Response to LC Series Proposal, pt. 2 (Renette Davis) ANN ERCELAWN 30 Mar 1994 01:43 UTC

Date: Tue, 29 Mar 1994 11:40:05 -0600 (CST)
From: renette davis <rd13@MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU>
Subject: Response to LC series proposal

Pt. 2:

In an effort to determine what the degree of non-collocation
of series which are not subject to authority control might
be, and how often it would be severe, several members of the
cataloging staff examined 132 incoming volumes with series.
One hundred and ten of these series were already represented
in the online catalog.  We found that in 36% of cases, there
would be a loss of collocation in our catalog if authority
work were not done, because a variation in series title on
one of the pieces would not collocate with other entries for
that series in the online catalog.

We imagine problems of access and collocation in our catalog
to be common to large library catalogs where there are not
sufficient resources to carry out all the needed authority
maintenance.  The situation will become far more difficult
if series authority work is no longer done consistently.
Public services staff note that while library staff may know
about the problem of loss of collocation, and be able to
make up for it to some extent through use of imaginative
search strategies, and not give up too soon, patrons will
not know enough to do so, and will tend to assume that the
library does not have the volumes they are looking for.

We devised a quick survey of our colleagues, which was
circulated to staff in collection development, reference,
acquisitions, and student employees who use the system as
patrons and as staff members in Serials.  We found that most
respondents were dismayed by the lack of collocation which
would result from implementation of this proposal.  Twenty-
three people responded to our survey, which was sent to
about 30 people (some shared it with other staff and
responded for their group).  We asked them whether they
found the proposal as a whole acceptable, whether they would
agree with the statement "Series information receives
relatively little use by the Library's acquisitions,
collection development, and reference staff," if it were
applied to our library; and whether they could estimate how
often they access series when doing word searches on the
online catalog.

Eighteen respondents either disagreed, strongly disagreed,
or partly disagreed with the idea of the LC proposal.
Seventeen respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with
the statement about the use of series information by library
staff if applied to our library.  Sixteen respondents
estimated how frequently they accessed series when doing
word searches in the online catalog ranging from 1%-5% of
the time to over 50% of the time.

We are willing to share both the text of the survey and the
results in detail if there is interest.

Series authority work which is not done may result in a one-
time savings of time for the cataloger.  However, the
possible negative effects seem to us to be rather far-
reaching.  The obverse of that one-time saving is that copy
catalogers, reference librarians, and other staff at other
institutions will all have to spend extra time "forever and
ever," as one of our bibliographers put it, ascertaining the
accuracy of series headings or figuring out how series have
collocated, or correcting egregious errors of collocation.
Searches necessitated by the lack of a series authority
record will occur over and over again.  For LC itself, we
see an upfront savings in original cataloging which will be
more than lost in other library operations, including copy

Another possible workload shift that we will expect locally
is an increase in reference activity and inter-library loan
requests because people who come to the catalog with only a
series citation are unable to locate needed materials which
we already have.  Patrons may ask for help from reference
staff more often, and may place more inter-library loan
requests because they cannot find material on their own.  If
these are problems we anticipate within our own catalog, it
is not too difficult to imagine the type of problems which
will occur in linked catalogs, such as the CIC Virtual
Library, in which most of the CIC library catalogs are to be
seamlessly linked within a few years.

We believe that it is useful to do series authority work for
NACO and NCCP, and would like to continue; catalogers enjoy
participating and at the moment everyone is well-trained and
fully functional.  We contribute almost all our series
authority work from original cataloging to NACO, and we are
experimenting with generating SAR's for series found on OCLC
member copy for which series authority records are lacking.
However, if LC's proposal is adopted, it would be difficult
to justify continuing to work in the traditional way.

We have watched with interest the ongoing discussion of how
difficult it is to contribute series authority records.  Two
things which would most encourage NACO libraries to
contribute series are a) a reduction in the byzantine rules
and rule interpretations for series, and b) a unified and
well-written series manual, modelled after the one now being
prepared for name authorities (or, alternatively, a
comprehensive series section added to the names manual).

We understand the need to reduce the cost of cataloging and
the complexities of the work in order to do more with the
same or fewer staff.  LC's assessment of the number of
additional records which could be cataloged in the time it
takes to establish series (13,000 annually) is impressive.
However, input from our staff points to the value of, and
continued need for controlled access to series information.
In that spirit, we propose that LC consider simplifications
of series authority work that would make it a smaller
cataloging investment, more conducive to cooperative series
authority work via NACO.

We would like to meet LC's needs halfway, given that we
could not make up the deficit if series were no longer
controlled, with a simplified series authority record.  We
propose that LC and others begin to think of an SAR the way
we think about name records.  That is to say, consider
whether the SAR can be used only to record the form of name
and its variants.  It seems worthwhile to question the value
of recording series treatment information at all in an
environment where access can be provided effortlessly to all
series by machine, and "tracing" is a historical concept
related to the card environment.  Further, if experiments
with machine generation of NARs succeed and can be applied
to real work, SARs which do not need qualifiers or cross-
references could be generated in the same way.

We look forward to hearing about and reacting to further
thought on this issue from LC, and urge strongly that series
authority work be modified and modernized, rather than
effectively abandoned.


Renette Davis
Senior Serials Cataloger                     Internet:
University of Chicago Library                               Voice: 312-702-8769
1100 E. 57th St., Chicago, IL 60637