Cat. & Reference: Serials vs. Monographs, part II
In our second-to-last episode, I discussed the differences between serials and monographs, mostly from a publishing standpoint. However, there are some types of publications which fall in between the two extremes, and could theoretically be approached either way.
A monographic series is a collection of books which are entirely self-contained, but which are all published by the same publisher (often a university press) and which all share the same general theme. (The Harvard East Asian Monographs series is one such example.)
Usually these books have the name of the series to which they belong somewhere on the cover or spine, and often they include a volume number. Sometimes they usually include a title page for the series, in addition to the normal title page, and they may include a list of all other volumes in the series at the end of the book. Otherwise, they look just like regular books.
So, are these cataloged as a series or as individual monographs? Well, the phrase "monographic series" kind of gives it away, but it's worth examining why it's preferable to catalog them as monographs.
Last time, I talked about monographs vs. seriels in terms of how they're published. Another way of looking at the difference is what I think of as "horizontal" vs. "vertical" similarity. Think of a bunch of books or magazines in a row. Monographs will be mostly self-contained, so I visualize them as being separated from each other by vertical lines. Serials, on the other hand, have a lot of similarities from issue to issue, such as title and subject matter.
For example, I have a subscription to Newsweek. If you look at any one issue by itself, it doesn't seem very cohesive. There are columns and articles on a range of topics and letters about articles that aren't even in that issue of the magazine. However, if you look at multiple issues, patterns start to appear: The same columns appear every week, as well as articles on the same topics, not to mention the fact that every issue bears the same name. I visualize all of these magazine issues as being connected horizontally, across issues.
I could, in theory, catalog each issue separately and assign separate subject headings, etc., to each issue. However, each issue would have virtually the same title as every other one, and they would all have the same subject assigned (Current events).
With the books in the monographic series, on the other hand, each issue has a separate title, author, and is on a separate specific topic. Since they all share a general theme, you could, in theory, make one record for all of them, but the subject access would be very general and a lot of other specific access points, such as title and author, would also be lost. (E.g., the books "A history of the early Korean kingdom of Paekche" and "Public spheres, private lives in modern Japan" would both be entered under "Harvard East Asian Monographs" and with the subject heading "East Asia," instead of the more specific subject headings of "Paekche (kingdom) -- History" and "Central-local government relations -- Japan -- History," respectively.) As I mentioned, there is some indication on each volume that it's part of a series, but the volumes are much more individually self-contained than they are similar to each other.
Homework: Find a book at home that you think can be cataloged either on its own or as part of a larger set and make an argument for which way you think it should be cataloged.