Serials Policy


The Smith College Libraries define serials as those publications which appear on a regular basis, such as annuals, monthlies, and quarterlies, and have an annual subscription price. This includes print and electronic resources. The Libraries will not normally purchase single issues of serials. An exception may be made in the case of a special issue on a topic or when a replacement issue is needed for binding purposes.


Serials selection must be a carefully considered activity treated differently from book selection. Subscriptions represent long-term fiscal, space, and staff commitments unlike the process of acquiring and processing a book. Annual price increases for these materials in recent years (see price projections and price history) have been considerably higher (approximately 7-9%/year) than for books and have a dramatic impact on the entire materials budget. To promote fairness across disciplines, maintain a balance between the serials and monographic budgets appropriate to each discipline, and plan responsibly for the budget available in any given year, new serials subscription requests will be considered once a year.

In its efforts to maximize both budget and space resources, the Smith College Libraries do not purchase serials in multiple formats. Electronic format is generally preferred as it provides the greatest on- and off-campus access to these resources, is favored by most users, and does not require shelf space, checking in, and binding. Print format will be selected only when the online content does not meet the needs of our users, for example, when important editorial material is omitted or visual materials are poorly reproduced. To ensure our online serial holdings will remain accessible in the future, Smith joined Portico, a permanent electronic archive of scholarly journals.


Periodically, lists of currently received serials titles that have been selected by departments will be distributed to those departments by librarian liaisons. Departments are invited at that time to review lists. If new serials are desired, departments should consult with their liaisons to determine what titles of equal or greater value might be canceled in order to add new titles and to consider the factors noted below. As noted above, the Libraries will not purchase single issues of serials.

Selection Criteria

Some of the factors to consider are:

  • relevance to the curriculum
  • relevance to faculty scholarship
  • number/cost of subscriptions in the field
  • level of scholarship
  • issuing organization's reputation
  • accreditation requirements
  • coverage in indexing and abstracting services
  • preservation/retention considerations
  • availability of the title at other local libraries
  • hardware, software, accessibility, etc. for electronic resources


New subscriptions are generally begun with the next complete volume/year after selection is made. If backfiles are needed, they may be purchased with departmental book funds. For extensive backfiles, electronic is the preferred format.


If reserve monies in the acquisitions budget are sufficient, the Director of Libraries will allocate a small amount to address special serials needs. The Libraries will evaluate requests for this contingency funding based on such priorities as:

  • Needs of newly-hired faculty
  • Cost (i.e., titles that are inexpensive)
  • Requests from departments which have not added new serials in the past three years
  • Conversion from print to electronic format
  • Other compelling circumstances

On occasion, the Libraries may authorize reducing departmental monograph budgets to fund new serials.



The Smith College Libraries define continuations as those publications which are ongoing but which appear irregularly such as monographic series and sets. They may appear three times in one year and not appear again for five years. It is difficult to budget for continuations because of their erratic publication schedule. Because they are not a predictable annual commitment, they are more closely aligned to the monographic budget.


New continuation titles can be requested at any time during the year. Requests should be sent to librarian liaisons. Departments should be aware that funds from the annual appropriation for books will be transferred to accommodate new continuation titles and that book budgets in future years will reflect these transfers.