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Let’s talk seriously about series

SCIS cataloguer Julie Styles explains the challenges of cataloguing items within series.

Feedback received through SCIS workshops and surveys indicates that inconsistencies in series statements are an issue for many of our customers. It is also an issue for cataloguers, who love consistency. This article explores some of the challenges of cataloguing items within a series.

Stand-alone items

Often when an author writes a book, there is no initial plan to turn it into a series. A series may come when a book sells well and the author has more to tell. When we catalogue the first book, the record may not be given a series name or number because at that stage it stands alone.

At SCIS, we do not add series statements to works that were originally not intended to be a series, as we catalogue from the item in hand. We correct discrepancies in older records when they come to our attention; otherwise, new material is prioritised.

It can be frustrating to find gaps in series numbering in library catalogues. When schools and publishers send resources to SCIS for cataloguing, we are often able to fill some of these gaps. If you notice that one or more item from a series is missing, please let us know so we can rectify this.

Variations between publishers

One reason for discrepancies in series statements is that the same title can be published by various publishers. Some publishers acknowledge that the book is part of a series, whereas others do not. Different publishers may also give a series or parts of a series a different name, and, in accordance with RDA, we transcribe the series statement as found on the item in hand. One publisher may label them as volumes, books, or numbers, or they may simply provide the series number.

For example, let’s look at George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. The series statement for the second book A Clash of Kings could be catalogued in a number of ways, including:

  • A song of ice and fire ; v. 2
  • A song of ice and fire ; bk. 2
  • A song of ice and fire ; no. 2
  • A song of ice and fire ; 2
  • A song of ice and fire series ; v.2
  • A song of ice and fire series ; bk. 2
  • A song of ice and fire series ; no. 2
  • A song of ice and fire series ; 2

Title or series?

Sometimes it is unclear which information on the title page is the title and which is the series name. So much is open to a cataloguer’s interpretation, and factors such as the prominence of lettering and the order in which the information appears can become very important. Take Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as an example. Would you think that The Dark Knight Returns is the title and Batman the series, or would you consider Batman: The Dark Knight Returns to be the complete title?

A change in standards

Up until 2008, only one series statement was added to a MARC record, in the now-obsolete 440 field. After this date, there was a change in the MARC standard, and a second series access point was added. The series fields in MARC records are now in the 490 and 830 fields. The 490 field is where cataloguers transcribe the series statement as it appears in the book, and the 830 field is where cataloguers create an access point for the series and remove any initial articles.

For example, look at the first book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series:

Title (245): Divergent
Series statement supplied by the publisher (490): Divergent trilogy ; book 1
Series access point (830): Divergent series; v 1.

However, in the majority of cases, the 490 and 830 fields are the same. If you wish to delete one, please keep the 830 field; it is the only series field that is searchable, and deleting it will remove your users’ ability to search by series.

Looking ahead

At SCIS, we are looking into how we can provide more consistent series statements, and will keep you updated on any developments. In the meantime, please note that once you download our records, you are welcome to make changes to the series statement that best accommodates your users’ needs.


Julie Styles
Cataloguer, SCIS
Education Services Australia