Lorcan Dempsey’s post on name authorities

Yesterday Lorcan Dempsey had an excellent post on name authorities

Libraries have invested significantly in name authority work over the years, and have created extensive infrastructure to help manage names of people and organizations. The relationship between this work and broader interest in this topic is something that will need to be addressed in coming years if this work is to continue to have utility.

He goes on to highlight the VIAF, explain areas where consistent names are needed, and point out other projects in this area.  One question he raises is

should I, for example, be able to augment the authorities data held about me?

This is a question that has occurred to me also.  Who better than the author to know what works are theirs, and which belong to somebody else with a similar name.  But without some kind of a gatekeeper, our carefully constructed authority data could be opened up to something like the Wikipedia wars.

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8 Comments on “Lorcan Dempsey’s post on name authorities”

  1. Bob Says:

    Do we have to prevent edit wars? Or is it sufficient to follow the Wikipedia path and develop methods for detecting an edit war, preventing further modifications to that record, and having a subject matter expert step in and resolve the problem?

  2. Lois Reibach Says:

    I like the idea of having the edits trigger notifying an expert to step in. I see the authors knowing who they are, but not knowing how to formulate the headings or references. This system could combine the knowledge of both.

  3. Scott Matheson Says:

    LibraryThing’s approach to this is an interesting starting point. The Jessamyn West is a good example of a shortcoming in their approach, but shows how one of the authors worked around it.

  4. Linda Medland Davis Says:

    I catalogue for a medium-sized public library and my primary concern is the content of our library catalogue. We defer to LAC for Canadian authors and LC for all others. Every week I correspond with authors trying to sort out the mess created by the use of non-unique authorities. Sometimes we find that CIP info is incomplete and erroneous and that the published title has sufficient info to correct everything. Sometimes an author when notified is eager to have his/her publisher make adjustments to avoid confusion. I’ve had authors e-mail (and sometimes even phone) me from across the country, even from overseas, to give me birthdates, middle names,etc. to make their names unique and to sort out which works they authored. I’m not sure that authors want to get involved in authority control but they do respond positively when asked for information in order for me to do authority management. I have sometimes been identified as a librarian/sleuth for finding authors but most often I follow the known paths — an author’s website, his or her publisher (often less reliable), university libraries if the author wrote a thesis, faculty lists for academic institutions, medical and legal registries and other employers; usually info on an individual published work leads me to a contact address. I have no budget for anything beyond email but the replies and info keep coming — and I forward it back to LC and LAC.

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