Here’s a glimpse of a project I’ve been working on lately:
Our issues of The Clinics, which fall into four broader titles (Radiologic Clinics of North America, Clinics in Chest Medicine, Ultrasound Clinics, and MRI Clinics), used to be cataloged as serials.
[If you like technical details, keep reading. If not, skip to the text after the picture of the sled dogs.]
In cataloging, there are three categories of textual materials: monographs (including multi-part monographs), series, and serials. Cataloging monographs is pretty easy — there’s the title, author, publication info, length, etc. You don’t have to worry (much) about how the material fits into a broader context, besides the different forms it itself has taken (reprints, different editions, translations, etc.).
If something is in a series, though, that means it does have a broader context to fit into. It’s not just its own entity; it’s part of a bigger entity. So when you catalog it, you have to reflect both identities. This means giving each individual part its own record, featuring its unique title. For example, if you were cataloging Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles series, you wouldn’t just use one record for the whole series. You’d use five: one for each individual title, each record with a note (in an 8xx field, for my fellow MARC21 geeks) that the book belonged to a specific series. Since neither “Prydain” nor “chronicles” appears in any of the individual titles, it’s important to include both entries on the record. That way, people can search for either the series or the individual books and still find what they’re looking for. If a series title shares words with its components’ titles (like with the Hunger Games books or the Harry Potter series), it might seem redundant to include both fields, but it’s still important for consistency.
If something is cataloged as a serial, there probably aren’t any individual issue titles, so it doesn’t matter that there’s no place in the record for them. There’s just one title: the serial title.
Each title of The Clinics (Radiologic Clinics, etc.) could technically be considered a series, since each installment has a unique title (MRI of the Newborn, Emergency Neuroradiology, etc.). But it also has serial-like components — it’s issued at regular intervals, and each issue has a unique volume and number designation.
So as a cataloger, I have to balance all of those considerations. Then I also have to consider the circulation aspects, and in that regard, to be frank, I’m not entirely comfortable treating The Clinics as serials. With our system, we can’t track when specific issues of a serial are checked in and out. The Clinics are quite a popular resource, so without individual barcodes, it’s virtually impossible to keep track of which issues we have and which are languishing in somebody’s office.
However, the original catalogers of The Clinics titles chose to catalog them as serials, and as I’m still a new cataloger, I didn’t feel comfortable going against that decision by creating a series record from scratch for each issue. Besides, with 70+ issues, that would take awhile. But at the same time, I really wanted people to be able to search for issues by their titles, since they’re most often used for reference for a specific imaging modality or region of the body.
So I did something a little unorthodox: I entered each installment’s title and editor as a Public Note. This means that …
Each installment is now searchable by issue title and editor in the library’s database, as long as you don’t put your search terms in quotes. I’ve also separated out The Clinics by main title (MRI Clinics, etc.) and alphabetized them. You can still find them in their usual place, in the corner of the library by the periodicals.