On June 25, 2020, the Library posted ISSNs on the pages of all of its blogs, including In Custodia Legis, which now bears ISSN 2691-6592 right under the “About this Blog” link on the upper left side of the page, and also on the bottom of the “About” page. If you are a serials cataloger, current or former, you probably geeked out as soon as you heard the news. It will now be so easy to find the blogs in an integrated library system (ILS); so much easier to track their status. It will also be easier to search for the title in its CONSER record!
If you’re not a serials cataloger, and not a librarian, chances are good you’ll wonder what an ISSN is. Or, more to the point, how this information affects you.
So, first, the basics. ISSN is the acronym for International Standard Serial Number. “An ISSN is an 8-digit code used to identify newspapers, journals, magazines and periodicals of all kinds and on all media–print and electronic.” In recent years, according to Regina Reynolds, the Library’s ISSN director, “blogs with specific topical or subject content (as opposed to general personal blogs) can receive ISSNs. In fact, ISSNs are encouraged for blogs with scholarly content.” All of the Library’s blogs just received these numbers on the basis of that scholarly content, including In Custodia Legis.
ISSNs are assigned by ISSN Centres. There is one in over 90 countries; the ISSN Centre for the United States is here at the Library. The purpose of the ISSN is to serve as an identifier. If you’ve searched for a serial in an OPAC (online public access catalog), on the internet, or at a bookstore, you’ll know how much easier it is to find a serial, especially if it has many title iterations, if you have an ISSN. Although a new ISSN is required for significant title changes, it is easier to track and find a title with that number even when the title has changed. If a researcher is searching for a publication that has multiple formats (print, digital), a linking ISSN “is assigned so that the media can be easily grouped and the contents are easier to manage.” Best of all, the eight digits are easy to remember, much shorter than a 13-digit ISBN, while searching for continuing resources (i.e., serials). Finding your favorite scholarly blog in an ILS or a search engine was never so easy. To apply for an ISSN if you are in the U.S., please visit www.loc.gov/issn.