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The Library of Congress > Cataloging, Acquisitions > PCC > CONSER > CONSERline > No. 8 June 1996

No. 8 ISSN 1072-611X June 1996


CONSER Celebrates a 20 Year Milestone

Twenty years ago, in the spring of 1976, CONSER participants began inputting records on the OCLC database as part of the Conversion of Serials Project. Each institution was responsible for an alphabetic portion of their catalog. Today, while much has changed, the level of cooperation is even higher and CONSER has become one of the oldest and most successful of cooperative cataloging programs. To mark this milestone, an informal celebration was held during the CONSER Operations Committee meeting, held in May at LC. Before partaking of champagne punch and a cake--decorated in CONSER teal and beige--CONSER members and LC serial catalogers shared in a look at our past.

Participants read a CONSER timeline constructed by Jean Hirons and four individuals were recognized for their long time association with CONSER: John Levy (LC), who headed LC's Editing and Input Section, which reviewed and authenticated CONSER records prior to participant authentication; Kevin MacShane (NLM), who for many years worked in the National Serials Data Program Section at LC and was active in CONSER activities; Florence Hayes (Cornell), who attended the initial training session and has been with the Program throughout its history; and Ron Watson (UCLA), a long-time stalwart of CONSER. Each was given an "official CONSER artifact" as a memento. Most of these consisted of title page surrogates from a backlog left over from the days when LC did all of the authentication. Levy was given a page from an LC internal document detailing the problems associated with superimposition and desuperimpostion. Just a reminder that things weren't always better in the good old days!

Kim Dobbs, Chief of LC's Serial Record Division, introduced Lorraine Green, currently a member of LC's CONSER Minimal Level Cataloging Section, who, he noted, probably input the first CONSER record during her earlier career as a MARC verifier.

Throughout the exchange it was clear that, while standards and documentation are important, it is the personal relationships that are the real glue and the key to successful cooperation. It's been a wonderful 20 years. I hope the next 20 will be just as good.

-- Jean Hirons, Library of Congress

CONSER Operations Committee Meets at LC

The annual meeting of the CONSER Operations Committee was held on May 2-3 at the Library of Congress, with three topics leading the agenda: electronic serials, a review of AACR, and conference publications. (For information on the discussion of conference publications, refer to the separate article in this issue.)

A number of other topics were also addressed. A new CONSER Enhance membership category was discussed (see also the separate article below). The Operations Committee will play a significant role in identifying potential applicants, approving applications, and mentoring new members. A restructuring of CONSER accuracy review was accepted by the committee. The Library of Congress will be focusing its efforts on training new members and responding to specific CONSER requests. The Operations Committee also discussed the possibility of scheduling its 1997 meeting to coincide with the North American Serials Interest Group Conference at the University of Michigan. Such an arrangement would make it possible for more of a CONSER presence at NASIG, and for the committee to tour Michigan's Digital Library projects.

Electronic Serials

Overview of Current Publishing/Library Trends

Les Hawkins (Library of Congress) presented an overview of publishing trends of Internet serials based on his work with publisher requests for ISSN and recent research. The World-Wide Web platform has led to a burst in publishing even with the limitations inherent in the HTML format. There are an increasing number of electronic journals becoming newly available via the Internet, with heightened activity from commercial publishers and scholarly societies. There are also many more peer-reviewed serials available online although attracting authors is still a challenge in some fields. While providing publications in a more timely manner is a positive development, there is still difficulty in accessing complex files over the Internet (e.g., video and interactive files).

Newer publishing trends and models for providing access to journal articles include:

  • Article-level searchable databases;
  • Online versions of print journals;
  • Pre-print databases with provisions for online peer review and feedback from the public;
  • Linking to external sources or articles;
  • Linking to data or databases for research or experimentation;
  • Collaborations between publishing agents and Internet information providers.

As activity in this area increases a number of questions remain.

  • What will be the longevity of e-journals (or their print counterparts)?
  • How will the market for Internet resources develop?
  • Will grant-funded projects develop into established publishers?
  • Will libraries more actively select Internet resources?

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Conversion of Print Journals

Several committee members assisted in presenting titles from four different online conversion projects. Journal titles from Johns Hopkins University Press' Project Muse, the Institute of Physics, Academic Press, and the JSTOR Project were reviewed online, and alternative cataloging options were discussed. Various aspects of the different projects were covered including the conversion process, online journal format, availability of back issues, and subscription options. Specific titles were reviewed in terms of the relationship to their print counterpart. In most cases the conversion process and its end product were described as "replicating" the original print publication, creating online "equivalents." Three of the four projects create an online image that visually matches the paper version, either through the use of PDF (Portable Document Format) files or with bitmapped images of scanned pages. The above projects represent over 250 titles that will become available online by year's end.

Cataloging options were proposed that contrast with the current CONSER practice of creating separate records for the online version, including alternatives that add information about online access to records for the print journal. Committee reaction to these proposals was very positive and the possibility of a one-record approach will be pursued. Potential difficulties were also identified: record length problems; clarity of the information about the online version, and; details of the structure of note fields.

What Is a Serial in the Online Environment?

CONSER members also presented Internet resources that have serial aspects but do not satisfy the serial definition, as stated in LCRI 12.0A. Two online databases were discussed: The ANSI Catalog and MathSciNet. Both titles have print counterparts identified as serials but neither of the online versions meet the current definition, lacking identifiable parts and designations.

Different cataloging approaches were presented--one following serial treatment, the other monographic. The analogy to loose-leaf publications served as justification for the monographic treatment, with the sample monographic record including open dates and a note on updating information. The serial approach was viewed as being a practical solution for online versions of print serials, when the online database is expected to continue indefinitely with updating.

Other online "pseudo-serials" were reviewed and discussed as to how they might be cataloged as serial publications. These resources were generally described by their publishers as more like periodicals and less like books. Regina Reynolds (Library of Congress) suggested adding "continuous" as a new frequency; "database" or "dynamic" as a new type of serial; and using the date viewed or cataloged in the "description based on" note.

The committee generally agreed that the items described could be treated as serials but changes to the rules/interpretations and MARC format would be needed. CONSER intends to pursue discussion of these issues in the upcoming months and will revise CONSER Cataloging Manual Module 31, "Remote Access Computer File Serials," for publication in the fall.

CONSER Task Force on AACR Review

Jo Lynn Byrd (MIT), chair of the CONSER Task Force on AACR Review, discussed the Task Force's activities. The Task Force is charged with identifying aspects of the code that should be revised for serials in anticipation of an international conference in 1997. Members decided to begin by addressing the issue of what constitutes a "serial work," examining when a new successive entry record would be required by a change in title, heading, or numbering. Three sub-groups worked on proposals that were discussed.

The "title change" group developed a document that centered on "a significant change in the title proper." The approach of the task force was described as a hybrid, merging earliest and successive entry, that would serve to reduce the number of records in the database and shift the focus to cataloging a publication rather than a title. New wording in the title would have to affect the meaning in a "substantive way" for a new entry to be created, with numerous conditions listed to further restrict successive entries. This approach was discussed in relation to latest entry cataloging and the ISSN Network. The operating assumption is that any changes proposed by CONSER would be pursued in coordination with the international community. The Operations Committee largely supported this approach and found the task force to be on the right track with regard to title changes, although additional questions remain.

Another group addressed situations where new records are currently created when a serial returns to its original numbering scheme (i.e., new issues under old numbers). The addition of "[new series]" to the designation was suggested as a solution that would avoid the need for a new record. An alternative would be to consider the number and date together as a unique identifier.

Also addressed were changes to the main entry that currently require new entries. Different types of main entries were considered separately, chiefly, corporate body (110 field) and the uniform title (130 field). The Task Force reaffirmed an earlier CONSER decision to recommend discontinuing the practice of uniform titles for translations, with the Operations Committee concurring. The Task Force will continue its work on proposals to revise the practice of using successive entry cataloging for serial publications.

-- Bill Anderson, Library of Congress

CONSER and PCC Discuss Their Future

On Tuesday, May 14 several members of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging and CONSER Executive Committees met at the Library of Congress to discuss how the respective programs might work more closely together, with consideration of merging of certain aspects of the programs. The goal would be to strengthen both programs by combining forces and reducing overlap while retaining what is unique.

Topics covered ranged from seriality and standards to program funding, membership, and governance. One model presented for discussion would include a general policy group to discuss major issues; a smaller executive committee to deal with budget, funding, and administrative issues; and two operations committees, one for CONSER contributors, the other for BIBCO participants.

Discussions will continue within the respective programs and at ALA to further explore the possibilities.

Meeting attendees were: Duane Arenales (NLM), Christian Boissonnas (Cornell), John Byrum (LC), Ann Della Porta (LC), Kim Dobbs (LC), Jean Hirons (LC), Ingrid Parent (NLC), Glenn Patton (OCLC), Sue Phillips (University of Texas at Austin), Brian Schottlaender (UCLA), Harriet Selkowitz (University of Washington), Sarah Thomas (LC), Beacher Wiggins (LC), and Patricia Myers-Hayer (LC), recorder.

-- Sue Phillips, University of Texas at Austin, Chair, CONSER Policy Committee

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CONSER Introduces a New Membership Level

At the fall meeting of the CONSER Policy Committee, members agreed to establish a new level of membership--CONSER Enhance-- which would allow more institutions to participate in maintaining and/or enriching the CONSER database. Maintaining the database involves keeping records up-to-date as changes occur in the publication. Enriching records involves adding data that is not currently present, such as MeSH subject headings.

CONSER Enhance members will work with a CONSER institution in a mentoring environment. The CONSER mentor will provide whatever guidance is needed and initial review. Once independent, the CONSER Enhance member will receive a CONSER-level OCLC log-on that will allow them to make changes on the CONSER database and receive credits from OCLC.

The number of new CONSER Enhance libraries that can be accommodated will depend on the availability of CONSER institutions that are able to serve as mentors. More information about CONSER Enhance will be published in Update 4 (Summer 1996) to the CONSER Editing Guide. Those who are interested should contact Jean Hirons for further details ([email protected]).

CONSER Task Force on the Cataloging of Conference Publications: An Update

Formed in February 1995, the CONSER Task Force on the Cataloging of Conference Publications was charged to review and recommend changes to AACR2r and the LC rule interpretations which govern the cataloging of ongoing conference publications. The Task Force was established on the advice of the CONSER Operations Committee following an in-depth discussion of the issues surrounding the cataloging of conference publications during the Committee's November 1994 meeting. The Task Force was specifically asked to examine and make recommendations on the following three areas with regard to conference publications:

  • monograph versus serial treatment
  • choice of title and handling of title changes
  • formulation of conference headings

In examining these issues, the group was also charged to take into account the needs of a variety of users, not just catalogers, when formulating its final recommendations. During the past year, the Task Force's primary focus has been on the "monograph versus serial" question.

The Task Force began with an extensive literature search. Useful readings were selected and served to support many of the observations made by Task Force members as well as statements heard during the discussion of conference publications at the CONSER Operations Committee meeting. Additional issues, particularly from the catalog user's perspective, were also identified. There were many recurring themes found in the readings such as the need for classification number collocation (regardless of treatment decision), the preference for monographic treatment because it provides additional access points, and the inadequate coverage of conference publications in the traditional commercial abstracting/indexing services. Although the readings contained many opinions concerning conference publications, the Task Force found little empirical corroboration for these opinions in the published literature.

To begin working on its first charge (serial versus monograph treatment), the Task Force decided to appoint a Definitions Sub-Group assigned with the responsibility of defining and categorizing "serial-like" (i.e. ongoing) conference publications. Members of the Sub-Group identified two types of serial conference publications: 1) those that consist of the minutes, proceedings, etc. of regularly-held meetings of one or more corporate bodies; and 2) those that contain the proceedings, etc. of ongoing topical conferences. Within these two types of ongoing conference publications, the Sub-Group outlined their respective characteristics, discussed current cataloging practices, identified options for change, and listed the various pros and cons of monographic versus serial treatment. In addition, the Sub-Group summarized one of the major difficulties surrounding the cataloging of these publications as follows:

"Conference publications are often problematic because of the duality between the event and the publication. Just because the event takes place is no guarantee that there will be a publication. Sometimes the publication does not begin until after several meetings have taken place."

The question of what exactly the cataloger is describing -- the event or the publication -- was one which repeatedly surfaced in the Task Group's numerous discussions.

Building on the outstanding work done by the Sub-Group, the Task Force began the difficult assignment of finding the answer to the "monograph versus serial" dilemma. It became clear early on that the current practice, as documented in LCRI 12.0A, was not adequate -- not from the cataloger's perspective and certainly not from the user's perspective. Many hours of discussion and research convinced the Task Force members that there simply was no easy solution to the treatment of these publications. Brainstorming sessions netted radical suggestions like "treat all conference publications as monographs," "let's try a pseudo-series approach," and "treat them as multi-item monographs." Finally it became apparent to the group that an immediate, albeit interim, improvement was needed. Task Force members then began focusing on developing a revised version of the specific section dealing with conference publications found in LCRI 12.0A.

In preparing the new draft version of the LCRI, the Task Force's goals were threefold:

  • to provide clearer guidelines to facilitate decision-making on the part of the cataloger
  • to reduce costly and time-consuming recataloging
  • to improve access for users

After many weeks of work, the Task Force posted its first draft version of the proposed LCRI to CONSERlist (the CONSER Program's moderated electronic mail forum) for comment from CONSER catalogers. During the recent CONSER Operations Committee meeting, a lively two-hour discussion on the proposed LCRI rewrite also took place. Based on the helpful comments and input received, the Task Force posted its LCRI 12.0A draft revision proposal to various electronic discussion groups in June 1996. In keeping with its mission, the proposal was sent, not only to cataloging listservs, but also to library discussion forums in the areas of collection development, reference, inter-library loan, and science and technology. To date, several comments have been received from the community at large and the Task Force is in the process of compiling and analyzing these responses. Once the Task Force finalizes its proposed LCRI 12.0A draft revision, the next step will be for the Library of Congress to issue the proposal to its staff and its cooperative cataloging partners for further comment.

Special recognition and thanks should be given to the outstanding work performed to date by Task Force members: Bob Ewald (LC), Judy Herrick (LC), Jean Hirons (LC), Sara Shatford Layne (UCLA), David Van Hoy (MIT), and Beacher Wiggins (LC). This particular CONSER task force is somewhat unusual in that represented on the group are experts in both serial and monographic cataloging. In addition, the CONSER Task Force maintains very close ties with the CC:DA Task Force on the Cataloging of Conference Publications. The Task Force will be meeting during the American Library Association's annual meeting in New York to continue its work and to begin addressing the remaining charges. As always, comments and thoughts regarding the cataloging of ongoing conference publications are always welcomed and may be addressed to any of the Task Force members.

-- Mechael Gago, Indiana University, Chair, CONSER Task Force on the Cataloging of Conference Publications

University of Texas Hosts New Mexico Cataloger

Serial cataloging productivity at the University of Texas was enhanced this spring by a recently-completed internship by Sever Bordeianu of the University of New Mexico. A tenured associate professor in UNM's Cataloging Department, Sever chose to spend part of his semester-long sabbatical in a CONSER library to polish his serial cataloging skills. Due to his interest in Latin American serials, and since Oscar Delepiani, currently a cataloger in the Benson Latin American Serials Unit at UT, had formerly been his colleague at UNM, he selected Texas as his preferred destination.

When Sever first contacted us with his proposal, our immediate reaction was "Great--let's do it", followed almost immediately by "Oh no, imagine the bureaucracy involved in having an employee of one state university work at another university in a different state." However, thanks to New Mexico's generous arrangement to continue Sever's pay and benefits and Texas' generous willingness to accept a highly qualified volunteer at no cost, the arrangements were made quite easily for Sever to work full-time in the Benson Unit from mid-January through mid-March. Logistics such as computer equipment, housing, parking, etc. fell into place remarkably well.

The actual internship went equally well. An experienced monographs cataloger recently appointed as UNM's only professional serial cataloger, Sever was ready for the challenge of original cataloging of Latin American serials with only minimal introduction. His cataloging here was subject to the same reviews that all other CONSER cataloging undergoes at UT. Sever worked closely with Oscar to learn local routines and practices, but much more of their time together was spent analyzing how cataloging decisions are made and where the relevant documentation can be found. The goal was not just to get the items in hand cataloged, but to enhance understanding of the whole cataloging process in a way that will be useful to Sever when he is back in his regular job. Two unexpected benefits of this process were that all of us were reminded how valuable consultation with colleagues can be, and just how good CONSER documentation really is!

Another benefit from Texas' point of view was, of course, that many more titles were cataloged than otherwise would have been. During his two-month stay, Sever created 65 original records and performed CONSER updates on 13 existing records. Even allowing for local staff time spent in discussion and review, this was still a net gain in productivity.

Although the scheduled two months initially seemed a long time, in fact the time flew by all too quickly, and another month would have allowed a better-rounded overview of serial cataloging issues. For example, we only touched briefly on title changes and associated issues before time ran out. In our wrap-up discussions we all agreed that a slightly longer period would be ideal, had institutional and personal considerations permitted.

However, overall the experience was a positive one from the point of view of both intern and hosts, and we would do it again if circumstances permit. Texas gained an experienced helping hand, as well as a renewed appreciation of the benefits that have accrued to us through CONSER, while Sever got an intensive exposure to original serial cataloging with the kind of collegial support that often is not available in smaller institutions where there is only one serial cataloger. We anticipate an ongoing mutually-supportive relationship.

-- Sue Fuller, University of Texas at Austin

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Survey of Serial State Documents

During a review of membership in 1995, CONSER Policy members identified state libraries as potential new members. To assess the coverage of state documents in the CONSER database and the current state of overall bibliographic coverage, a survey of state document serial titles received by the Library of Congress was conducted by LC's State Documents Section during the months of February and March 1996. Heretofore, specific knowledge of the factors measured was not available.

Measurements included: the existence of a Library of Congress MARC-S record; an LC SERLOC record (local on-line file) for titles retained on a temporary basis and not cataloged; items with a CONSER record only; items with an OCLC record only; and finally items with no bibliographic record in LC including the CONSER database or OCLC. Forty nine states were surveyed, Delaware the only exception.

A total of 3,227 serial items were reviewed during the two-months of investigation. The entire spectrum of materials received was surveyed ranging from research level materials to ephemera and items intended for the most local audiences. If a record was located in LC's database, no additional searching was conducted including attempts to locate or record the existence of CONSER or OCLC records.

The survey demonstrated a remarkably high rate of bibliographic coverage (83%) for serial state documents. Approximately 46% of the items surveyed had MARC-S records and 37% had SERLOC records in the LC database. Items surveyed with CONSER records only amounted to approximately 4% of the sample. Items with OCLC records only represented about 9% of the sample. 3% of the items surveyed had no existing bibliographic record. [Summary results follow]

The inferences from the survey indicate a high rate of coverage for serial state documents and indicate that actively pursuing CONSER associate membership of state libraries is probably not warranted at this time.

Summary of findings

Total items sampled:                    3,227
Items with no record:                     114
Items with existing LC MARC-S record:   1,478
Items with LC SERLOC record only:       1,209
Items with CONSER record only:            136
Items with OCLC record only:              290

-- Ed Malone, Head, State Documents Section, Library of Congress

New Addresses For ISSN on the Web

The ISSN International Centre has a new address for its home page: (external link). According to Suzanne Santiago, the Centre's director, the home page now includes a list of centers worldwide and links to national ISSN home pages, statistics, a detailed Activity Report for 1995, and the Strategic Plan Towards 2001.

The National Serials Data Program, the US ISSN Center, has also just completed its home page, which can be found at: The NSDP home page features a down-loadable form for publisher ISSN requests, as well as an interactive form that can be used for online publications. The NSDP home page also includes the text of various information brochures about the ISSN and serial publishing and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list.

News From Cooperative Cataloging

The Library of Congress PCC Participants Discussion Group (formerly LC Cooperative Cataloging Discussion Group) will meet on Sunday night July 7th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm in the Hilton Room at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. This year's program will feature a presentation on "New Alternatives to the traditional: NACO and BIBCO entry a New Age of Contributions" which will showcase new alternatives to record and authority creation. Also on the program will be a discussion of the PCC/CONSER proposal to join forces.

A series institute for NACO libraries will be held at LC September 18-20. Judy Kuhagen, Senior Policy Specialist in the Cataloging Policy and Support Office, will be the instructor for the course, which is open to all independent NACO libraries. Those interested should contact Carolyn Sturtevant at [email protected] by August 9th.

-- Ann Della Porta, Library of Congress

CONSER Documentation Update

Update 4 (summer 1996) to the CONSER Editing Guide has just been completed and should be available later this summer. The update focuses on changes in the governance and membership structure and includes a set of application forms. If warranted, a third 1996 update to the CEG will be issued later in the fall.

There will only be one update to the CONSER Cataloging Manual in 1996, to be published in the fall. The update will include a new module on newspapers and a revised version of Module 31, Remote Access Computer File Serials.


Harriet Selkowitz (University of Washington), who has been serving on both the CONSER Policy Committee and the Program for Cooperative Cataloging's Executive Council, will be leaving the country for two years to accompany her husband to Hong Kong. Jim Stickman, Head of the Serials Division, will serve as the new policy representative.

Helen Smirensky (New York State Library) has retired after working with the CONSER Program at NYSL since 1989. During her career, she has used her expertise in Russian to catalog slavic materials at the State University of New York at Albany and has served as NYSL's representative to the CONSER Operations Committee for a number of years. She is looking forward to spending time with her family and traveling.

We will miss both Harriet and Helen and wish them well.

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