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Protocol for Exchanging Serial Content (PESC)

This project created a NISO Recommended Practice to describe a packaging specification to be used for exchange and archiving of serial publications.

Serial publications represent a diverse content space ranging from popular magazines to scholarly journals, from content that is image-based to content that is text-based, from publications that have new content daily (even hourly) to those that might have new content only every few years.

As part of their missions, many different organizations – such as libraries, archives, indexing services, content aggregators, publishers, and content creators – need to exchange and work with digital files that make up serial content. These files can be shuttled from organization to organization and within an organization many times during the lifecycle of the content.  Generally, the files are aggregated in some manner which we will refer to here as a package, and packages can be highly variable. 

Packaging is of concern to any organization that needs to exchange files.  When this project began, there was no standardized packaging format that addresses the level of specificity and granularity needed.  The PESC Working Group created a recommendation for a set of guidelines – a protocol – to define the rules to be used to create a package of serial content. Such a protocol is required for not only interchange of content, but for the automation of processes to receive and manage serial content at scale.  Use of the protocol makes it obvious what content has been transmitted, how it is organized, and inform what processing is required when a new package is received.

The Working Group pursued two related activities concurrently, as decisions made and information learned in each activity will inform the other: 

  • Determination of the specifications of a packaging recommendation that can be used for archiving and exchanging digital files related to periodic publications.  The Working Group defined the format of, and information to be included in, a manifest that describes a group of digital files related to a serial and that can be used to assure the integrity of the file group.  Issues of scope were addressed in initial discussions; for example, should the recommended practice comment on what is an appropriate level of exchange (single article? single volume? single issue? multiples?) and/or should this recommended practice prescribe any type of directory or folder structure or identifiers?  
  • Examination of current practice to what strategies were used in the community.  [Depending on the results of this exploration the Working Group might find that it is possible to either adopt a current method wholesale, or to make changes to a current method to better address the specific needs of serial content, rather than creating a new method from scratch.]


Committee Roster

Approved by the Content and Collection Management Topic Committee, September 13, 2013.


Leslie Johnston

Director of Digital Preservation
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)


Oliver Pesch

Chief Product Strategist
EBSCO Information Services

Elizabeth Windsor

Johns Hopkins University Press/Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University

Wei Zhao

Ontario Council of University Libraries