UNBIS Guidelines for Name Authorities : Policies and Practice

  • Name authority records - definitions
  • Who is responsible for name authority?
  • UNBIS policies and practice
  • Future developments

  • These guidelines are intended to supplement the UNBIS Reference Manual for Name Authority Records. While the manual specifies the format of the records (information to be included in each tag and each subfield), these guidelines cover in greater detail the form of personal, corporate, conference and title headings in the UNBIS environment.

    Name authority records - definition

    "An authority record is a tool used by librarians to establish forms of names (for persons, places, meetings, and organizations), titles, and subjects used on bibliographic records. Authority records enable librarians to provide uniform access to materials in library catalogs and to provide clear identification of authors and subject headings. Authority records also provide cross references to lead users to the headings used in the catalog". [from Library of Congress Authorities Help]

    Who is responsible for name authority?

    It is the responsibility of the authority reviser to ensure that the form of name headings conforms to established standards and policies. However, in order to accurately describe the contents of a document or publication, the creators of bibliographic records need to be familiar with some of the basic rules governing the form that personal, corporate and conference names and the other categories of bibliographic elements falling under authority control should take. So, much in these guidelines is intended for their reference.

    It is the responsibility of creators of bibliographic records to search the database indexes to see if an authority record already exists for a "named entity" that is to be added to an author, title or subject field, and to attach the bibliographic record to that authority. If such a record does not exist, a new authority record is generated automatically when the new heading is added to an authority-controlled field. If there are variant forms of the name in the publication at hand, search under those forms as well. Indexers and cataloguers must submit new headings, clearly marked, to the authority reviser, together with either the document or photocopies of relevant pages.

    Creators of bibliographic records should also alert the authority reviser to duplicate and incomplete name authority records.

    UNBIS policies and practice

    Many UNBIS policies originated, in the pre-AACR 2, the pre-MARC and the pre-Internet environment, to accommodate the recording of the numerous and diverse elements needed to describe UN documentation, as well as their inclusion in different publication formats. Generally the Dag Hammarskjöld Library follows AACR2 and U.S. Library of Congress guidelines for bibliographic description, but UNBIS practice, as it has evolved over the years, does deviate from those in a number of ways. Just as UNBIS policy and practice has evolved in the past, they continue to undergo change. When change is contemplated, one must carefully consider all the ramifications, including consistency with UNBIS indexing policy.

    One area where UNBIS practice differs from the standard is in the use of MARC21 subfields. Since the format used before MARC did not include subfields, it was decided at the time of conversion to continue the practice of including all data in a single subfield. This has more or less been the practice since then; however, a few additional subfields are now being employed where they serve a particularly useful function: in the 670 note field, for example, where subfield $u is used to record Uniform Resource Identifiers.

    It should be noted that UNBIS name authority records display only in the internal system, not in the OPAC (UNBISnet), so library clients cannot see explanatory notes (or the chronological relationship between linked records). However, the Use For cross-references allow the user to go directly from the name variation under which he may be searching, to the bibliographic record in which the established form of the name appears--at least in the UNBISnet Browse (alphabetical) List. Unfortunately, the linkage does not function in the UNBISnet Keyword Search, so, unless users consult the Browse List to ascertain the established heading, they may fail to retrieve results.

    Future developments

    The cataloguing environment is changing and AACR2 is evolving into RDA: Resource Description and Access "to respond fully to the challenges and opportunities of the digital world". RDA, released in June 2010, will not invalidate current standards for name authorities. The Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA "... agreed early on that records created by using RDA would be compatible with AACR2 records" so that, "if you are familiar with AACR2 you should find it easy to use RDA once you have familiarized yourself with its organisation and vocabulary". RDA will provide a set of guidelines on formulating descriptive data and access point control data, and it is the latter that covers the elements traditionally recorded in authority records.

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    Last updated: 8 July 2010