a bar code attached to the individual record would track the use. Another way to measure use is to put a small hash mark on the back of the item each time the file is filed. It is not a foolproof system but it may give some indication of use. You will have to determine whether it is important for you to know.

Condition. Appearance is an easy factor to evaluate. When items become yellow, torn, dirty, or ragged, it is time to discard or replace them. If the material is valuable and you cannot replace the item, then you should consider marking a photocopy. If you use some protective material or preservation techniques when you add items, you can avoid some of the appearance problems for materials that will receive heavy use.

To summarize, you need to consider the following in your evaluation of materials for weeding: Content, Age, Need, Use, Condition = CAN U C (Can you see any reason to keep these materials?).

When to weed
Most librarians agree that weeding should be done once a year. It can be done as a large project all at once; you can do it continually; you can do spot weeding; or you can do a combination. Except for some special collections such as archives or local history, supplementary materials need to be weeded to give life to the collection.

Annual weeding. Many special collections are most efficiently weeded once each year. Dated items such as annual reports, newsletters, or college catalogs can be discarded at the end of the year, keeping only the current year, latest two years, or more, depending on your policy. If you know you will discard on a certain date, try using a bright coloured dot with the discard date written on it to speed the wedding process.

To do an annual weeding as one large project, you might consider some of the following recommendations: (1) put weeding into your annual schedule to insure adequate time; (2) choose a slack time in the library, for example, near a holiday; (3) set up a system for weeding; and (4) put your files in order before weeding.

Continous weeding. Continous weeding incolves setting up a system so that you are weeding some on a regular basis throughout the year. There are several ways to do continous weeding. One way would be to schedule one subject area per month for systematic weeding. Another might be to schedule a certain amount of time each week for weeding. You could do one file each day. You can establish your own schedule for a continuous weeding plan.

Spot weeding. Spot weeding means that you check some of the folders some of the time. Unless you combine it with another systematic weeding process, some folders will never be weeded. There are several suggestions for spot weeding. First, check each folder as new material is added. Do a quick check of materials in the folder to see whether (1) the new material updates an earlier edition, (2) older materials contain historical or background information that is omitted in recent works, (3) the new item adds a different dimension or restates what is already there (if it does not offer a fresh approach, determine whether it is needed anyway because of the popularity of the topic). Then detemine whether there is a need for two copies. Pencil the date checked on the file when it has been examined. Second, check each folder as it circulates. Examine each folder and discard material that is (1) no longer useful, (2) inaccurate, (3) worn or in poor physical condition, or (4) superseded with newer versions. Change subject headings that need to be updated; divide the file into finer groupings if it is too full; discard material from overcrowded folders, boxes, and drawers; and regroup materials into broader headings if needed. Pencil the date checked symbol on the file when it has been weeded.

Weeding, like the other steps in the life cycle of resources, offers a number of options. The important thing is to do it and to continue the process by locating new resources, adding them to your files, maintaining them, and thus keeping the cycle alive.

Summary recommendations
  • Establish a policy and procedure for weeding certain kinds of materials.
  • Keep your files “lean and clean”.
  • Set up a plan for systematic weeding and schedule it into your work day, week, month, or year.

Sitter, Clara L. The Vertical file and its alternative: a handbook. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1992, pp. 64-71.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Government publications

Why collect?
  • Canadian market may be too small for a trade publisher to produce more specialized material, may have to turn to government sources fo the Canadian angle
    o Statistics Canada produces Canadian statistics
    o Canadian government has three levels: federal, provincial and municipal
    o Compared to the likes of US/UK markets, Canadian market is small
  • Parliamentary committees, task forces, Royal Commissions produce in depth reports
Types of government information
Government information is generally produced by the party currently in power.
  • Propaganda
    o Election campaign material, not necessary good or bad
  • Policy/issue studies
  • Annual reports
    o Accountability
  • Statistics
  • Legal (debates, bills, statues)
    o Hansard, otherwise known commonwealth
    o Bills are introduced, discussed and study. They must pass a reading and be proclaimed to come into effect.
    o Statues are documents classification
  • Science & technology, marketing, business studies
    o Agriculture, economics
  • Popular treatments
Selection tips
How do we find information? The government is not always forthcoming
  • Scan newspapers
  • Use checklists
  • Go directly to department, agency
  • Mine government websites e.g.
Selection tools
Weekly checklist (pink sheet) key Federal selection tool
  • Searchable catalogue from Jan. 1991 – available on Internet Checklist does not list all government publications, may have to track down source and try to obtain from department which produced it (fugitive/grey literature)
  • Major preelectronic was pink
  • Lists book/magazines/productions released by government and Statistics Canada
Manitoba Government Publications Monthly Checklist
  • Key provincal selection tool
  • Compiled by Legislative Library, provides six most recent publications
  • Each department is meant to notify the Library as to what they are publishing. Back issues are not available online.
For links to publication sites for other provinces go to the “Provincial Publications” section of the Federal Publications Inc. Website at

Federal depository program
  • Full depository libraries
  • Selective depository libraries
Manitoba provincial depository library program
  • 8 Manitoba libraries automatically receive current Manitoba government publications
The libraries are able to receive publications without paying for them. Full depository libraries will receive a copy of every publication the government produces.

Verification problems
  • Small publication runs
    o Limited
  • Lack of centralized listing
    o Checklists don’t list everything
  • Ephermal natural of some publications
    o Here today, gone tomorrow publications
  • Consulting reports done for government agencies, crown corporations
  • Reorganization and name changes for government departments
  • Colloquial names for royal commissions and inquiries, etc.
  • Crown copyright
    o Government retains copyright
  • Cost recovery and user fees
    o Smaller more expensive
  • Electronic formats
    o Some publications are only available on the Internet, they won’t always be there
  • Preservation and archiving
    o Depository was meant to keep everything all the time – what do you do with publications that aren’t kept online all the time?
Classification and shelving
Another issue, depends on how much material library is receiving
  • LC/Dewey
  • Catalogue numbers
    o Canada: catalogue numbers
    o U.S. Superintent of Documents (SuDocs)
  • Jurisdiction: country or organization, then by department or division, and finally by title
  • Separate vs. integrated collections

Monday, November 14, 2011


The actual process of selecting audiovisual materials is often a group rather than an individual activity. This is particularly true of films and expensive video sets. To some degree, the cost of the material under consideration, rather than the usual collection development factors, drives the issue. In essence, making a mistake about a 20-minute sound, colour, 16mm film or educational video has more serious economic consequences for the library budget than most single mistakes with a book, transparency or sound recording. Educational videos cost $200 to $500 per cassette, in a multiple-cassette package, the total cost is substantial. Having multiple opinions about a prospective purchase helps avoid costly mistakes. In public libraries and school media centers, an audiovisual selection committee is the typical mechanism employed for securing multiple points of view. In academic libraries, often a single faculty member makes the recommendation, assuming that the purchase will be made with departmental funds, or the head of the library’s media program selects titles on the basis of reviews and a knowledge of instructional needs.

How does the audiovisual selection committee differ from the book selection committee? Audiovisual selection committees usually function as a true group decision-making body. Normally, the group previews audiovisual materials under consideration, as a group. They view the material from beginning to end. (With book selection, the typical approach is for committee members to divide the items among group members and have individuals give oral reports about each item. Thus, only one member of the committee reviews the item completely.) A group discussion usually takes place after each screening, and each person expresses a reaction to and evaluation of the item. Everyone sees the same material, and group interaction ends in a decision to buy or not to buy. Sometimes the product is rerun several times, when there are strong differences in opinion.

An important difference in the two formats affects the selection process. This is the sequential nature of films and video formats. It is not possible to effectively skim a film as one does a book. One must view films and videos at their normal speed to get the proper impression. A 20-minute running time means 20 minutes of previewing time. Simple arithmetic indicates that a group previewing 20-minute films could view only 24 films in a 8-hour work day. A book selection committee meeting would be a disaster if only 24 titles were discussed in 8 hours. Realistically, no group can preview 24 titles in 8 hours, as the figure does not provide for discussion time or breaks. Finally, it is not feasible to expert people to view materials for four hours straight; they need a break. All of this means, more realistically, that the group could preview 10 to 12 items per day.

Not only do audiovisual formats cost more to buy, they also cost more to select. Combined, these two cost factors can be significant. Thus, one cannot conclude that, because a library does not have a collection of films or videos, it is reluctant to accept new formats. A significant difference exists between reluctance and a lack of money and qualified staff to select the newer formats. The only question is whether the library is using the monetary factor as an excuse to avoid trying out nonprint formats.

Additional selection aids
Despite the desirability of previewing audiovisual materials, published evaluations (especially when combined with previewing) are important in this field. Each year, there is a little more progress toward bibliographic control of the field, including reviews of most formats. Perhaps when multiple published reviews of a majority of formats are available, therer will be less and less need for hundreds of audiovisual librarians to spend hours and hours in preview screening rooms.

At this time, no comprehensive source for audiovisual materials similar to Book Review Digest or Book Review Index exists. Media Digest (National Film and Video Center) has developed into the best source for locating reviews in all formats.

Identifying potentially useful audiovisual materials also presents a problem. The National Information Center for Educational Media (NICEM) focuses on educational material; however, because NICEM employs a rather broad definition of education, the publications are useful to all types of libraries. NICEM Net ( allows one to search the entire database by subject, age level, and media type. The 1999 subscription was $900 for a single-user license for a year. (One can also get online access to the database through DIALOG, SilverPlatter, and EBSCOHost. CD-ROM, tape load, and print versions are available.) The database contains almost 500,000 records in English and 60 other languages. Its primary strengths lie in the video, film, audio recording, filmstrip, and CD-ROM formats, although there are records for almost every format discussed in this chapter. NICEM also has a 300-page thesaurus of terms used to index the database, which is a great help inn formulating accurate searches. This database is as close as one can come to an audiovisual equivalent of Books in Print.

Although the preceding list of sources provides a general overview, there is a slight emphasis on films. One reason for this is historical. After microforms and phonograph records, motion picture films and videos are the most commonly held audiovisual forms in libraries. Also, 16 mm films and educational videos cost significantly more than either of the other two formats, making previewing all the more important. Because of film’s popularity, cost, and longer history of use, film review and evaluation have had more time to become established. Increased popularity of other formats will, in time, make it economically feasible to publish journals covering other audiovisual formats.

Some of the most active nonprint discussion lists are:,, and MEDIA-L@BINGVMB.CC.BINGHAMTON.EDU. These provide information on how to handle various media issues as well as information about sources.

Ordering media
For all practical purposes, the process of ordering materials in the formats discussed in this chapter is the same as for ordering books and serials, with a few exceptions. One difference is that libraries place most of the orders directly with the producer, because there are no general jobbers as there are for books and serials. Some book jobbers, such as Baker & Taylor, handle some of the most widely collected formats (for example, videos and audiotapes), but they do not handle the full range of audiovisual materials. Another difference is the need to secure preview copies.

There is a major difference between review copies of books and preview copies of other media. With books, if the purchasing librarian likes what he or she sees, the library keeps it, pays the invoice, and perhaps orders multiple copies at the same time. With audiovisual materials, for a number of reasons (risk of loss, damage, and so forth), the library usually requests a preview copy from the supplier, views the copy, and then returns the item. (Some producers now send a new copy – especially for videos – and expect the library to keep the copy if it decides to buy the item. Other producers charge for previewing, but deduct the charge from the purchase price. A few film vendors ship an approval copy with a 10 percent discount if the library buys the film.) One must request the preview copy well in advance of the preview date. Normally, a librarian writes to the producer or supplier asking for preview copies of certain titles and listing a number of alternative dates. This becomes an issue when previewing with a group, because of scheduling problems. One also must know when specific items will be available for previewing. A preview file thus becomes a very important aid in the selection process; it contains a listing of each title requested, the dates requested, scheduled preview dates, and the result of the preview.

One should keep in mind several othehr factors for previewing as well. A preview copy may have had some prior use; therefore, the quality may not be as high as that of a new copy. If one can determine from the supplier how often the item went out for previewing, it is possible to gain insight into the durability of the product. In assessing this information (assuming one can get it), thetl ibrarian must remember that the preview copy’s use was by individuals who know how to properly handle the material (unlike many library users).

Upon receiving the purchased copy, a staff member should view the item to be certain it is (1) a new print, (2) the item the library ordered, and (3) technically sound (checking for breaks, sound quality, and quality of processing). Checking for technical soundness upon receipt should be standard procedure for all audiovisual items, not just for previewed items. Generally, other media are not mass-produced in the same manner as are books. Many are produced on demand, that is, in response to orders. The producer has several preview copies and a master copy; when an order arrives, the producer uses the master copy to produce a new print.

One issue to decide before ordering is that of performance rights. Does the library pay an additional fee for public performance rights, or are they part of the quoted price? (This is a typical issue for videos.) There may be some justification for paying a somewhat higher price for performance rights in an educational setting, but therer is hardly any when the videos are for circulating home use. The classic example of the confusion between “the home market” and “the library market” was Public Broadcasting System’s release of its series The Civil War in 1990. Initially it was available to libraries for $450; only a few months later, PBS released it to the “home market” for just under $200. Another example, from 1995, was Malcolm X: Make it Plain: $99.95 from PBS Video (with public performance rights) and $29.95 from MPI Home Video (with home video rights). Failure to have public performance rights and using a film or video in a “public performance” setting could lead to a very costly lawsuit. Knowing how the item is most likely be used, acquiring the appropriate rights, and maintaining a record of what was purchased can be important in building media collections.

With some formats, there may still be another decision: to buy or rent. Normally, the rental fee is 10 percent of the list price. If there are doubts about the level of demand, it may be best to rent a copy. (Ten uses in five years would be more than enough to justify buying the item.) Remember, when calculating the cost, that it will be necessary to include staff time for preparing rental forms, as well as time for mailing and handling activities. In many cases, with film, video, and software, the library is not buying an item in the same sense that it purchases books and serials. Often the library must sign an agreement that outlines what the library may or may not do with the item. These agreements cover duplication and resale and, in some cases, place restrictions on where performances are possible. Vendors do enforce these agreements, which are legal contracts, so the librarian must understand what he or she is signing. If something is not clear, or if a clause should be modified, the librarian should discuss it with the vendor and the library’s legal counsel before signing.

Building a media collection for the library is a time-consuming and expensive undertaking, but it is important and worthwhile for both the library and its service population. Each new format is capable of doing certain things that no other format can do, but each also has its limitations; as a result, they supplement rather than replace each other. It is clear that patrons have various preferences in seeking, using, and enjoying information. If the library is to responsive to the community, it must build a collection of materials that reflects that community’s various interests and tastes.

Evans, G. Edward, with the assistance of Zarnowsky, Margaret R. Developing Library and Information Center Collections, 4th ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2000, pp. 304-306.

Monday, November 7, 2011

General evaluation criteria

To a degree, the same factors that determine inclusion or exclusion of books apply to other formats. Obviously, one omits factually incorrect items unless there is a sound reason to buy them. Poorly organized and badly presented material seldom becomes part of the collection. If the quality of a book is difficult to assess, assessing the quality of other media is even more difficult. All of us have seen a film we enjoyed only to hear a friend claim that is is “absolutely the worst film” ever made. Thus, subjectivity is a major concern. Though bias is also a problem with literature, we receive more training or exposure to good literature through formal schooling. Few of us receive formal training in evaluating nonprint materials. Basically, the issues of authority, accuracy, effectiveness of presentation or style, and value and usefulness to the community are as valid for all other formats as they are for books.
Before embarking on a program to develop a media collection, one should carefully evaluate each format in terms of its unique utility to the service community. Each format has its strong and weak points, and similar information may be available in a variety of formats. The following paragraphs offer general guidelines for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of various forms.

Formats that involve motion (such as 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm films, videotapes, and video discs) are among the more expensive formats to purchase. Therefore, an important question to ask is whether motion really adds information. There are films in which there is no motion at all, or, if there is motion, it may not be relevant to the content. For example, many educational films and videotapes simply alternate shots of one or two persons talking to one another or to the viewers (so-called “talking heads”); there are no other graphics (or, at least, no graphics that require this expensive mode of presentation). In contrast, one can read hundreds of pages and look at dozens of still photographs of cell brision and still not fully understand how it occurs. A short, clearly photographed film combined with a good audio track can sometimes produce a more accurate understanding than one can achieve through hours of reading.

Detailed study is sometimes most effectively carried out with the use of still pictures, charts, or graphs. Another advantage is that the cost of producing and acquiring these formats is much lower than for those that involve motion.

With both motion and still graphic formats, color is an important consideration. Full-color reproduction is more costly than black-and-white reproduction; the question is whether the color is necessary or merely pleasing. In some instances, color is necessary. Certainly, anything that attempts to represent the work of a great artist must have excellent color quality, as is also the case with medical and biological materials.

Audio formats can also provide greater understanding and appreciation of printed materials. One’s own reading of a poem is never the same as hearing the poet’s recitation of the work. Tone, emphasis, inflection, and so forth can change the meaning of a printed text dramatically. On a different level, there are literally millions of people in the world who cannot read music scores and yet get enormous enjoyment from listening to music. Audio recordings are a must in any collection serving the visually impaired. Spoken-word recordings can be an important service for such persons as well as for commuters who want to listen to a book as they travel.

Other general selection factors include cost, flexibility and manipulation, and patron preference. Audiovisual factors frequently require expensive equipment in addition to rather costly equipment. When thinking about cost factors, one needs to know what types of equipment patrons own (for example, slide projectors, videotape players, CD or tape players, or even record players). If patrons do not own the necessary equipment, can the library supply it free of charge or on a rental basis? Should the library buy the equipment and allow its use only in the library? The librarian also must consider what patrons like and use. Libraries ought not to get into the position of attempting to change patron format preference. Thus, both cost and patron preference become significant in deciding what to buy or not to buy.

Flexibility and manipulation are inseparable. How and where can one use the format and equipment? With some equipment, the library can produce local programs as well as play back commercial software. Videocassette recorders (VCRs) allow people to perform a variety of recording and playback functions, most of which (like freeze frame) no one uses. Knowing community needs and use patterns may save the library money. Special VCR features may be necessary, nice, or merely gimmicks, depending on the local situation. Ease of operation is very important: Can a person quickly learn to operate the equipment, or does it take extensive training to use it properly?

Once one’s library decides to develop a media collection, how does one select appropriate items? There are four sets of factors to consider – programming, content, technical aspects, and format – with criteria related to each factor. The following paragraphs highlight major selection criteria.

Programming factors
Programming (that is, use of material) is important in deciding what to acquire. Many articles and books about this topic are available (see the bibliography at the end of this chapter). Programming questions include:
  • Will the medium be used in formal instructional situations?
  • Is it only for recreational use?
  • Who is the primary audience: adults, children, or all ages?
  • Will the item circulate, or will it be available only for in-house use? If used in-house, will it be available to individuals or only to groups? Will group use involve a library staff member or an expert in the field to guide group discussion before or after the item’s use?
  • Will the library be a member of a resource-sharing network? If so, will the item become part of the shared material pool?

Answers to these questions will affect the type of media purchased and the prices paid. For example, many videos for home use are less expensive than videos for instructional use, even when both packages are the same title.

Content factors
Content is the next concern in the selection of any format. In the past, audiovisual selection was a group process rather than the sole responsibility of one selector. This was especially true in the case of expensive formats. Today, with the prices of videos dropping and increasing numbers of titles needed for the collection, the selection process is more like book selection, that is, an individual process. School media centers still emphasize the group process, in part because of limited funds but also because the possibility of someone objecting to an item’s presence in the collection is higher than in other types of libraries. Whether selection is a group or individual process, housing an evaluation form is useful. Keeping the forms for several years, for titles rejected as well as those purchased, can save selectors’ time in the long run. Unlike print material, most media are sequential in nature; this means that it takes 50 minutes to review a 50-minute program. An evaluation form indicating that the library reviewed and rejected an item three years ago should help selectors decide whether the item is worth reconsidering. No matter what questions are on the form – and not all items listed in this chapter will be on any one form – one ought to consider all of the following points:
  1. What is the primary purpose of the item? If there is a user’s guide, does it provide a specific answer to the question?
  2. Given the purpose(s) of the item, is the length of the program appropriate? Items can be too short, but more often than not, they are too long.
  3. Is the topic a fad, or is it likely to have long-term interest? Long-term interest and lasting value are not always the same.
  4. Is the material well organized?
  5. Is the storyline easy to follow?
  6. If the item is of relatively short duration and is an attempt to popularize a subject, does it do this with sufficient accuracy? (That is, does the simplification cause misunderstandings or, worse, create a misrepresentation?)
  7. When was the material copyrighted? Copyright information can be difficult to find for some formats. Films usually provide this information somewhere in the credits, often in roman numerals. There is no national bibliographic standard for this information. Sales catalogs may or may not provide the date of production. Unfortunately, a large number of dated products are, or have been, sold as if they were current.
  8. Will the visuals or audio date quickly? In many educational films, the subject matter is important but the actors’ dress makes the film appear old-fashioned. If one does not present the material as historical, many viewers may miss its true purpose. Audience attention is easily drawn away from the real subject. Needless to say, this ties into the need for accurate copyright information.
  9. Are there multiple uses for the item, in addition to those identified by the producer? If there are a number of ways to use the format (with various types of programs or audiences), it is easier to justify spending money on the item.
Technical factors
Technical issues vary in importance from format to format, but some general considerations apply to several formats. In most instances, judging technical matters is less subjective than judging many other selection criteria. Nevertheless, it will take time and guidance from experienced selectors to develop a critical sense of these factors. Most individuals entering the field of library and information work are more attuned to good literature, well-manufactured books, and the various methods of literary review and criticism than the average person. Though our exposure to television, film, and video recordings may be greater than to books, few of us have the background to assess the technical aspect of these formats. The fact is evident during film and television awards ceremonies – the public interest is in the best film or program and performance categories. It is the rare individual who can name the winners in the technical areas (directions, production, special effects, cinematography, and so forth). Following are some questions regarding technical features:
  1. Are the visuals, assuming that there are visuals, necessary?
  2. Are the visuals in proper focus, the composite effective, the shots appropriate? (These questions must be asked because out-of-focus shots, strange angles, and jarring composition may be used to create various moods and feelings).
  3. Is the material edited with skill?
  4. Does the background audio material contribute to the overall factor?
  5. Is there good synchronization of visuals and audio?
  6. How may the format be used – can it be viewed by small or large groups or by both? Can it be viewed in a darkened, semi-lighted, or fully lighted room?
Format factors
Questions to ask about format are:
  1. Is the format the best one for the stated purpose of the producer?
  2. Is the format the least expensive of those that are appropriate for the content?
  3. Will the carrier medium (the base material that supports the image or sound layer) stand up to the amount and type of use that library patrons would give it?
  4. If damage occurs, can it be repaired (locally or by the producer), or must one buy a replacement copy?
  5. What equipment is needed to use the medium? How portable is the equipment and how heavy?

Additional considerations
It is possible to group all audiovisual materials into six broad categories: still images (filmstrips, slides, microformats, transparencies); moving images (film and video); audio recordings; graphic materials (maps, charts, posters, etc.); three-dimensional materials (models, relia, dioramas); and other formats (games, software, etc.). Each type has some equipment or storage implications that one needs to take into consideration. For example, microform storage cabinets are heavy when empty and become even heavier when filled. Until one knows that the floor was designed to carry such weight, which is greater than book stacks, one should be cautious about starting a major collecting program in that format.
Evans, G. Edward, with the assistance of Zarnosky, Margaret R. Developing Library and Information Collections, 4th ed. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2000.