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Authority control services

Library Systems Newsletter [June 1989]

The increasing popularity of patron access catalogs and the maturing of the authority control modules of local library systems is increasing the importance of creating data bases which conform to the latest Library of Congress authorities.

Libraries generally have authority work performed by commercial bibliographic services. Several bf these services maintain authority files and use them in support of authority control services.

An authority file is a list of headings authorized for a library catalog. The headings include names (authors, corporate bodies, and conference names), uniform titles, series and subjects (topics and geographic names). The headings are established to provide a single form of entry for a particular entity or concept and to reduce the possibility of ambiguity between titles or concepts that are similar. An authority file also provides a system of cross references from forms of entry not used to the form that is used (see references) and references to other headings used which are related in some way to a given heading (see also references).

The Library of Congress is the primary supplier of authority file information to the bibliographic services. The services subscribe to LC's current name and subject authorities tapes and load them into their systems as frequently as weekly. They may augment the LC headings with additional headings. However, these are usually displaced when LC establishes headings.

The specific services for which libraries contract with bibliographic services are:

  • updating of library headings in the MARC format to LC's most recent practices;
  • Standardizing the forms of the headings for filing purposes;
  • Correcting MARC tags and subfield codes; and
  • Providing deblinded cross references.

Much of the need for subjecting a library's machine-readable records to authority control is attributable to the change to AACRII. (Nearly 70 percent of name headings have been affected by the implementation of AACRII.) Although the older records on a library's archival tapes may have been subjected to a mechanical authorities flip which changed the headings of older records to the new forms, a significant number of errors typically have crept in during the process. Therefore, it is important that the bibliographic headings be checked and corrected.

The usual approach of a bibliographic service is to match a library's bibliographic headings against a master authority file using a batch tape processing approach. The system automatically updates headings to conform to the Library of Congress' most recent practices, standardizes them for filing purposes, corrects spelling and capitalization errors, sets the correct MARC tags and delimiters for the type of heading, spells out abbreviations, creates appropriate cross references, and eliminates blind cross references. The headings that cannot be linked with headings in the bibliographic service's authority file--typically about ten percent--are printed in context for review by authority control editors. While many bibliographic services can do the mechanical matching against LC authority files, not all have the qualified editorial staffs to review the results. Therefore, a library should question a prospective vendor closely about the number and qualifications of its editorial staff.

Complete authority control generally costs about $.16 per bibliographic record. This is exclusive of merging and deduping services which generally are performed before authority work is done. The price generally is lower for large files of hundreds-of-thousands of records or for customers obtaining service under a master contract negotiated by a regional OCLC network or a local library system vendor. Discounted prices usually are between $.11 and $.13 per record.

Many vendors have a large backlog of authority control work, therefore, it is necessary to schedule the work at least six months before it is to be done.

Some vendors also offer ongoing authority support. For example, a library can choose to receive electronic mail or tape notification of any changes that occur to authority records which have been linked for the library in a previous batch authority project, or a library can contract for quarterly tape processing service.

While Blackwell North America and UTLAS are the acknowledged leaders in the field, other companies which do authority work are Auto-Graphics, Brodart, General Research Corporation, Library Systems a. Services, Inc. (LSSI), and Marcive. The Computer Company has recently announced that it will discontinue its bibliographic source operations in July, 1989.

[Contact: Auto-Graphics, 751 Monterey Pass Road, Monterey Park, CA 91754, telephone (213) 269-9451; Blackwell North America, 6024 S.W. Jean Road, Building G, Lake Oswego, OR 97035, telephone (800) 547- 6426; Brodart Automation, 10983 Via Frontera, San Diego, CA 92127, telephone (619) 451-8900; General Research Corporation, 5383 Hollister Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93111, telephone (800) 235- 6788; LSSI, 20251 Century Blvd., Germantown, MD 20874-1162, telephone (800) 638- 8725; Marcive, P.O. Box 47508, San Antonio, TX 78265, telephone (800) 531-7678; UTLAS International, 8300 College Boulevard, Overland Park, KS 66210, telephone (913) 451-3111 or fax 913-451-2551.]

View Citation
Publication Year:1989
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Systems Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 9 Number 06
Issue:June 1989
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Notes:Howard S. White, Editor-in-Chief; Richard W. Boss and Judy McQueen Contributing Editors
Company: Auto-Graphics, Inc.
Blackwell North America, Inc.
General Research Corporation
UTLAS Corporation
Subject: Authority control
Record Number:4577
Last Update:2024-05-27 02:56:53
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00