ALCTS issues statement on the Library of Congress Series Authority Record Decision

Contact: Charles Wilt
For Immediate Release
May 26, 2006

ALCTS issues statement on the Library of Congress series authority record decision

CHICAGO - On April 20, 2006, the Library of Congress (LC) announced that, as of May 1, 2006 (later, the date was delayed to June 1), it would cease performing series authority work for the bibliographic records it creates.
The Board of Directors of the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) adopted the following statement this past week concerning the LC's decision.
This statement, drafted by the Cataloging and Classification Section (CCS), with input from the Serials Section on behalf of the ALCTS Board of Directors, was forwarded to the Library of Congress:

We are writing to express our concerns over the recent decision that Library of Congress (LC) made, regarding ceasing the creation of series authority records (SARs) and treating all series only via transcription in bibliographic records.
LC's decisions regarding bibliographic records have a broad impact within the library community.
It is that impact that prompts us to write.

Aside from the nature of the decision itself, what is perhaps most disconcerting is the manner in which that decision was communicated.
It has always been recognized that LC's cataloging policies are, in the final analysis, most pertinent to LC's own environment and operations.
Nevertheless, the library community has come to expect, and appreciate, both significant lead-time for implementation of policy changes of this magnitude and widespread communication with multiple (and international) constituencies.
In this instance, there was neither sufficient lead-time nor broad communication.
As a result, even with the implementation date moved forward one month, there is barely time for the many users of LC's cataloging data to develop coherent policy responses of their own.

We wish that the decision making process at LC had been more transparent and consultative.
We look to LC for leadership in many areas, including the use of best practices.
Consultation with the library community has been the model used in the past by LC.
If consultation with affected communities had been undertaken prior to announcing a final decision, it is possible that a compromise or simplification of series authority creation could have been mutually agreed upon in the library community that would have benefited all.
Now that the decision has been made, we would urge the LC leadership to share the rationale behind it, including as many aspects of the decision making process as possible, in hopes that other libraries outside LC could carefully examine their own series practices in a thoughtful manner.

We hope that LC fully understands the impact that this decision will have on other libraries.
LC bibliographic records are accepted without editing by thousands of libraries of all types and sizes throughout the world for use in their own online catalogs.
Libraries accepting unedited LC copy will now lose controlled series access in their catalogs.
If they elect to take on this task themselves, it will mean a great deal of labor intensive checking and editing of records -- labor that was not previously needed.
The Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) libraries may decide to continue doing series authority work and take on the role of maintaining a national/international series authority file.
However, this will mean many more hours of work for that dedicated group, to create SARs and to update LC bibliographic records that they previously did not need to touch.
Because the PCC is mainly composed of academic libraries, we are most concerned about children's and popular materials.
Many children's materials are issued in series, and collocating these materials in a consistent manner through established series forms is crucial to maintaining good access and public service in public libraries.
In addition, the work of collection development and acquisitions personnel will be made more difficult, as it will no longer be possible to collocate books in one given series; unless much more effort is taken in searching the catalog, duplicate orders and gaps in holdings are to be expected.

The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) requests the Library of Congress to return to its former practice of broad consultation, prior to making significant changes in cataloging policy.
It is understood that, despite the opinions of those who may believe that library cataloging has become fixed at some indeterminate moment in the past, in fact both policies and practices are in constant states of change and development.
Nevertheless, unilateral and sudden actions on the part of leading agencies are as likely to result in further fragmentation of the community as they are in a kind of forced-march evolution.
With regard to the matter of series authority control, ALCTS specifically requests that LC call for a 90-day comment period before implementation, so that the varied members of our community can make themselves heard, not only to LC itself, but to each other, in a considered and coherent manner.

Further, we urge LC leadership to re-dedicate itself to cooperative cataloging programs and cooperative standards efforts, such as the PCC, where both LC and partner libraries can benefit from standards established together.
All partners benefit from sharing standards and training; the result is a more effective and efficient copy cataloging process for all partners when accepting copy from trusted sources.