Serials Evaluation: An Innovation Approach

Article excerpt

* A method of analyzing serials collections examines the characteristics and subject content of serials by providing a comprehensive descriptive review of current serials with particular reference to planning publications. The innovative approach used combines evaluative criteria traditionally used by librarians to analyze serials with database management technology.

Introduction

The objective of this paper is to present a new method of analyzing serials collections, a method which was developed by Informes Associates, a Montreal-based information consulting firm. The methodology used examines the characteristics and subject content of serials by providing a comprehensive descriptive review of current serials with particular reference to planning publications. The innovative approach used combines evaluative criteria traditionally used by librarians to analyze serials with database management technology.

In February 1986, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation commissioned Informes Associates to conduct a study of current serials on housing and related fields relevant to the Canadian housing research community. The information presented in the study was intended to assist the corporation investigate the potential for a new serial emphasizing housing research issues. Research required to complete this study was conducted by the company's principals and a team of researchers and subject specialists over a six-month period. The original study included an evaluation of over 300 titles using 38 criteria to provide full, descriptive information for each serial. Selection of appropriate computer software as a tool for information management was essential to the analytical process. It allowed for systematic, organized control of data with the creation of a permanent database. The methodology used for the study has considerable potential for use by information professionals, regardless of the type of serials collection managed.

The titles examined for the review were all current serials; those which had ceased publication were omitted from this evaluation process, although for other studies it might be desirable to include ceased titles. The majority were either English-language, French-language, or bilingual publications, since these are Canada's official languages. Some foreign-language serials were included if deemed relevant to Canadian housing research when the titles to be examined were selected. Subject areas encompassed by the serials were: architecture, banking and finance, building and construction, business, economic situation and conditions, energy, environmental studies, geography, dwellings for the aged, housing, interior design and decoration, public administration, political science, real estate business, social services and welfare, statistics, and urban planning.

Methodology

In order to set the parameters for selection of titles to be evaluated, the first step in the analysis was to define the scope of the term "periodical." According to the American Library Association, the accepted definition is:

"A periodical is a serial appearing or intended to appear more frequently than annually, each issue of which is numbered or dated consecutively and normally contains separate articles, stories or other writings. Newspapers disseminating general news, and the proceedings, papers, or other publications of corporate bodies primarily related to their meetings, are not included in this term."

Thus newspapers, proceedings, and in-house organs were excluded from the final choice of titles as a general policy. Similar studies could of course involve different parameters setting other boundaries at the outset.

Choice of Titles

Starting with this definition, several steps were followed to compile a comprehensive list of periodicals. Various sources were consulted for serial titles. These included directories, subject bibliographies, union lists of serials, and online databases. …