UNBIS Guidelines for Specific Types of UN Documents and Publications


II. Continuing resources (serials)

A serial may be defined as «a continuing resource issued in a succession of discrete parts, usually bearing numbering, that has no predetermined conclusion» (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2002 rev.).
Serials include journals or periodicals, bulletins, newsletters, continuing directories or catalogues, yearbooks, annual reports, and monographic series. They may be published not only in print format but as audiovisual materials, computer discs or electronic resources.

Many annual or periodic reports issued as UN documents are treated as monographs within UN document series, not as serials. The UN document series is represented by the document series symbol recorded in 191 $b.
Individual titles within monographic series are treated as monographs.

Serials are treated at three bibliographic levels in UNBIS. The letter representing the bibliographic level (s, d or b) is recorded in position 7 of the Leader (000).

A. Serials: Bibliographic level s
B. Individual issues of serials: Bibliographic level d
C. Serial analytics: Bibliographic level b

A. Serials: bibliographic level s

Serial records (s-level records) are created not only for periodical series but also for monographic series. However, while serial records should be systematically created for periodical series received by the cataloguing agency, they only need to be created for monographic series that are received by the cataloguing agency on a continuing basis. For example, if the library has only a few numbers of a monographic series, and the series is not received on a continuing basis, an s-level record for the monographic series is not required.

However, bear in mind that a series title authority record must be established for every monographic series, even if a serial record is not created.

Example: Serial record for a monographic series received on continuing basis by DHL and UNOG Libraries

099 $a UND $b DHU $c UNRISD(05)/G326
099 $a UND $b DHU $c UNRISD(05)/G326
191 $a *** $b UNRISD/
245 10 $a UNRISD programme papers on gender and development
246 33 $a Gender and development programme paper
260 $a Geneva : $b UN Research Institute for Social Development, $c May 2007-
310 $a Frequency varies
362 $a No. 1-
500 $a Description based on: No. 1 (May 2007).
500 $a Issued within UN document series UNRISD/PPGD/-.
500 $a On cover: Gender and development = Genre et développement = Género y desarrollo.
546 $a Includes summary in English, French and Spanish.
595 $a From Jan. 2008 UNOG call no. no longer assigned; shelved under document symbol.
710 2_ $a UN Research Institute for Social Development
767 0_ $9 fre $t Genre et développement
767 0_ $9 spa $t Género y desarrollo

One serial record is created for all language versions of a serial title. The record is based on the English-language edition (if available) and information about other language editions is included on the record. Titles of other language editions are recorded in tag 767 and language codes in tag 041.

If the title of a serial changes, a new s-level record for the new title is created.

If the name of the issuing body and/or document series symbol of a periodical series change, but the title does not change, the name of the issuing body in tag 710 and the series symbol in tag 191 $b should be updated to the current versions, and the sequential history of names of issuing bodies and series symbols is recorded in a note field (tag 500).


191 $a $b TD/UNCTAD/DIAE/IA/
245 10 $a Transnational corporations
500 $a Prior to 1994 issued by the UN Centre on Transnational Corporations and by the Transnational Corporations and Management Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Development (document series ST/CTC/); from 1994 issued by the UNCTAD Division on Transnational Corporations and Investment (document series [TD/]UNCTAD/DTCI/); from 1997 issued by the UNCTAD Division on Investment, Technology and Enterprise Development (document series [TD/]UNCTAD/ITE/IIT/); from 2008 issued by the UNCTAD Division on Investment and Enterprise (document series [TD/]UNCTAD/DIAE/IA/).
710 2_ $a UNCTAD. Division on Investment and Enterprise

Call numbers and local information of libraries holding the serial in their collections is transcribed on the record in the appropriate MARC tags.
Bibliographic data should be transcribed in conformity with the UNBIS Reference Manual for Bibliographic Description, including, inter alia, the following elements:

- A document series symbol representing the issuing body is transcribed in tag 191 $b. UN serial records are treated as unsymbolled, i.e. three asterisks *** are transcribed in 191 $a.

- The corporate name heading for the issuing body is assigned in tag 710.

- Information about the holdings of individual libraries: Library call numbers are transcribed in tag 099 $c and in item records; local holdings information (beginning and ending issues in the collection) is transcribed in tag 910; local notes are transcribed in tags 592, 594, 595 or 596.

- Information about the history of the serial title (preceding titles, succeeding titles, etc.) is recorded in tags 780 and 785.

- Information about the numbering pattern of a serial is recorded in tag 362 and the frequency of issuance is recorded in tag 310.

- Information about a serial’s availability in other formats is transcribed in a General Note tag 500. If a serial is available online, a link to the online URL address should be added in tag 856. If it is available only as an electronic resource, the serial record should be treated accordingly.

Subject analysis for s-level records is limited to primary topical subject terms (tag 650 first indicator 1) representing the overall or main subject(s) of the periodical series, as well as a term for the type of serial, if applicable (e.g., NEWSLETTERS, DIRECTORIES).
If a serial concerns activities of an organization or body, the corporate subject heading for the organization or body is added in tag 610.

Example: Serial record, holdings in both DHL and UNOG Libraries

099 $a UND $b DHU $c ST/DPI/DESI(05)/A37
099 $a UNG $b GML $c A 180
245 10 $a Africa renewal
260 $a New York : $b Strategic Communications Division, UN Dept. of Public Information, $c 2004-
310 $a Quarterly
362 $a Vol. 18, no. 2 (July 2004)-
500 $a Available also at Africa Renewal website (viewed 25 Mar. 2008).
594 $a Library also has ed. in French.
594 $a Holdings recorded in UN/SA Serials Checklist.
595 $a Library also has French ed.: A 180a.
595 $a Holdings recorded in Voyager; prior to 1991 recorded in Kardex P.
596 $a Holdings (French ed.): Vol. 3, no. 1/2 (Oct. 1989)
650 17 $a AFRICA
710 2_ $a UN. Department of Public Information. Strategic Communications Division
767 0_ $9 fre $t Afrique relance $x 1014-0263
780 00 $t Africa recovery
856 41 $3 English $q HTML $u http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/ar2/prevar.htm
856 41 $3 Français $q HTML $u http://www.un.org/french/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/
910 $g Eng. ed.: Vol. 2, no. 3 (Aug. 1988)- ; French ed.: Vol. 3, no. 1/2 (Oct. 1989)-

Example: Serial record for an electronic newsletter concerning activities of a UN body

099 $a UNG $b GUN $c Internet
191 $a *** $b E/ECE/
245 10 $a UNECE weekly $h [electronic resource] / $c United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
260 $a Geneva : $b UNECE, Information Service, $c Jan. 2004-
310 $a Weekly
362 $a No. 49 (5-9 Jan. 2004)-
500 $a Available at UNECE website (viewed 9 Jan. 2007).
610 27 $a UN. ECE
650 17 $a EUROPE
780 00 $t ECE highlights
710 2_ $a UN. ECE
856 40 $3 English $q HTML $u http://www.unece.org/highlights/highlights.htm

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B. Individual issues of serials: bibliographic level d

A bibliographic record is normally created for each issue of a UN serial, especially if they are issued with individual UN document symbols and/or sales numbers.
This practice differs from standard cataloguing practice, which usually treats serials at the serial level only, not at the level of individual issues.
Exceptions may be made to treat some periodicals at the serial level only, on a case-by-case basis. Examples of UN serials that are treated at the serial level only are the UN Office at Geneva’s Tech-news and UN Special, and UNCTAD’s online CSO newsletter.

A decision may be taken to cease indexing individual issues of an unsymbolled UN serial that had previously been indexed at bibliographic level d. In that case a Local Note (tag 596) should be added to the serial record (bibliographic level s) indicating the date that indexing individual serial issues ceased.


245 10 $a Bulletin (UN Division for Palestinian Rights) / $c Division for Palestinian Rights
596 $a Cataloguing at the D-level ceased as of Oct. 1996.

Special issues of serials that are not normally indexed at bibliographic level d may be indexed on a case-by-case basis.


245 10 $a Special bulletin on the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. $n 2002
260 $a [New York] : $b UN, $c [2002]
300 $a v, 77 p.
630 07 $a International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 Nov.)
710 2 _ $a UN. Division for Palestinian Rights

A serial record (bibliographic level s) should be created for every title that is treated at the serial issue level (bibliographic level d).

Current bibliographic practice is to transcribe the title of the serial in tag 245 $a and the number of the specific issue in 245 $n, preceded by a period. Subsequent information relating to the numbering of the issue is separated by a comma-space. Subtitles are recorded in subfield $b preceded by space-colon. AACR2 abbreviations are used to transcribe months in titles designating numbering of individual issues, and the word «Volume» is abbreviated as «Vol.» This practice deviates from standard cataloguing practice which does not use abbreviations in the title area unless printed on the item.
If an issue bears a distinctive title in addition to the serial title, the distinctive title may be recorded as a variant title in tag 246, second indicator value 2.
Titles of different language versions of the issue are recorded in tag 767.

Works bearing distinctive titles in addition to the title of a monographic series are treated as monographs (bibliographic level m). Refer to the UNBIS Reference Manual for Bibliographic Description for rules on recording monographic series titles and series statements in tags 440, 490 and 830.
The distinction between a monographic series title and a serial title that has issues with distinctive titles is not always evident, but the distinction can usually be made based on the type of title, periodicity and numbering.

If a serial issue is also available online, a link to the online URL address for the serial should be recorded in tag 856. If the issue is available only as an electronic resource or non-print format, the record should be treated accordingly.

If an issue contains articles on different topics by individual authors, it may be decided to index the contents analytically (see Serial analytics: bibliographic level b).
If an issue of a serial is treated analytically and individual articles are indexed, in general it is only necessary to assign primary subject terms (tag 650, first indicator 1) for the main subjects covering the issue as a whole. Specific subject terms will be assigned to the analyzed articles. If the issue is not treated analytically, the indexer should consider assigning secondary descriptors in addition to primary subjects, particularly in subject areas of interest to the UN.

The principles set out in Subject analysis and indexing of UN monographs also apply to indexing issues of UN serials. Consistency is important in indexing issues of a serial, but at the same time indexers must be attentive to changes in subject coverage that should be reflected in the choice of subject terms.
Indexers should be attentive to changes in title, numbering, frequency, format, issuing body, final issue, etc., that may require updating the serial record (bibliographic level s) as well as changing the way individual issues are described and indexed.

Example: Issue of a serial (annual) bearing a distinctive title, analyzed in depth since it is a major publication on issues of importance to the UN

245 10 $a Human development report. $n 2006
246 32 $a Beyond scarcity : $b power, poverty and the global water crisis
246 38 $a HDR 2006 : $b beyond scarcity : power, poverty and the global water crisis
500 $a Includes bibliographical references (p. 238-260).
500 $a Available in all official languages, as well as Catalan, Italian and Portuguese, at UNDP website (viewed 21 Jan. 2008).
505 0_ $a Overview: Beyond scarcity : power, poverty and the global water crisis -- Ending the crisis in water and sanitation -- Water for human consumption -- The vast deficit in sanitation -- Water scarcity, risk and vulnerability -- Water competition in agriculture – Managing transboundary waters -- Human development indicators.
630 07 $a Millennium Development Goals
650 17 $a WATER SUPPLY
650 17 $a SANITATION
650 17 $a POVERTY
650 27 $a IRRIGATION

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C. Serial analytics: bibliographic level b

Some periodicals with substantive articles and individual authors are indexed analytically. This may be decided on a case-by-case basis, usually when serials contain distinctively titled, substantive articles by individual authors.
Examples of UN serials that are indexed analytically are UNCTAD’s Transnational corporations, the UN Centre for Regional Development’s Regional development dialogue, and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research’s Disarmament forum.

A bibliographic citation to the issue containing the article is recorded in tag 773, in accordance with the UNBIS Reference Manual for Bibliographic Description.
Analytic records for periodical articles are unsymbolled, i.e. three asterisks *** are recorded in 191 $a, and the series symbol of the issue containing the article is recorded in 191 $b.
ISBN, ISSN, UN sales number or job number appearing on the host issue are not transcribed on the analytic record. However, the call number of the host serial issue is transcribed in tag 099 of the analytic record.
No imprint is recorded (tag 260) but the publication date of the host serial issue is recorded in tag 269.
Personal name headings for individual authors of articles are recorded in tag 700, but the corporate author of the serial issue is not recorded in tag 710.
The indexer should add a link in tag 856 to the full text of the article when it is available online.
Subject terms (tag 650) should be assigned for the specific topics discussed in the article.
These specific topics are not necessarily assigned to the s-level record for the host serial issue, unless they are also considered to be main subjects of the serial issue.

Example: Analytic record for an article in a UN serial

191 $a *** $b TD/UNCTAD/ITE/IIT/
245 10 $a Globalization, FDI and employment in Viet Nam / $c Rhys Jenkins
650 17 $a EMPLOYMENT
650 17 $a VIET NAM
700 1_ $a Jenkins, Rhys Owen
773 0_ $a Transnational corporations. - 15(1) Apr. 2006 ([TD/]UNCTAD/ITE/IIT/2006/1(Vol.15,No.1)) :
[115]-142 : graphs, tables

856 41 $3 English $q PDF $u http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/iteiit20061a5_en.pdf

The primary subject terms on the host serial issue for the above article are TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS and FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT.

If all articles in a periodical issue are on a subject that is quite specific, a decision may be taken not to index at the analytical level. For example, each individual issue of the UNIDIR quarterly Disarmament Forum bears a distinctive title and contains articles on various aspects of the subject covered by the issue. Frequently the articles are indexed analytically to provide maximum specificity, since the disarmament field is important in the UN. However, if indexing the individual articles does not provide much additional specificity, it is probably not necessary to index at the analytical article level. Instead, a Contents Note could be added listing the articles and authors.


245 10 $a Disarmament Forum. $n 2007/2
246 32 $a Peacebuilding Commission
505 0_ $a The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission : origins and initial practice / Richard Ponzio – The UN Peacebuilding Commission and civil society engagement / Renske Heemskerk -- The UN Peacebuilding Commission and international Geneva / David Atwood & Fred Tanner -- Prospects for the UN Peacebuilding Commission / Thomas J. Biersteker.
[Since the subject covered by this issue is already quite specific (the UN Peacebuilding Commission) a decision is made not to index the articles analytically]

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Last updated: 12 August 2009