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HCL's Government Documents Hosts Congressional Serial Set on the Web

The US Congressional Serial Set comprises numbered documents and reports issued by the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. Organized and bound by congressional session, the set consists of nearly 14,000 volumes dating from 1817, with new volumes added each year. It is considered a vital research tool, yet many libraries have incomplete inventories and few, if any, count full sets among their collections. To facilitate access, to create an accurate inventory, and to preserve endangered volumes, Donna Koepp, the Harvard College Library's head of Government Documents and Microforms and Reference, is gathering listings of Serial Set holdings across the United States and, with her staff, is adding them to a searchable online database.

Koepp realized that the Serial Set needed a more comprehensive inventory while compiling and editing the Index and Carto-Bibliography of Maps in the Serial Set in the late '90s. She searched many libraries to find all of the volumes she needed for her project. Records indicated which libraries held significant collections of the set, but did not provide a way for her to search for specific volumes. Then, in 1999, Koepp received the American Library Association's CIS/GODORT/Documents to the People Award for the Index and Carto-Bibliography of Maps in the Serial Set. She used the cash prize to create the US Congressional Serial Set Inventories online.

Working with August Imholtz, formerly of Congressional Information Services, Inc., Koepp developed a plan for a database for the Serial Set inventory and hired a programmer to develop it. The US Congressional Serial Set Inventories were originally launched on the library web site at the University of Kansas, where Koepp was employed at the time.

When Koepp joined the Harvard College Library in 2002, she continued as administrator of the online service. In January, a revised version of the database went live on the Harvard Government Documents/Microforms web site. The database includes a search function that allows users to browse by volume number, geographic location, or contributing institution. Enrique Diaz, information services coordinator for HCL, assisted in setting up the database on the Harvard site, where Government Documents Reference Librarians Tim Slaughter and John Baldisserotto maintain it.

Currently, six institutions contribute to the database, and Koepp hopes to have inventories from all 53 regional depository libraries (libraries designated in each state and US territory to receive and permanently retain all information distributed by the Government Printing Office) within the next several years. The site includes a downloadable inventory template for libraries to submit lists of their holdings. To access the US Congressional Serial Set Inventories, visit http://hcl.harvard.edu/govdocs/serialsets/.

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Last modified on Wednesday, July 23, 2003.