The Library of Congress recently announced that they will no longer used controlled tracings for series. What does this mean and how does that affect the records in my local database?
On June 1st, 2006 the Library of Congress stopped tracing series in all of their cataloging.
Series are coded in the computer as “traced” or “untraced” by catalogers. To trace a series means that you want that title to file in your indexes, especially in your left-justified indexes, sometimes called “browse” or “string” indexes. In some systems that title may file in a “titles index,” in others in a “series titles index,” but in all cases the series title will be indexed. An “untraced” series is NOT indexed. (Please note that some library catalogs index all series regardless of how the cataloger coded the series, so in some cases these “untraced” series may still be indexed, but in most cases, they will not.)
Furthermore, the Library of Congress will no longer use or create uniform titles for series, also known as, series authority records. These records serve to differentiate between series with similar names, and to collocate books in a particular series. For example, Publication (Abertay Historical Society) and Publication (Alaska. Office of History and Archaeology) are two different series. However, the books simply say “Publication.” An LC cataloger in the past would have recorded the information presented in the book, in this case “Publication” in an untraced series field, and added a traced series field for the respective series, let’s say “Publication (Abertay Historical Society).” They can also serve to collocate books in a series. To continue with the above mentioned series, some of the books in this series have “Publications of the Abertay Historical Society” printed on them. In the past, these books would also have been given an untraced series field with “Publications of the Abertay Historical Society” and a traced series field with “Publication (Abertay Historical Society).” A series authority record would have linked the variant name “Publications of the Abertay Historical Society” to the uniform title “Publication (Abertay Historical Society)” for the user, with the use of a “see reference.”
Now, the Library of Congress will put on the record exactly what appears on the book. So if the book has “Publication,” that is all they will put on the record. If the book has “Publications of the Abertay Historical Society,” that is all they will put. And in either case, they will NOT index these series.
There has been some talk that keyword searching will give us adequate access to these series. It is possible to keyword search fields even if they are not “browse” or “string” indexed, because usually the entire record is available for keyword searching. However, unless the sponsor of the series is also the publisher, chances are they will not be listed on the record. For example, the series Publication (Center for Archaeological Research at Davis) is published by the University of California, so the “Center for Archaeological Research at Davis” probably would not be anywhere on the catalog record. Furthermore, this series is sometimes listed as “CARD,” in which case the word “Publication” would not even be on the record. So just because you do not find books in a series with a keyword search, does not mean that books have not been published in that series.
This Library of Congress decision is important for all of us, especially because Library of Congress records overlay anyone else’s records in most computer systems. Therefore, even if your local cataloger had bothered to trace the series, essentially indexing it, a Library of Congress record would remove that tracing if the record was ever merged with yours. Many local libraries run batch processes where their records are matched against Library of Congress records and if there is a match the Library of Congress record overlays the local record. This was even true in OCLC. However, OCLC has changed their programming to ensure that traced series do not disappear when the Library of Congress record overlays another record. They also have changed their policy so that ANY cataloger can now change the series field from “untraced” to “traced” in OCLC, and add the series uniform title if necessary. (In the past, one needed special authorization to change a Library of Congress record in OCLC.) Since this policy was recently implemented, we have yet to see how many catalogers take advantage of this opportunity and update the national record, and how many simply update their local databases. Finally, OCLC has changed their overlay guidelines, so that Library of Congress records are considered inferior to PCC (Program for Cooperative Cataloging) records. The PCC, a national program for cooperative cataloging, has issued a statement that they will continue to trace series.
If series access is important to you, it would be wise to contact your local cataloging department and systems librarians to see if your system can protect these series fields, and to see if your cataloging department can bear the burden of creating and maintaining these series records and series tracings.
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