U.S. ISSN Center, Library of Congress
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

What's in a Name?

Presentation Guidelines for Serial Publications

Brought to you by: The Serials Section of the Association for Library Collections Technical Services, A Division of the American Library Association.

What is a Serial?

Serials are print or non-print publications issued in parts, usually bearing issue numbers, issue dates, or both. A serial is expected to continue indefinitely. Serials include magazines, newsletters, newspapers, annuals (such as reports, yearbooks, and directories), journals, memoirs, proceedings, transactions of societies and numbered series.

Why is Presentation of My Serial Important?

Your publication has a wider audience than you think. Besides your subscribers, other readers want to find your publication in libraries or order it from a subscription service. Directory publishers and abstracting and indexing services might want to include your title in their directory or product. Readers might want to cite your publication or articles from it in their writing. In all of these cases, having a clear and consistent title, a unique numerical identifier, and clearly presented publication information will make these tasks much easier.

What Should I Consider in Choosing a Title?

Your title should:

How Should I Present My Title?:

Why are Title Changes a Problem?

What if I Still Want to Change the Title?

What if My Publication Merges with Another Serial?

Why Should I Number My Serial and How?

What Should I Do About Supplements and Special Issues?

What is the ISSN and How Do I Get One?

The ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is a unique, internationally used identification number for serial publications. It can be thought of as the social security number of the serials world. It looks like this: ISSN 1234-5672. ISSNs are assigned by a network of over 60 centers world-wide. Contact the ISSN Center responsible for assigning ISSN to serials published in your country. The International Centre's web site provides contact information for the ISSN Centers.

Why Would I Want an ISSN?

What are Some Other Standard Codes Used on Serials?

ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

Bar Codes

EAN (International Article Number)

Uniform Code Council,
8163 Old Yankee Rd.,
Dayton OH, (800) 543-8137

How Can I Learn More About How to Present My Serial?

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) publishes voluntary standards in the area of libraries, information science, and publishing. This brochure is based on a draft of Standard Z39.1, Periodicals: Format and Arrangement.

For a thorough treatment of the issues highlighted in this brochure, see Serial Publications: Guidelines for Good Practice in Publishing Printed Journals and Other Serials Publications. Published by the United Kingdom Serials Group. Order address:

II 4 Woodstock Road,
Whitney, OX8 6DY, England
(Fax: 0993 778879).
Price: £l6 (approx. U.S. $25.00)


This publication was inspired by earlier brochures created in Australia and Canada, especially the booklet entitled "You Name It!" published by the National Library of Canada.
Since 1986, numerous individuals within RTSD (and later ALCTS) have endeavored to create a similar publication to send to a wider audience. Thanks to the following people for their past efforts and continued support: Janet Arcand, Alex Bloss, Valerie Bross, Karen Darling, Karen Muller, Anne Piternick and Ann Vidor. Thanks to the following Serials Section Committees: Committee to Study Serials Cataloging, Committee to Study Serials Standards, Serials Section Executive Committee, and the Worst Serial Title Change of the Year Committee.
This brochure was created by the Serials Section's Task Force on Serial Title Publication: Eleanor I. Cook, Serials Librarian, Appalachian State University; Regina Reynolds, Head, National Serials Data Program, Library of Congress, Phoebe Timberlake, Chair Library Resource Coordination Dept., University of New Orleans .

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Library of Congress Help Desk ( February 19, 2010 )