Mr. Serials continues

The (ancient) Mr. Serials Process continues to support four mailing list archives, specifically, the archives of ACQNET, Colldv-l, Code4Lib, and NGC4Lib, and this posting simply makes the activity explicit.

flowersMr. Serials is/was a process I developed quite a number of years ago as a method for collecting, organizing, archiving electronic journals (serials). The process worked well for a number of years, until electronic journals were no longer distributed via email. Now-a-days, Mr. Serials only collects the content of a few mailing lists. That’s okay. Things change. No big deal.

On the other hand, from a librarian’s and archivist’s point-of-view, it is important to collect mailing list content in its original form — email. Email uses the SMTP protocol. The communication sent back and forth, between email server and client, is well-structured albiet becoming verbose. Probably “the” standard for saving email on a file system is called mbox. Given a mbox file, it is possible to use any number of well-known applications to read/write mbox data. Heck, all you need is a text editor. Increasingly, email archives are not available from mailing list applications, and if they are, then they are available only to mailing list administrators and/or in a proprietary format. For example, if you host a mailing list on Google, can you download an archive of the mailing list in a form that is easily and universally readable? I think not.

Mr. Serials circumvents this problem. He subscribes to mailing lists, saves the incoming email to mbox files, and processes the mbox files to create searchable/browsable interfaces. The interfaces are not hugely aesthetically appealing, but they are more than functional, and the source files are readily available. Just ask.

Most recently both the ACQNET and Colldv-l mailing lists moved away from their hosting institutions to servers hosted by the American Library Association. This has not been the first time these lists have moved. It probably won’t be the last, but since Mr. Serials continues subscribe to these lists, comprehensive archives persevere. Score a point for librarianship and the work of archives. Long live Mr. Serials.

Published by

Eric Lease Morgan

Artist- and Librarian-At-Large