Serial Cataloguing

Over the past 6 years, I’ve seen and experienced a few different approaches to cataloguing serials using MARC. After all, typically when you enter an organization, you adopt whatever cataloguing conventions they practise there. This makes a certain amount of sense, since there is always organizational acculturation whenever you begin a new job. Standards are often considered to be guidelines more than rules.

I’m in a very different position now than I have been over the past few years though. At this point, I have people posing questions to me about how they’re “supposed” to catalogue. This is quite another animal all together and as a result actually fairly difficult to answer.

If you consult the following links, you will notice a few different ideas about how people are “supposed” to catalogue serials.

Serial Cataloguing

CONSER Cataloging Manual

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Serials Cataloging

Arizona State Museum: Instructions for Serials Cataloging

OK…but how are you ACTUALLY supposed to do it?

Well, it seems to me that the MARC 362 field (  is supposed to be used to record the “beginning” and “end” dates of a publication. This may also include the sequential designation (i.e. Vol., No., etc.) in the case of periodical publications.

Then, the MARC 863 ( field is supposed to be used to record the actual holdings. In some cases, this might involve multi-part items that are not periodicals, but that’s outside the scope of this post. In regards to serials, there are various levels enumeration, which allow you to specify your holdings at various levels of detail. Perhaps you just want one 863 entry per year. Perhaps you want one every month. I suppose this is where a certain amount of localized convention comes into the picture.
What I would like to point out is that 853 and 863 fields seem to be directly linked, and thus subfields should be used for their linked purpose. If you are marking an item as missing, use a X or Z subfield to write that information out as a “note”. That’s where it belongs. Follow the examples specified in the Library of Congress webpage I have linked to above.

Without a doubt, serial cataloguing is a complicated beast, but hopefully this post will elucidate things a bit and prompt further research on the part of those doing serials cataloguing.