Serial Record Division

Serial Record Division


Directed the activities of the Division in connection with the bibliographic control of serials: descriptive cataloging, recording the routing of issues, assigning ISSN and Key Titles, publications of New Serial Titles, coordination between national and international programs such as CONSER (Conversion of Serials) and ISDS (International Serials Data System). Planned and implemented the Division’s EEO Policy.

In 1971, while travelling on vacation, I stopped at the Library of Congress’ New Delhi office where I received a cable from Bill Welsh, Asst. Director of the Processing Department.  It asked if I would be willing to being detailed to the Serial Record Division to clean up a mess there.  I replied “OK with me but I would like to discuss it with you first.”  For relevant document, see below.

Upon my return to LC, I found that he had not waited.  He had already made the necessary paper changes.  The then Chief of Serial Record, Sam Lazero, was rightfully insulted.  Things were a little tense for a while until he soon retired.  Thus, I became the Chief in charge of cleaning up the mess.

Serials, which include magazines, are an essential and integral component of every major research library collection because the information they contain reflects the most current developments in all fields of activity.  It logically follows that efficient processing of these materials is key to providing the necessary timely access to them.

The Division staff consisted of approximately 10 professional catalogers and about 30 clerks.  It received perhaps 3,000 pieces a day.  While most of them were copyright deposits, many were received by exchange with other countries under treaty agreements.  Some by purchase.

Serials are a pesky lot to deal with.  Something was always changing.  Changes of title, change of publisher, change of publisher’s name, etc.

When I arrived in the Division, all of the routines were seriously topsy-turvey”.  There were no standard ways to handle them.  The backlog was tremendous.

I decided that the first thing would be to standardize the many necessary required routines.

I was lucky to have good supervisors.  Mary Sauer (later Price), professional cataloger; Liz Johnson; Charles; and Billie.  My assistant chief was good about handling necessary personnel paperwork.  Working together we created multitudes of flow charts covering all possible combinations and permutations.  It took about 2 months for me to understand the problem and create the flow charts.

After training of staff, it took about 6 months to catch up on the backlog, after which, except for complications, we were able to have a one-day turn around for most pieces.

Delta Collection

During my tenure as Chief of the Serial Record Division, I found out about a curious collection of special materials that LC had – the Delta Collection.

During and after World War II the Library of Congress held one of the largest collections of materials regarding sex and sexuality in the world. Largely composed of erotica and items considered to be pornographic or obscene, including books, motion pictures, photographs, and playing cards. It was called the Delta Collection and was separated from the general collection with highly restricted access. This collection was largely composed of materials seized by the Customs Bureau and the Postal Service, in addition to certain materials obtained through the Copyright Office.  The Delta Collection served to protect the materials from mutilation, preserve the cultural record, protect citizens from harmful obscenity, and function as a repository of sample materials for consultation by federal agencies.

Many of these filtered through the Serial Record Division where pornographic serials were, under cover, were brought to one person.  A wonderful employee named Billie was in charge of processing these.  After processing them, she forwarded them to an unknown (at least to me) place.  She would never let me, her Chief, see any of them.

I think that the Delta Collection was dispersed around the time that Lady Chatterly’s Lover could be bought at the Trover Shop, a newsstand, across the street.


The Cataloging Section of the Serial Record Division became the center for the assignment and implementation of the International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN).  The U.S. ISSN Center, part of the international ISSN Network, assigns International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN) to serials published in the U.S. The ISSN is a standard identifier for serials (e.g., journals, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, annuals) whether published in print, online or other media.


In October 1974, I received an Outstanding Rating (one of two) from my supervisor, Robert. R. Holmes.  The following “bullets” are excerpted from one of the ratings.

  • Responsibility for two additional programs of national and international significance, CONSER (CONsolidation of SERial data bases) and the U.S. National Center for the International Serials Data System (ISDS). To these programs and to his participation in professional forums and meetings.
  • The Serial Record grew at a faster rate in FY 1974 when the staff filed into it 27,494 entries and cross references as compared with 23,084 last year.
  • There were notable increases in three other related operations: in claiming, in clearing binding quads, and in the Call Number on Form Card Project.
  • The preparation of claim information for further processing by the Order Division jumped from 835 to 4,054.
  • The processing of binding quads went up to 24,224 from 21,421, and the number of titles processed for form card control nearly doubled — from FY 1973’s 1,570 to 3,021 titles or approximately 10,000 volumes.
  • Of even greater significance, however, was the gain in printed card cataloging. The Cataloging Section more than kept up with the flow of incoming material by preparing the descriptive cataloging data for 12,183 printed cards, an increase of 58.5 percent over FY 1973.
  • He, along with staff members of the Serial Record Division, the MARC Development Office, the National Serials Data Program, and the Council on Library Resources, and members of the Ad Hoc Discussion on Serial Data Bases, spent many hours in many meetings working out the details of a cooperative project which eventually came to be called the CONSER project (CONsolidation of SERial data bases). In this project, the Library of Congress, the National Agricultural Library, and the National Library of Medicine, and other selected participants will be inputting cataloging data for serials to a central machine-readable data base in order to create what will become an authoritative national serials data base.
  • The absorption of the responsibilities for what had formerly been the National Serials Data Program into the Serial Record Division is still in the initial stages, and although Mr. Howard is playing a key role with outstanding effectiveness in the smooth transfer of personnel and responsibilities.
  • I leave to a future performance evaluation detailed comments on his performance of new duties relating to the assignment and control of Key Title and International Standard Serial Numbers for all U.S. serial publications.
  • Howard has made what I consider to be outstanding contributions to the library profession during the last year. In addition to speaking at the Annual Conference of the American Library Association, at the preconference institute held period to the annual meeting of the American Society of Information Science in October 1974, and at other local and regional professional associations during the year, Mr. Howard assumed major responsibility for the planning and conduct of two serials workshops held at the Library of Congress in July and October 1974. The two-day workshops were sponsored by the Serials Section of the Resources and Technical Services Division, American Library Association, and attended by more than 400 serials librarians from throughout the United States and Canada. Comments which I and other members of the Library staff have received from attendees at these workshops substantiate my judgment that Mr. Howard’s contribution to this professional activity has been outstanding.


I was given a cash award and was promoted to be LC’s Director of Cataloging in 1975



December 2, 1970

Dear Joe:

In connection with our brief but momentous discussion the
day before you left on safari, I am enclosing a copy of my memoran-
dum to the Librarian showing his approval of the personnel shifts we
discussed. By this time I’m sure you’ve thought long and hard about
my proposals. Since the situation in the Serial Record Division,
especially relating to the cataloging operation, reached crisis pro-
portions many moons ago, I am anxious to implement the shift as soon
as humanly possible, in fact immediately after your return if’ you
are agreeable.

I realize that one of your immediate reactions is probably
about CIP and the consequences of its initiation. Let me reassure
you that I too am concerned about its success. But I am even more
strongly concerned about the serial record and I am convinced that
it needs your immediate attention. We will just have to count on
Glen to carry on with the CIP plans you two have so ably laid out.

Sam and Barbara have been informed of the shift and are
willing to go ahead. So it now rests squarely on your vacationing
shoulders. What say you? Are you game? I know you probably didn’t
expect the red tape to unravel so quickly, but here it is. PAR’s
are ready to go forward as soon as I hear from you, assuming of
course that you can tear yourself away from the Beauties of the East
long enough to cable or write. I await your response with bated

Sincerely yours,

William J. Welsh
Director, Processing Department


Mr. Joseph H. Howard, c/o Mr. & Mrs. John Huang
27, Soi Klang (49)
Bangkapi, Bangkok

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