Due to the high volume of ISSN requests being received, staff of the Legislative Library have created this FAQ. Links to further information on ISSN are included in these answers. Should you have any further questions, please contact us at ISN@ola.org.
An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is a unique international identifier for serial publications. The ISSN program is international in scope and is directed in Canada by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) – ISSN Canada. The Legislative Library coordinates the ISSN assignment for Ontario government documents on behalf of LAC – ISSN Canada. ISSNs are used to quickly and efficiently identify, order, distribute and retrieve serial publications.
ISSN in general
- Complete the ISSN Request form following the instructions
- Include a mock-up of the title page in PDF or Word format
Note: ISSN Canada will not accept applications without a mock-up page
- Submit the form and mock-up page as attachments and send to ISN@ola.org
- Include the date that the ISSN is needed in the subject line of your email
- Submit the request only once
Allow 10 working days for the ISSN to be processed.
ISSNs are unique numbers authorized by the International Organization for Standardization to identify publications.
The Government Publications Directive states that all publications, with certain exceptions, must have an ISSN.
ISSNs are a fast, effective way for OPS staff, researchers, scientists and the public to find your publications in Publications Ontario catalogues, library catalogues, other bibliographic databases, and online search engines.
If you are publishing a document only one time, you require an ISBN. If you plan to publish your document on a continuing basis, such as an annual report, you require an ISSN.
Note: An ISBN may be assigned each year to an annual report to identify the specific year of the report. However, the annual report must be assigned an ISSN first.
No. There is no connection between the ISSN and the copyright.
Yes. The number of copies produced is not relevant to the ISSN assignment.
Publications that require an ISSN
- Resources distributed to the public in print and / or electronic formats (e.g. HTML, PDF, TXT)
- Resources that are issued successively under the same title with the intention of continuing indefinitely
- Examples: annual reports, strategic plans, financial statements, estimates briefing books, newsletters, park information guides, quarterly reports
No. Maps are similar to books and are assigned ISBNs.
Annual reports are serial publications and require an ISSN. However, a new ISBN may be assigned each year to identify the specific year of the report.
For generic titles, such as Annual report and Estimates briefing book, the name of the ministry is also considered part of the title, so a new ISSN is required.
No. If you are only changing the numbering or year, you keep the same ISSN.
Yes. The ISSN identifies the title of the serial publication. As long as the title remains the same you can use the same ISSN.
No. You change the ISSN only if you are changing the title of the publication.
No. One ISSN is assigned to all Internet formats and qualified with ‘Online’. However, other types of electronic formats, such as DVDs, are assigned their own ISSN.
Yes. You can request an ISSN on behalf of the third party or they can request one themselves.
Yes. For example, a publication issued in separate English and French editions requires two ISSNs.
It depends. If the loose-leaf publication will be updated, it is assigned an ISSN. If the publication will not be updated, it is assigned an ISBN.
Yes. The ISSN is associated with the title so if it changes, a new ISSN is required. ISSN Canada recommends not changing the title from year to year because it is important for serials to have stable and consistent titles.
No. If you continue to use "Annual report" as the main title and only add a new sub-title each year, you do not need a new ISSN.
No. Separate ISSNs are not assigned to bound and binder versions of a publication.
Using the ISSN in your publication
Print the ISSN in a prominent place, such as at the top right-hand corner of the front cover, near the title. Put the ISSN on every issue of the serial publication.
Bilingual publications (French and English bound together)
Put the same ISSN on both the English and French title pages.
Annual reports assigned an ISSN and ISBN
Put both numbers on the title page:
ISBN 978-1-4249-6422-2 (2007 ed.)
Publications issued in more than one format
Put all assigned ISSNs on each format and qualify the ISSN to indicate the format:
ISSN 0828-3877 (Print)
ISSN 1496-8452 (Online)
PDF and HTML formats
Put the ISSN for PDF and HTML formats on the first page or screen of the item.
Put the ISSN on the disk label and the container and also on the initial screen when the content is first accessed.