|ISSN is for Serials
Serials are print or non-print publications issued in successive parts, usually bearing issue
numbers and/or dates. A serial is expected to continue indefinitely. Serials include
magazines, newspapers, annuals (such as reports, yearbooks, and directories), journals,
memoirs, proceedings, transactions of societies, and monographic series. Also eligible
for ISSN are those publications issued in successive parts which bear numbering and also
bear other characteristics of serials but whose duration is limited, e.g., the newsletter of
International Standard Serial Numbering
The various and constant changes to which serials are subject, combined with the large
growth in the world's publishing output in the 1970’s, prompted the development of a
standard (now ISO 3297-2007; ANSI/NISO Z39.9-1992) for the identification of serials:
the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).
A single ISSN uniquely identifies a title regardless of language or country in which
published, without the burden of a complex bibliographic description. The ISSN itself has
no significance other than the unique identification of a serial.
An ISSN is eight digits long and is always displayed this way: ISSN 1234-5679. The first
seven digits serve as the title number and the eighth is a check digit which provides an
efficient means for discovering transcription errors. The system used for calculating the
check digit sometimes requires a check number of 10, in which case, to prevent a nine-
digit ISSN, the roman numeral "X" is substituted.
For each serial with an ISSN there is a corresponding "key title"—a unique form of the
title established at the time of ISSN assignment. The key title provides a benchmark
which serves to regulate the assignment of ISSN: if the key title of a serial changes in a
way defined by the ISSN Network as “major,” a new ISSN must be assigned.
Administration of ISSN
The coordination of the ISSN is international, and ISSN centers are located in over 80
countries of the world. Registration is initiated at the ISSN Center of the country where
the serial is published. The U.S. ISSN Center within the Library of Congress is
responsible for assigning ISSN to serials published in the United States and promoting
use of the ISSN. The ISSN International Centre located in Paris coordinates the ISSN
Network, including publication of the ISSN Manual, which contains rules for the scope
and assignment of ISSN, for displaying ISSN, and for determining when a new ISSN is
Advantages of Use
The ISSN should be as basic a part of a serial as the title. The ISSN can be thought of as
the “social security number of the serials world,” providing unique identification of titles
that can often be the same as, or similar to other titles. However, just as your social
security number does not provide you with any exclusive rights to your name, so, too,
the ISSN does not confer any exclusive rights to a title. The advantages of using the
ISSN are abundant and the more the number is used the more benefits will accrue.
ISSN provides a useful and economical method of communication throughout the
serials chain of trade, making ordering and distribution systems faster and more
The ISSN results in accurate citing of serials by scholars, researchers, abstracters,
ISSN is used in libraries in multiple ways, including searching databases,
identifying titles, ordering (especially in electronic order systems), check-in, and
claiming of serials.
As a standard numeric identification code, the ISSN is widely used in automated
systems for database update and linkage, retrieval, file matching, and transmittal
ISSN is a key component of OpenURL systems that connect library users to the
article content to which their institution subscribes.
ISSN is a key identifier in library ERMS (Electronic Resource Management
Systems) used to manage subscriptions and access to online content.
ISSN simplifies interlibrary loan systems and union catalog reporting and listing.
The U.S. Postal Service uses the ISSN to identify certain publications mailed at
The ISSN is an integral component of the journal article citation used to monitor
payments to the Copyright Clearance Center Inc.
10. ISSN is a component of the EAN and SISAC bar codes.
11. All ISSN registrations are maintained in an international data base (the ISSN
Register) that is made available via the ISSN Portal and other products described
on the web site of the ISSN International Centre: www.issn.org.
How to Obtain ISSN
Instructions for U.S. Publishers (for serials published outside the U.S, see the ISSN
International Centre web site: www.issn.org.):
A U.S. ISSN application form can be found on the U.S. ISSN Center’s web site:
www.loc.gov/issn. Application forms must be accompanied by a representation of the
publication: a sample issue, mock-up, surrogate, or URL for the publication, depending
on the format and publication status as described below. ISSN can be assigned prior to
the publication of the first issue of the serial (prepublication) or after issues have been
Except for microform reproductions, separate ISSN are generally required for serials
issued in different physical formats (e.g., print, CD-ROM, online, etc.). Separate ISSN
are also required for serials issued in different language, geographic, or audience editions.
Please complete a separate application form for each edition and note the other editions in
the “Additional information, comments, questions” section of the application form.
The Application Package
In addition to the application form, the follow materials are needed, depending on the
publication status (prepublication or published) and format (print, online, etc.):
Published serials in print or in other tangible form such as CD-ROM:
Provide a complete issue whenever possible; also acceptable are photocopies or
screen shots of the cover, title page, masthead, and other pages showing
publishing information. Complete issues result in fuller and more accurate catalog
records, and only complete issues are considered for inclusion in the Library’s
Published online serials: Provide a URL where-- at a minimum-- the title, table
of contents, and publishing information can be accessed freely. If this
information is not freely accessible, provide screen shots showing the above
information or provide a temporary password where staff can view this
Prepublication (no issues yet published) serials in all formats: provide drafts
or mock-ups of the cover, title page, masthead, title screen (if applicable) or other
pages or screens showing publishing information for forthcoming serials. For
online serials, provide access to an online page where draft information can be
viewed if such a page exists. If this is not possible, provide some indication of
how the title and publishing information will appear online. Sample issues of
serials in tangible form, or URLs for online serials are required after publication.
Completion of registration for prepublication ISSN: after publication of the
first issue, provide sample issues of serials in tangible formats (print, CD-ROM,
etc) or provide a URL where the serial can be accessed online as described above
for published online serials.
Sending the Application Package:
Prepublication requests and all requests for online serials: email or fax the
application form, together with the requested draft, mock-up, or URL. Requests
can also be sent by post or private carrier. In the interest of conserving resources
and access to our fax machine, please limit faxes to 5 pages.
Postpublication requests and completion of registration for prepublication
ISSN for tangible (print, CD-ROM, etc.) formats: send requested materials by
post or private carrier. In cases where this is not possible, send a representation as
described above by fax or as an email attachment, keeping in mind that the
resulting catalog record may not be as complete as it would be if a full issue were
sent, and that the publication will not be considered for inclusion in the Library’s
permanent collections. In the interest of conserving resources and access to our
fax machine, please limit faxes to 5 pages.
Display of ISSN
To fulfill its purpose, the ISSN should be displayed prominently on every issue,
preferably in the top right corner of the cover of printed serials and on the home page,
title screen, or other prominent locations for non-print serials. It is acceptable, however,
for the number to appear elsewhere on the publication (usually in the masthead area).
Various user groups--particularly the U.S. Postal Service--have specific printing
regulations which must be adhered to.
If the serial has an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for the individual
volumes within a series, in addition to the ISSN for the series as a whole, the two
numbers should appear together, each with its own prefix. The ISSN should be printed
right after the title of the series, both in books and in advertising pieces.
It is appropriate for both ISBN and ISSN to be assigned to certain other types of
publications, most notably annuals and other directories or reference publications. The
ISBN identifies the particular year or edition, the ISSN identifies the ongoing serial.
ISSN should appear on publisher's advertisements (both direct mail and space ads) and
catalogs, on the serials themselves, and in all other places where details of books and
serials normally appear.
Changes Affecting ISSN
When the title of a serial changes, a new ISSN is generally required. The earlier ISSN
remains valid, however, because it is a permanent attribute of the serial when it was
issued under the earlier title. To avoid printing an incorrect ISSN, publishers should
apply for a new ISSN in advance of a planned title change, especially any change
affecting the cover (which is often the source of the key title). In case of any doubt as to
whether a new ISSN is required, please contact the ISSN Publisher Liaison Section.
Other situations where a new ISSN is needed are addition of a new format (e.g., adding
an online version); changing format (e.g., replacing a print version with an online
version); adding a new language, geographic, or audience edition. Changes in publisher,
place, or frequency do not require new ISSN.
Careful display and use of the ISSN will help the ISSN to fulfill its role in the world-wide
effort to register and identify serials.
Library of Congress
ISSN Publisher Liaison Section
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20540-4284
Tel.: (202) 707-6452
Fax: (202) 707-6333
[JLE] ISSN 2161-0231 (Online)
Blue Wall Institute, Belleville, Illinois 62226