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Serial selection policy

Our stated aim is to maintain as comprehensive a collection of "worthwhile" serial literature as possible. "Worthwhile" is defined as scholarly articles or material containing original research or reviews. We will endeavour to meet the needs of those requiring this information for the purposes of research, scholarship or innovation. To this end we subscribe currently to approximately 40,000 serial titles, although our the serial collection stands at some 250,000 titles in total. A wide range of languages and disciplines is covered.

Our definition of what constitutes a serial is a broad one. In addition to periodicals in the more general sense (monthlies, quarterlies), it includes annuals, biennials, directories, report and conference series, monographs-in-series and so on.

Our policy for acquiring serials has four basic criteria:

  • Level - does the publication contain substantive articles of a sufficiently high standard?
  • Demand - is the publication already being requested or is it likely to be in the future?
  • Cost - some very expensive serials may not be bought without evidence of present and continuing use.
  • Availability elsewhere - certain categories of material are available in other collections (e.g. patent related material, newspapers, maps) and are therefore not systematically collected.

Some specific categories:

 Periodicals and Journals

In cooperation with the collection policies of the British Library Humanities and Social Sciences (H&SS) directorate and Science Technology & Business(STB), we try to acquire as much publicly available research level serial literature as possible. This is done irrespective of subject, country of origin or format. Although such titles form the core of our collection, we do also acquire other material not of this level if there proves to be sufficient demand.


Although in most respects they might look like books, monographs-in-series are purchased and shelved as serials if there is evidence of a series statement and a running number. Un-numbered and foreign language monographs in series are collected as monographs.

 Annuals, Directories and Yearbooks

We are deliberately selective in our acquisition of these types of publication. This is because of the possible secondary/tertiary nature of the information contained and their availability in other libraries. As a result we try to restrict our coverage to major national and international directories and yearbooks.


Apart from some microform backsets and some local and national dailies we do not collect newspapers to any large degree. The British Library at St Pancras is the prime location for such material.


Newsletters are acquired only when the information contained in them is not simply news or of transient interest. As with other current awareness titles, which can be ephemeral in nature and often very expensive, we exercise particular caution.

 Abstract Journals

We subscribe to the major abstracting and indexing journals. New titles are selected only if they are specific to a subject which is not already covered elsewhere.

 Low Level/Recreational Material

Titles in these categories are not generally selected. However, certain titles may well be acquired if there is a high level of demand and they are not available from other locations.


It is not BLDS policy to collect legislation published in serial form or law report series. Journals, however, which contain research or discussions on legal topics, are acquired.

 Trade and Commerce

This material is normally collected by STB. We do not usually duplicate serials in this category unless demand requires it.

 Minority Interest

By this is meant material only of interest to small groups. As a result it is generally avoided.