Authority Control. In today’s fast-paced world of eBooks, social media use, and other more glamorous library news, it’s easy to overlook this fundamental building block. However, authority control, along with a properly authorized library catalog, is the key to patrons and staff being able to quickly locate items in our collections. If you’ve never thought much about authority control, then maybe it’s time to revisit this. Let’s take a quick look!
Authority Control Explained
While most of us are well aware of MARC and the underlying structure of a MARC record, authority control, both as a process and in functional usage, is a little bit different. In a general sense, authority control can be thought of as providing a standard method by which we can identify materials information, usually by author, title, subject heading or other identifier. These headings are standardized across our automated system, providing consistency and stability.
One classic example of this is the author Samuel Clemens, also known by his pen name of Mark Twain. With a properly authorized catalog, your patrons can look for either of these names and then be directed to the proper set of titles that you may have available. Authority control, or the linking of multiple author names in this case, allows this to happen. This is done both by the existence of authority records in your current ILS system as well as the standardized headings found in the individual records themselves.
It’s A Mess!
However, our record metadata and subsequent authority file information can quickly become a mess if not maintained on a consistent basis. For those of us who may have switched ILS systems at some point, or who know that our records are not always catalogued correctly, this can quickly become very apparent. Dead-end records, no author or keyword linkages, and the lack of finding well-known titles are just a few symptoms of the lack of authority control. If you’ve experienced this, maybe it’s time you considered some authority work.
So knowing that authority control is essential...what’s your plan? While it may be easy to think of authority control as a one-time project, nothing could be farther from the truth. Records change, authors update names, and new subject headings come into use quite frequently. It’s essential that your library have both a plan and a process to update your bibliographic records as well as to establish ongoing authority record infusions, helping to keep things fresh and easily found.
When To Start?
Realistically, there’s no better time than the present! This is where your OHIONET membership can really help. Working with our staff of experts and ongoing cataloging training classes, we can quickly help you get up to speed. Our experience with libraries and vendors such as OCLC, Backstage Library Works, and LTI can benefit both your library and your patrons. We’ll take the time to work with you and establish a plan and procedure to get your library up to speed at a minimum of cost!
Talk to you next month!