Transforming Serials: The Revolution Continues, Proceedings of the North American Serials Interest Group, Inc. 17th Annual Conference, June 20‐23, 2002

Jane Wainwright (London, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 1 September 2004




Wainwright, J. (2004), "Transforming Serials: The Revolution Continues, Proceedings of the North American Serials Interest Group, Inc. 17th Annual Conference, June 20‐23, 2002", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 213-214.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The term “revolution” can mean either a return to a certain point in an orbit or circular course or it can mean radical change, two seemingly contradictory definitions. However, in this case the conundrum is particularly apt. Serials are continually changing, but publication (and the budget) comes round at regular intervals. This fascinating publication of a conference of librarians, with related stakeholders, records the ferment of the war to manage resources available in a variety of forms, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The uncertainty of continued availability of archival electronic serials, as well as the difficulty of ensuring that the URL of the text can be passed on to library users, makes it impossible to commit to what at first glance seems the obvious solution of abandoning paper.

Some issues seem to come around with boring monotony: the revision of AACR; changes in titles; the challenge of sharing data; handling the multiplicity of formats: one record per format or multiple locations in one record. A battle currently raging is about outsourcing electronic serials – a step much further than using agents to supply paper journals.

This publication is more readable than most conference proceedings. These are not verbatim proceedings or prepared papers. Rather, each session is reported in detail by a recorder and includes not only the discussion but also comments on the presenter's style. Congratulations to the editors for producing a cohesive, instructive and entertaining publication. It must have been a mammoth effort. The book will be a delight to any librarian who could not attend and wants an appreciation of the present state of serials management. We are provided with the content and flavour of the conference and an overview of the issues of the year. Even some of the humour is reported. In one case there was a discussion about the low attendance at a workshop on the important issue of censorship. Refreshingly, some presenters were criticised for poor presentation, duplication and bad timing leaving little time for discussion.

Virtually all the talks concern electronic issues, but there were a few noteworthy exceptions: experience of the need for disaster planning, off‐site storage arrangements, the role of the librarian, staff training, user education. Although the speakers were mainly from American colleges and universities, the issues are relevant to any library with a significant budget. Reports on, and discussion about, aggregate databases will seem familiar and reassure those librarians who feel they do not have control of these powerful resources. Reports that users, especially undergraduates, prefer electronic forms, adds to the need to face up to the choices that face us. Frustration about user statistics also rings true.

But will I ever be able to say “continuing resources” rather than “serials” as instructed in the revision of Chapter 12, according to speakers from the Library of Congress (p. 246)? However, I welcome the inclusion of rules for loose‐leaf materials, Web sites and databases. Discussion about cataloguing details is, however, overshadowed by the question of why catalogue in‐house, and indeed, why check‐in? The University of Nevado, Reno, where 20 per cent of subscriptions are to print journals, now only checks‐in and binds a limited number of “high‐cost, high‐use or graphic intensive titles” (p. 258), claiming this is based on shelf observation. This is one way to compensate for the increased staffing required to manage electronic journals, noted in a number of the presentations.

Another revolutionary discussion is automatic, unmediated document supply as an alternative to journal subscriptions and interlibrary lending. After a study from January 2000 to March 2001, McGill University in Montreal, Canada has found this viable given only that orders for copies of articles from journals the library subscribes to are blocked. Not only was this cost effective, the service was quicker than interlibrary loan (15 hours as compared to an average of 16 days). There is much food for thought in this volume.

An index to the presentations is included.

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