StaffGuide: Receiving & Processing

Processing Serials Mail

Processing Serials mail (or sorting the mail) is the process of prepping mail delivered to our department before checking the issues in. This process is usually done by the Acquisitions Processing Specialist or the back up (TBD). Below you can read about the general guidelines and tips on mail sorting, and find helpful documents: 

Mail Delivery Times

When the mail cart arrives from Shipping and Receiving:                                                                                      

  • Monday-Friday. Serials mail will be placed on the mail cart(s) near the Acquisition's Processing Specialist's working area in MULN 214.
  • After emptying the postal basket, place it on the top shelf of the mail cart to ensure it is picked up by Shipping and Receiving.

Upon Mail Delivery

When the mail comes, it is important to sort the mail ASAP, create priority stacks for check-in, and deliver mail not needed for check-in to the appropriate people, locations, departments, etc.

Upon Delivery:

  1. Newspapers:
    1. Newspapers go straight to the processing table for prepping, usually done by the hourly/work-study employees. If study employees are unavailable, it is the responsibility of the Acquisition's Processing Specialist or the Specialist' back up to prep and check in the newspapers.
    2. Refer to the newspaper spreadsheet for newspaper titles.
    3. Some publications we receive (i.e. the Washington County Enterprise-Leader) are technically newspapers but are treated as periodicals for library purposes and should thus instead be placed on the check-in cart, in the appropriate priority stack, for periodical processing.
  2. Deliver to the Accounts Payable Manager's inbox if:
    1. First class/letter-sized mail, a lot of which are invoices for paid titles.
    2. Invoices from Harrassowitz or other vendors, which may come as multiple single sheets in a package or a single sheet in an envelope.
    3. Mail marked CONFIDENTIAL.
    4. An item NOT for normal check-in/processing and addressed to Judy Casada or Marilyn Rogers.
    5. Gifts from Publisher: Occasionally, we will receive gift packages from a publisher. This is not to be confused with checked-in journals which we designate as "gift" meaning free subscription. These gifts may contain posters, promotional materials, and tchotchkes. Posters that arrive separately and not as journal supplements should usually be forwarded to the Acquisition's Processing Specialist for review, to determine if it should be sent to a librarian or department such as Public Relations. Most other gifts should be forwarded to the Accounts Payable Manager for review.
  3. Place on the Receiving Specialist’s check-in cart or deliver to the Receiving Specialist if:
    - Periodicals, serials-type CDs and DVDs, continuations, microfilm and other serials-type media needed for check-in.

Open all Mail:

  1. Use your judgement on how to safely open mail. If using box cutters or letter-openers, please exercise extreme caution so as to not damage any magazines or other items inside the packaging.
  2. Please retain all envelopes, mailers, packaging, address labels, invoices, or other loose items and documents until the item has been checked in.
    • IMPORTANT: Packing slips and other forms of documentation with sensitive info such as account numbers should be shredded.
  3. Separate fragile objects, i.e. CD’s and DVD’s, and place them in a safe place on the cart or on your desk.
  4. If you receive a large number of copies of an Arkansas state agency publication that are not needed for check-in, see the Arkansas Depository section for processing.

Priority Stacks for Check-In

Creating priority stacks:

Sorting the mail determines the order in which things should be worked on and helps with time management.

Mail should be organized into priority stacks as follows:

  1. Standing Orders.

    1. Any items that are accompanied by an invoice that indicates it’s a standing order (has price info, order record number, payment instructions, says it's a standing order, etc.). Refer to the Standing Orders section of the StaffGuide for common examples of what these invoices look like, as well as instructions on how to verify that the title is a standing order in Sierra if the invoice is mailed separately.
    2. These are often continuations, monographic series, large reference books, hardback books, annual/irregular publications, etc.
    3. These usually come in cardboard boxes.
  2. High-frequency journals (journals published weekly or bi-weekly, at least 18x/year).

    1. These are often the most popular titles.
    2. See the high-frequency journals spreadsheet for a current list of these titles.
  3. Possible claimed issues:

    1. These journals are the ones most likely to have claims on them.
    2. For example:
      1. Journals with older cover dates (anything before the current season or month, but especially longer periods i.e. several seasons ago, several months ago, last year, etc.).
      2. Journals with multiples issues arriving in one shipment.
      3. Quarterly or monthly journals that only list the year and are unclear as to which exact season or month they belong to.
  4. Monthly and Quarterly journals:

    1. These often include Arkansas-related journals, Fine Arts-related journals, semi-popular monthly or bimonthly periodicals (i.e. Harvard Business Review, Physics World, Consumer Reports, Smithsonian, etc.), and seasonal/quarterly/semiannual scholarly journals (usually math, literature, or history-related).
    2. These can usually go in the same stack, but if there is a lot of mail, which can occur on Mondays or post-holiday periods (especially post-Winter Break), they should be divided into sub-stacks to prevent damage to materials.
  5. Annual/irregular publications (annual reports, continuations that are not standing orders, etc.).

  6. Microfilm and Microfiche (although we may not be receiving any more of these, if you do get them they can be placed on your desk if there is no room on the cart).
  7. HSD titles (unwanted newsletters, annual reports, etc.), catalogs, stand-alone advertisements, miscellaneous:

    1. Make a stack for these types of issues and review them later. These are low priority.
      1. Go through your checklist to figure out if we are supposed to check in the item or not.
      2. If it is listed in the HSD spreadsheet, follow the HSD procedures.
      3. If it is clearly a piece of advertising, it can most likely be discarded. When in doubt, ask the Acquisition's Processing Specialist or your supervisor. Be careful though – a few items like this we do keep and check in, such as Book list. Always check the notes in the check-in record for clarification. Also, some advertisements that have information potentially useful to research routinely get checked in as supplements to main Serials titles, such as advertisements that accompany Pest Management Professional.
      4. If it is not advertising and you can’t find it in our library catalog or the HSD spreadsheet, this is a no record situation and should be given to the Receiving Specialist for further review.  
      5. Catalogs: Journal catalogs can be discarded and book/monograph catalogs can be forwarded to Acquisitions, but again please be careful as there are exceptions. There are a few catalogs that are considered supplements (for example, the book catalog NSTA Recommends checks in as a supplement to The Science Teacher). Always check the notes in the check-in record for clarification. If the catalog is addressed to the Collection Development Office / Judy Ganson, or if it just says University Libraries, it can either be discarded or sent to Acquisitions. If it is addressed to a specific librarian, non-Serials staff member, or another department, forward the catalog to the correct addressee (more on this to follow in the misrouted mail section).

Damaged Items


If you notice a damaged journal or empty envelope with lost contents, it is best to prioritize the item so a replacement can be claimed in a timely manner. See the Damaged Items / Journal Maintenance page for more information on how to process these items.

  • If an item is received WATER DAMAGED:

    • Please separate the item from the rest of the mail and claim immediately. Please check for water bugs, mildew, etc. (especially in water-damaged newspapers) and, if necessary, quarantine the item so no other library materials are affected.  
    • Please consult with the Preservation unit if you are unsure as to the severity of the water/liquid damage and how the item should be handled.
    • For water-damaged newspapers: although obtaining a perfect, dry copy is desired, these can be air-dried and sent to PER if the water damage is not too severe as a last resort.

Misrouted Mail


***Check Mailing Labels***

During both mail sorting and check-in, item mailing labels, envelopes, etc. should be examined to verify that they are addressed to Acquisitions employees. Several items will be addressed to specific Acquisitions employees, both past and present.If it is clearly a journal that we expect to receive and check in, put the item on the cart to be checked in rather than delivering to the specific employee.However, be cautious, as we occasionally get a librarian's personal copy of a journal which should not be checked in but go to him or her.

If you receive an item addressed to and clearly intended for a person or department outside of Acquisitions, highlight (unless it's a glossy surface) the correct name and address and place the item in the Serials outgoing mail basket, which can be found near the routed journals and binding baskets near the Preservation office.

Branch Libraries:

Occasionally Serials receives periodicals intended for the Law Library. These should be labeled as such on the mailing label or have "law" as their location in Sierra. We do not check in items for the Law Library collection. If you receive a periodical that should be sent to the law library, place issue in the Serials outgoing mail basket.

The other branch libraries, i.e. Physics, Fine Arts, and Chemistry, have incoming mail baskets on the departmental pickup shelves. Please place any mail addressed to these libraries or employees of those libraries in their respective mail baskets.

Acquisitions mail:

Sometimes we receive mail intended for Acquisitions i.e. monograph orders.If you determine that it’s something not intended for Serials but for Acquisitions, it can be walked over to Acquisitions and placed in their inbox. NOTE: Publications in the Geophysical Monograph Series should be taken to Acquisitions, even though it’s a series and is typically addressed to Serials. If you are still unsure, check with the Receiving Specialist or your supervisor.

The items described above that are not addressed to us should be placed in the outgoing mail basket or appropriate inbox. However, there is one exception:


Sometimes claimed items will come in an envelope from Harrassowitz or the Ebsco Missing Copy Bank, addressed to Serials, but the physical issues themselves will have mailing labels with other recipients. These are used or extra copies that have been forwarded to us and should be checked in and processed. Keep the Harrassowitz or Ebsco envelope with the issue until check-in to ensure it is not incorrectly considered misrouted.

There are a few parties that regularly donate serials to the library as gifts, but the mailing label might not be addressed to Serials/University Library (for example, the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies donates several titles to the library, which will still have their address on them). These are also to go through the normal check-in process.

Occasionally, someone else in the library will place a serial item on your check-in cart or inbox (we get some items from Government Documents this way, for example) to be checked in or otherwise. If you have questions, ask your supervisor or the person who placed the issues on your cart or inbox.

GPO Mail


While sorting the Serials mail, you may occasionally find materials from the GPO (Government Publishing Office). These pieces should be passed on to Government Documents personnel.

These items will have either "GPO" or the number 29 (our library's depository number) written somewhere on the package or envelope. Below are some examples of how you might find this.

GPO mail example

GPO mail example

GPO mail example

GPO mail example

After Sorting the Mail

After all of the mail has been sorted, opened, delivered, and removed from the Shipping and Receiving mail cart and postal basket, the mail cart and postal basket should be placed alongside the North wall of the Receiving Specialist’s station. This is where Shipping and Receiving will pick it up.

If you have any cardboard to recycle, you can take it to the cardboard bin in Content Services (MULN 214). Make sure to break down the cardboard before placing it in the bin.

Serials mail cart