Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman
July 1999

Periodical Collections

Several questions concerning periodicals have come up in the past few weeks. After one person wanted to know about our collection of scholarly journals, I thought that perhaps others don't know what makes a publication scholarly.


The broad term, periodical, (In Hebrew kitav-et) is used for publications (print, non-print, and electronic) produced for distribution in a given time period. The schedule could be any time period such as daily, weekly, yearly or even irregularly. A periodical is an edited work with contributions from a different array of authors for each issue. The binding is irrelevant to the definition of a periodical. Bindings may be hard cover, soft cover, perfect bound, or no binding at all. In contrast a book (Sefer) is written by one or more authors as a stand alone time publication. A book written by one or more collaborating authors is also called a monograph in library lingo. An encyclopedia is not a monograph because the authors contribute their articles and do not collaborate on the final product. A festschrift is a book but not a monograph. The lines of difference can be totally blurred when a periodical issue is published as if it were a monograph. For example the Chicago Jewish Historical Society's periodical has published issues on one topic with the look and "feel" of a monograph.

In developing a periodical collection the library deals with three issues: identification of periodicals relevant to the collection, the logistics of acquisitions, and the long-term storage and retrieval. The identification process is a combination of what is available, what is the general acquisition policy, and budget. The logistics concerns are ordering, processing and paying for the subscription. The long-time storage and retrieval is concerned with cataloging, shelving, retrieving issues, and with binding and preservation issues.

Scholarly vs. Popular

The policy of the HTC library has no limits as to how long to keep scholarly Judaica periodicals. Certain newspapers are kept one week, others are kept three months. For trade magazines we keep only the current issue.

While there is no precise definition that would define a scholarly periodical, here are a few of the features. Scholarly journals *1*are written by and for scholars. This is not circular reasoning. Scholars in a field have a certain base of knowledge, vocabulary and background that makes communication more efficient. Intelligent people can read scholarly articles in many fields of interest. Scholarly articles are documented with footnotes, quotes, and research data. They frequently have a thesis and attempt to prove it with data and analysis. While articles in Time or Newsweek may take weeks of research, they are rarely documented. Writers in Time or Newsweek are paid reporters or journalists, not scholars advancing human knowledge. Scholars are usually not paid for their articles. They write because of an institutional requirement, a love of learning, or a desire to share knowledge.

Examples of scholarly Jewish periodicals in our library are : Jewish Bible Quarterly, Jewish Journal of Sociology, Journal of Jewish Studies and Tradition. Examples of popular Jewish periodicals in our library are : Jewish Action, Jewish Observer, and Moment. The designations have nothing to do with the quality of information in the articles.

Scholarly articles are peer-reviewed. The editor of the publication or another scholar will review and check the facts and conclusions before publication. The editors will try to make the article better. Newspapers are not peer-reviewed. I talked to one CRC member last week who said that he hates to talk with a newspaper reporter because the reporters turn around his words and use quotes out of context. Anyone who was at an event that is reported by a newspaper often wonders if the reporters attended the same event.

Accessing Periodical Information

The three most common ways that readers find citations in periodicals are : 1) References from sources in books and articles that are being read; 2) Checking paper indexes; and 3) Checking computer-based indexes.

Reference checking from sources in hand is a way of following the trail of research. If you are reading an article and want to check on the author's source, then you look for the source of the citation. The author may be right, wrong, or lead you to more information. If you are writing a paper, sermon, or teaching a class, then using an index helps you find the materials you want. HTC library has the Index to Jewish Periodicals and Rambi *2* to find article on Jewish topics. We can also check Rambi on line and Article First via the internet.


Periodicals are both a headache and gold mine for the library staff and library users. Periodicals are gold mines because they have information that does not appear in books. Periodicals are a headache because finding the article requires a precise citation and a good storage facility to keep issues in order.


1. The term 'journal' is often used by scholarly publications. The word itself has no significance in the library world. 'Journal' comes from the idea the publication is a record of deliberations of a learned society. The Wall Street Journal and Ladies Home Journal are two totally non-scholarly publication that use 'journal' in their titles. Some daily newspapers have used 'journal' to indicate they are a daily record of events.

2. Rambi is an abbreviation for Rishimat Ma'amarim biyahadut :Index of articles on Jewish Studies. This index is produced by the Jewish National and University Library. It will no longer be published in print format. They will publish a CD-ROM and offer online access. ArticleFirst is an index produced by OCLC. Libraries in Illinois have free access to this data base.


Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities.   Visit our web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby may be found at:


Librarian's Lobby Stuhlman Management Consultants Stories by Stuhlman Newsletter of Judaica Library Network of Metro Chicago
Asher's bar mitzvah speech. BYLS Press e-books and used books

 ©2005 by Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
Last revised November 7, 2005