s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: Cat. & Reference: Serial order

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cat. & Reference: Serial order

When it comes to organizing library serials (i.e., newspapers, magazines, and journals), there are a couple of different schools of thought. One theory is that you should just organize them alphabetically, by title, so that they'll be easy to find. Serials collections are usually much smaller than monographic (book) collections, so it can be a workable system for this sub-group, even if it wouldn't work for the whole library. Plus, it means that you don't have to consult the catalog every time you need to find a particular title. However, there are some drawbacks.

For starters, you'll get a big glut of titles in the "J" section because so many serials are called The Journal of X, Y or Z. Also, you have to figure out what to do with titles in languages that don't use the Roman alphabet. (The Slavic Library at the University of Illinois solves this problem by splitting the serials into a Roman alphabet group, which is alphabetized from A-Z, and a Cyrillic alphabet group, which is alphabetized from А-Ю.) But, the biggest problem, in my estimation, is that they aren't grouped by subject.

The other day, I found myself needing to look at the covers of a bunch of different art, design, and photography magazines for a work project. Unfortunately, I didn't have a good way of finding all of them at once, because our serials are organized alphabetically. (I grant that Artforum, Art in America, and Art Journal were all together, but that's only three out of . . . I don't know how many, because I can't find all of them.)

The second school of thought is that you should organize serials by call number order, same as the books in the rest of the library. (Actually, both Dewey and LC schedules call for serials to be mixed in with the books, but most libraries have serials in a separate section, because they have such different circulation needs.) Having the serials in call number order means that it's harder to find one title you're looking for, but once you've found one, you've automatically found all the rest in the same subject area. (BYU's library has signs which point out the location of the most popular serials, to help address the finding issue.)

So, if you're in a public library with a few dozen serials subscriptions, alphabetical order is probably fine. Otherwise, I think that call number order is the way to go.


At January 12, 2009 2:06 PM, Blogger Whistler said...


At January 14, 2009 10:01 PM, Blogger Sonya said...

This is why it's nice to sub-group your libraries. At the U of Illinois Chemistry Library, it was alpha-by-title, but they were all about chemistry :P

At January 15, 2009 7:05 PM, Blogger Katya said...

Good point. That's why it worked in the Slavic library, too.


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