FCIL Newsletter / October 1997
Managing Human Rights Watch Serials
Ellen Schaffer & Gordon Van Pielt
Georgetown University Law Library
This "letter" is a response to a number of FCIL members' suggestions
that we contribute a summary of our experiences at Georgetown trying to
unravel the morass that our Human Rights Watch standing order had become.
Unable to face writing it myself, I enlisted the assistance of my colleague,
Gordon Van Pielt; the "technical" description that follows is
his. If the following solutions work, the credit is all his... certainly
most of the work has been!
Serials management has always been a challenge at best. In an age of
mergers, de-mergers and increasingly whimsical publishing practices, it
has become the nemesis of catalogers and acquisitions personnel everywhere.
The disposition of the many newsletters and brief publications issued by
Human Rights Watch, and its many, many offspring has long plagued and defeated
those who would prefer order to chaos, and unfortunately those who would
wish to find and use those materials as well.
One might suppose, or hope, that the numerous signposts left by the
Library of Congress in the form of authority and serial bibliographic records
would resolve such problems. Sadly, in the case of Human Rights Watch,
at least, one would be mistaken.
Our problems: Human Rights Watch, which includes divisions organized
by major geographical regions (Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and
the Middle East), as well as an ever growing variety of worthy projects
(Children's Rights, Arms Control, Free Expression, and Women's Rights,
to name but a few) publishes great quantities of reports each year, each
on a specific topic with an individual title. Some are quite short and
others substantially longer. Our problems, and this summary, concern these
reports, not the longer monographic titles that are also published periodically.
At Georgetown, the various reports were all classed as serial publications,
for example, the Human Rights Watch Africa newsletter, but with no specific
access to the individual titles of the reports. This was in accordance
with prescribed LC practice. Title changes were rampant, largely due to
organizational name changes, e.g.,Americas Watch to Human Rights Watch/
Americas. The presence of "newsletter" in the title was a cataloger-generated
identifier, since newsletter appeared nowhere on the work itself. The reports
often arrived out of sequence, and were not always properly attributed
to the appropriate issuing body, delaying proper check-in, and making claiming
and binding a serious problem, or more accurately stated, impossible.
Recently, after many years of frustration and much hand-wringing, we
called a meeting. We invited the person who orders the standing order,
the person who has to try to claim missing reports, the cataloger who worked
with the materials, and the serials librarian who attempted to contact
the publisher to try to find out, once and for all, if there was any logic
to their publishing scheme. Frankly, we were all skeptical and were hoping
for a miracle!
The results: A decision was made to simply classify each report by its
unique title. What remained was the question of how they might be organized.
Our Serials Acquisitions Librarian discovered that, indeed, the arcane
numbering system the publisher adopted in 1994 has a meaning! Human Rights
Watch has provided a Rosetta Stone for the classification of its materials.
Yes folks, that small letter at the end of the volume and issue number
actually represents one of the geographical divisions of the Human Rights
Watch hierarchy. With that decoded, we could try to organize our collection
of reports in some sensible order.
Beginning with volume 7, the publisher started to include an alphabetic
designation following the volume and issue numbers on each of its short
reports. The publisher first provided this special numbering from volume
6 issues on, but only in the publisher's lists of titles published and
not printed on the individual piece. See below for the list of alphabetic
designators. These indicators made it possible for us to provide a unique
classification for each separate report.
At Georgetown, beginning with volume 6, the reports are now classified
under a local series call number (K3239.5: Comparative law & International
uniform law. Civil and political rights and liberties). Clearly, there
was precedent for such a decision, since virtually every report we searched
for had its own bibliographic record. Some institutions even went so far
as to provide a series call number of their own, generally under JC599
(Political science. Rights of the individual by region or country) and
incorporating the unique volume number. In this scheme, the reports could
easily be organized on the shelf by volume number. These records were created
with all manner of series statements. Some included the specific issuing
body, while other opted for the more general "Publications".
Georgetown selected "Human Rights Watch report" which nearly
all the reports carry on the first page, and seems to be the logical reference
point for the numbering system. We have adapted the authority records to
reflect local practice.
Where we parted company with practically everybody was in the way we
adapted the volume number for use in the call number and the series statement.
Vol. 7, no. 3 (G) became Series G, vol. 7, no. 3. This enabled us to use
a shelving scheme which recalled the former serials cataloging that organized
the materials by region. It also meant that the students checking in the
reports would have a clearer idea, or so we hope, of where they should
go. Please note:
- A represents Human Rights Watch / Africa
- B represents Human Rights Watch / Americas
- C represents Human Rights Watch / Asia
- D represents Human Rights Watch / Helsinki
- E represents Human Rights Watch / Middle East
- G represents Children's Rights Watch Project
Publications from the Women's Rights Project are subsumed throughout
the scheme, not as a separate series. They can be identified in our online
catalog by using an author search for "Women's Rights Project (Human
Rights Watch)". If you are interested, visit our homepage at www.ll.georgetown.edu.
So now it is all orderly and searchable. Wasn't that easy? Well ...
no, but perhaps it will now be for some of you!
Ellen Schaffer and Gordon Van Pielt
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Reminders from the Chair"
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