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online databases and/or serials Elizabeth Brown 09 Jan 1997 21:36 UTC

>I want to catalog ASFA: Aquatic sciences & fisheries
>abstracts, an online database available through subscription over
>the net as a serial (see IS a serial.
>It's updated monthly and covers 1978 to the present. All of its
>corresponding counterpart publications, including print and cdrom
>are serials. It oozes seriality. But the darn thing doesn't have
>"distinct issues with distinct designations" (see CCM31.1) so I'm
>supposed to catalog it as a monograph. There's a nice record in
>OCLC that does just what I'd like to do, its #31252852, "MELVYL
>PsychINFO database."
>I'd like some feedback. Does anyone else have a problem with
>treating online databases as monographs?--Thanks, Beth Guay

Even though you seem to be looking for people who share your feeling, I am
prompted to reply by your emphatic declaration: "It IS a serial." (Since I
could not disagree more!) In my opinion (I'm not declaring!), ASFA is a
database that should be cataloged as a computer file. Monthly updates do not
make it a serial---it might help you a bit to think of a monograph
loose-leaf as an example. Also, it doesn't follow that a new version of a
title will be a serial just because the print and CD versions were. Perhaps
you should not think in terms of "monograph" but just "computer file" since
that could be a stumbling block.

There has been quite a bit of discussion and work on seriality and what it
means in the Internet age, and I think someone else can summarize current
thought more elegantly than I; I can tell you two things, though, for what
it's worth:

a) I have been cataloging Web databases as computer files (and yes, I am
first and foremost a serials cataloger---gasp!), and it's been extremely
satisfactory. It felt a little strange at first, but after a while my
"queasiness" went away, and I am happy with the resulting records (which are
certainly as good as serial records!). I would suggest you get some
non-serial catalogers' perspectives on your plight, like talk with others at
your institution.

b) the bottom line is that you should catalog the title based on what works
for your institution and your local system, etc. By all means, do ASFA as a
serial, if doing it as a computer file absolutely would not fit local
circumstances, such as local system display.

[I'm always puzzled when I see these kinds of databases cataloged as
serials, though, especially when the records lack "362/500 Description based
on" fields (unlike your cited example, which is very interesting). After
all, these particular databases are usually ONE THING (i.e., one file)
containing data rather than distinguishable pieces or parts all lined up in
a row.]

I hope that helps (it probably doesn't). To me it just works better to
follow existing guidelines for consistency's sake, until the rules, etc.,
are updated or changed. I think some catalogers would agree with your
feeling, some with mine; in this new world of Web databases, the existing
guidelines don't quite cut it, and this topic continues to come up as
traditional serial catalogers are faced with familiar titles emerging in a
new, not exactly-a-serial-format. You're not the only one questioning this,
in other words!!

Elizabeth Brown
Catalog Librarian
Georgia Tech Library
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0900
404-894-1723 (fax)