Serials: Selection and Review Criteria


Serial: A publication issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designations, and intended to be continued indefinitely – for example, newspapers, annual reports, yearbooks, periodicals, journals, proceedings of societies, and monograph series. (Harrod’s Librarian’s Glossary)
Examples of serial publications for the purposes of the Collections Development Policy Manual include academic journals, trade and recreational magazines, daily and weekly newspapers, annual reviews, monograph series, newsletters, loose-leaf current awareness services. Serials may be acquired on print, on microform, or in electronic formats from an aggregator’s database such as Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier, or from the serial publishers’ e-journal databases such as Wiley InterScience or Elsevier ScienceDirect.

Our collection:
As of 2009, the Library acquires 215 print serials. In addition, access is provided to 19,800 electronic full-text titles from a wide range of academic publishers and over 15,000  full-text titles provided by aggregator packages, e.g. Academic Search Premier, and Proquest’s Research Library and CBCA databases.


General Criteria:
The acquisition of serial publications presents challenges generally absent in the acquisition of monographs. Since serials impose long-term and complex fiscal and physical commitments, they are selected, purchased, and shelved in a manner appropriate to their format. The amount of money the library spends on serials has a definite impact on its commitment to monograph purchasing. It is only after the invoices for serials are paid that the balance can be safely allotted among the departments for monograph selection.

The following should be considered when evaluating a serial for the collection, in addition to criteria already listed for monographs in Sec.V.4:


  • its availability at other Novanet or local libraries

  • the longevity of the title and the likelihood of its continuing viability
  • the publisher’s reputation
  • the cost of the subscription
  • the availability of indexing for the title
  • the process for review of manuscript submissions to the publication. In many universities, only articles accepted by scholarly journals that have adopted a peer review process are considered as evidence for promotion or tenure.
  • its accessibility electronically without embargoes

Ongoing Evaluation:

Once the serial has been added to the collection, certain factors should be considered, as follows:

Retention: The use of some serials, particularly trade magazines and newsletters, as current awareness resources, may preclude the necessity for indefinite retention with the added costs of binding and storage.


Format: Oversize and/or newsprint publications may be difficult and costly to bind and preserve.


Back Files: Usually a serial is not acquired from the first issue of the first volume. A decision must be made by the instructor, in consultation with the collections development librarian, concerning the possible acquisition of back files, preferably in electronic form.


Indexing: Serials which are not included in the periodical indexes and abstracting services held by the library have, as a general rule, less reference value than serials which are regularly cited in indexes. The back volumes of serials that are not indexed by commercial services may receive virtually no use unless they are included in subject bibliographies or have their own indexes. If a serial is not indexed, it should be linked to course content by some reference to it in the outline or reading list distributed to students.


Subscription Processing: Most serials are ordered through an agent who is able to prepare invoices for the hundreds of titles acquired by the library. The agent has the expertise to handle a variety of time-consuming tasks that include communication with publishers, claims, renewals, cancellations, suspensions, supplemental invoicing, currency fluctuations, and the availability of electronic versions. A new subscription may not start immediately, but only with the first number of the next volume, and a cancellation may not come into effect immediately, but only when the current subscription term has run its course. A refund may or may not be offered for the balance of the subscription. Thus, the cessation of a serial subscription, for whatever reason, may not mean the immediate release of funds to apply to new subscriptions.


Newspapers: Serials on newsprint are not retained beyond a specified period of time. Newspapers in electronic versions are accessible via library subscriptions to Canadian Newsstand of Canadian titles and Virtual News Library of Nova Scotia titles. It is important to evaluate the contents of electronic versions of newspapers for completeness before considering them as equivalent to print or microform versions.

A newsletter is defined in Harrod’s Librarians’ Glossary as “a brief publication conveying news, frequently issued by societies or business organizations.” These are generally not acquired except as part of a membership to an association or as an ancillary publication sent to the library as part of a serial subscription. Most newsletters are discarded at the end of a volume year, except in those instances when they are cited in periodical indexes or abstracting services.

Electronic Journals:
Please refer to the Electronic Resources section of the Collections Development Policy Manual for selection and evaluation criteria for electronic journals. In general, electronic access is favoured over print as long as the electronic access is from the publisher of the journal, and no embargoes are in place to deny access to the most recent issue.

Subscription Review:
Serials holdings are reviewed on a regular schedule to ensure their continuing relevance to the University’s programs, and the research needs of faculty and students. Factors considered when reviewing each title include:

  • Any increase in the subscription rate. Serials may increase dramatically in price.  The subscription rate for an institution may be significantly higher than the rate paid by an individual subscriber.
  • A change in content or editorial policy.
  • Changes to programs or courses.
  • A change in the format of the publication, or the availability of an alternative format e.g. an electronic version.
  • The identification of a serial more appropriate to the instructional and research needs of a department.
  • The addition of the same title to the holdings of another Novanet library. If the title is costly, or is peripheral to our needs, duplication may not be warranted.