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This case study was performed at Rutgers University to evaluate computer-supported serials management in an academic library context. Information in an ExtInfo folder within each serial control record of an integrated library system was manually restructured to a standard language and formatted to establish a central location to perform collaborative serials management. From interviews and questionnaires, the authors learned that serial staff and librarians are essentially satisfied with the centralized information distribution. From their perspective, the standards applied to the ExtInfo folder reduce errors in serial management, improve and streamline routine work, and require little learning effort to master.
Serials management is considered to be one of the most complex but important functions in a library. It is comprised mainly of two parts, collection and technical services and public services. While public services (such as reference, circulation) directly interface with library users, collection and technical services support public services through a series of behind-the-scenes operations. The responsibilities of collection services include acquisitions, check-in, claiming, binding, shelving, and their related workflows for serials processing. In a collection services department, each serial staff member performs one particular function. All of the operational functions are interwoven. (1) Weaknesses in the workflow in one function results in extra work in another, and consequently lowers the overall quality of serials processing.
Each serial staff member gathers individualized information through his or her work experience that can be shared among serial staff. (2) Not only is the processing of that information necessary to his or her own work, but it is also essential to the other processing steps of the serial management workflow. For example, if the check-in staff acquires first-hand information about a change in the publication frequency of a given title, then the claiming staff needs that information to determine the appropriate schedule for claiming an issue that has not been received. The bindery staff also needs that information to determine how many issues should be bound together.
In comparison to other publication types (such as monographs), serial information may be unpredictable and vague, but it is critical because processing is ongoing for the term of the subscription. A serial may change title or publication frequency, merge with a different title, publish supplements, or suspend publication during the period of a subscription. The libraries may change fund allocation, subscription period, shelving location, or vendor during that same period. Serial staff must make corresponding managerial adjustments to respond to any of these changes. Figure 1 shows the general serial collection functions and the information needed for each process. The figure's rectangles represent the serial processing steps and the cylinders indicate the information needed for each step. By evaluating the texts in the cylinders, one can see that each piece of information is used for more than one processing step.
The serials processing operations of the New Brunswick Libraries Collection Services Department at Rutgers University was the object of this case study. Until 2000, serial subscriptions were received in each library on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University. Staff in each library processed their respective collections separately. Three years ago, the research libraries took over the serials management of the unit libraries. Alexander Library (AL), a large research library for humanities and social sciences, manages the serial processing of the four smaller humanities and social science libraries. The Library of Science and Medicine (LSM), a large research library for the sciences, is responsible for the serial processing of the four science libraries. Except for unit shelving responsibilities, all serials processing is …