dispersal of serials responsibilities: summary & further questions Lisa Schulz 24 Feb 1998 16:10 UTC

Subject:  results: serials responsibilities

Thank you all (some 35 of you) for replying to my inquiry. While I did not
receive a statistically significant # of responses from which to draw firm
conclusions, here is a summary of the results, in no special order, which
stirs further questions:

1. Serials professionals in smaller institutions wear the most hats. The
smaller the student population, the more likely that the the person is
involved in reference and bibliographic instruction. Evening shifts
seemed to be strongly linked to reference responsiblities, and weekend
duty (although rarely reported) to the same, or to to being general
supervisor on a rotational basis. I saw a ratio between reference and
serials split duties range from 1:3 to 3:1.

2. Serials responsibilities for the professional librarian were most
often associated with cataloging, and linked to cataloging of monographs
as well. Distinctions were most often made along the lines of either
cataloging or acquisitions. The person in the small institution who did
it all might be called a 'serials coordinator' and be a parapro under the
general supervision of the head of technical services. For the
professional librarian, other duties included an addition  of  also
working in the current periodicals room, or being responsible for
electronic formats, or for collection development (which I meant to ask:
how many of you directly influence collection development of serials,
both paper & electronic formats?) Only one person said they also had web
development responsibilities, and one mentioned gov docs. A few were
cheerful about the increased complexity of taking on more responsibility
for electronic formats.

3. Many of you expressed not having aimed for a serials careeer, but
having dropped into it. A few of you mention having begun in public
service, most often as a parapro, then migrating to technical services
after the MLS degree or after some time spent in reference. Often
parapros also do ILL, or at least began there.

4. The ratio of professionals to parapros within serials and again within
technical services really varied. The highest was 1:1, the lowest was 1:6,
with a few people reporting no professional librarian having serials
responsibilities.  The lower the ratio, the more students were also used,
as many as 10 in serials. I didn't get a clear sense of different ratios
within serials/acquisitions and serials/cataloging, there were not enough
specific responses.

5. Some people told me how many active serials titles they had, which I
wished I'd asked. That number, when given, ranged between 850 and 1100.
The student population ranged from 1,500 to 20,000.

6. Many people spoke of serials librarians not being replaced, their
duties being folded into the responibilities of others. A few expressed
concern for the continued presence of the serials acquisitions
professional in particular. One person said I would have to being willing
to relocate possibly several times to get the position I wanted. (Not
practical, over 40 here)

7. The array of advice was most interesting and appreciated. One person
said, 'serials is no small niche....and specializing is not what will get
you ahead' another said, 'don't get too specific in library school...
it's enough to concentrate in a specific area, such as academic
libraries... your first job out of librry school will have nothing to do
with your idea about what you wanted to do as a librarian.' *Any comments
on that idea?*  Another said 'don't limit youself to serials for your
first professional job .. they are complex and can be frustrating'. Many
people gave general comments about how much they enjoyed serials work.

8. Suggestions for specific preparation for serials work: (I'm putting
the most frequently mentioned things first) Get cataloging experience.
Transfer to technical services or cross train. OJT is adequate
preparation. Get familiar with online searching, electronic formats,
especially full text. ILL experience. Attend as many day workshops as you
can. Volunteer in a serials dept if you can't work in one. If you can't
get into technical services, get into a current periodicals reading
room. Get involved with indexing or document delivery. Study the manuals.
Subscribe to Serials Librarian and Serials Review. Public service
background is enough, particularly if you manipulate records or help with
reference. Join NASIG.

9. Now I want to know the personality profile of the serials librarian.
In library school they tell you you have to love working with people, but
hey, I prefer working with data, analyzing statistics and manipulating
records in the company of other people who enjoy each other but like
doing the same. (For Meyers-Briggs fans, that's 'INTJ') Plus, what I
value about serials over monographs is their tremendous value in timely
research. Am I being unrealistic about the atmosphere? If I wanted to
plunge into people's personal problems I would head towards reference!
And if I loved plunging into computer problems, I'd be a systems

Here is my snapshot image of the serials world: a changing empire where
one can enjoy problem solving and still specialize, insulated by technical
services from the constant rotation of shift work and people driven crises
of public service. If you're laughing at this, then please set me
straight. Here is another argument I have against resigning myself to
accept whatever falls in my lap, or rotating through departments: I'm over
40, I've done all that.

Thanks for your patience and presence.

Lisa Schulz, Maryville University Library (Reserves asistant, serials
ST Louis,MO but moving back out west after graduation,