Qualification of Series Titles under RDA

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on Cataloging Issues – February 2014

By Isabel del Carmen Quintana, Harvard University

Question: Why and how were series titles qualified under AACR2, and how has that changed with RDA?


RDA, Resource Description and Access, is the new set of cataloging rules being adopted by most US Libraries. Series authority records created under AACR2 were constructed and qualified according to specific rules. Under RDA there are new rules that govern what constitutes a conflict, as well as new choices for the qualification of series titles. This brief document will cover the major differences between these two cataloging rules in terms of series authority record creation.

Why do we qualify a series and when should we qualify a series?

One major difference is that in AACR2 a series title could not conflict with another authorized heading, or another serial title. Therefore if you had two series with the same title, or a series and a corporate body with the same name, you would need to break the conflict. Therefore we had such headings as:

Social studies (Mankato, Minn.)
Social studies (Vilnius, Lithuania)
AARP (Series)

In RDA this rule is still valid. However, in RDA no two “works” can have the same title. A work is defined in RDA as “A distinct intellectual or artistic creation (i.e., the intellectual or artistic content).” 1 Therefore a series title cannot conflict with a monograph that has the same authorized access point (i.e. author/title combination; or just the title if there is no author.)

For example, in the past if you had a series titled “Science” it would remain unqualified. In fact there is a series authority record for a series titled “Science” published in Paris by Flammarion. This series title is unqualified. The next series title received would have received a qualifier to distinguish it. For example: Science (New York, N.Y.)

Now in RDA, the cataloger compares the series title not only to other series, but also to any monograph entitled Science, and if there already exists another work with this same title, the cataloger will qualify the latest resource in hand. Therefore, more series authority records will include qualifiers.

What information should we use to qualify series?

In AACR2 the most pertinent basic rules for qualifying SARs were:

  • For a generic title (i.e. Report, Proceedings, etc.): qualify by the corporate body that issued or published the work.
    • Example: Report (Alaska Mental Health Board)
    • For any non-generic title that conflicted: qualify by the place of publication; or by the corporate body:
      • Corporate body:  If the corporate body changed, a new SAR (which included  links to the earlier/later form of the SAR) would be created to represent the current corporate body.
        • Example:
          • Science bulletin (South Africa. Department of Agricultural Technical Services) changed to:
          • Science bulletin (South Africa. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries)
  • Place of publication: If the place of publication changed, we were not required to make a new SAR. So, even if the SAR had the information that the place of publication varied, the series would continue to be qualified by the first place of publication. [Please not that therefore, this might not match the place of publication of the item you have in hand.]
    • Example:
      • Anthropos (Barcelona, Spain).
      • Even if later issues were published in a different city, the SAR would remain the same.

In RDA, what we should use to qualify a series has not changed much. If you have a generic title, you still qualify by the corporate body.

However, if you have any other title, you qualify by:

  • corporate body
  • date of publication
  •  descriptive data elements (i.e. edition statement, carrier type)
  •  place of publication.

One change is that these are not in any prescriptive order. The cataloger may choose any of these to distinguish a series title; or choose more than one such qualifier. This can make it difficult to find the SAR. Once again, if the place of publication changes, the series remains qualified by the first place of publication.

The cataloger is instructed to use the data that would help distinguish the two identical titles.

Some examples:

Therefore if you have a monograph and a series titled “Anthropology” you might use “Series” as your qualifying term, and end up with:

  • Anthropology
  • Anthropology (Series)

If you have two series titled Prison life but published in two different places, you might choose the place as the qualifying term and end up with:

  • Prison life (Boston, Mass.)
  • Prison life (Cleveland, Ohio)

If you have two series titled Indian art and they are both published in Tulsa, Oklahoma but by two different publishers, you might choose to qualify by publisher and end up with:

  • Indian art (Oklahoma Art Association)
  • Indian Art (Cherokee Cultural Center)

This freedom in the rules allows the cataloger to use the most appropriate qualifiers to distinguish the various series. However, our users will need to realize that in order to find the correct series heading, one may need to try various terms before one finds the appropriate authorized access point for the series they are searching. Of course, keyword searching would obviate too much concern over this change; and, overall, the flexibility in the rules should allow for more accurate qualification of works with identical titles, which will be very beneficial in our modern world with its plethora of information.

1 RDA Toolkit. American Library Association : Canadian Library Association : Facet Publishing, 2013 July update.