Lesson 1

Why Does a Library Catalog Need Authority Control and What Is It?

     The better the catalog the higher the credibility a library has within the community.  Patrons continue to visit and support libraries when they receive fast, accurate and effective service.  Yet many of our public libraries today add records with minimal cataloger review.  Use of authority control can provide vast improvement in the service patrons receive.  The key elements of authority control, good structure and consistency, are essential to a good library catalog.  By using controlled vocabulary terms and showing the interrelationship of the terms by means of cross references, authority control is is an invaluable tool in the maintenance of a successful library catalog. 

Definitions:

    Authority control "is a technical process executed on a library catalog to provide structure.  Uniqueness, standardization, and linkages are the foundation of authority control.
    Authority control of a library catalog is maintained through an authority file that contains the terms used as access points in the catalog.  The access points that determine the structure of the catalog may be real entry headings on bibliographic records or cross references.  In library catalogs the entry headings under control generally consist of personal and corporate names, uniform titles, series, and subjects." (Clack, p.1)

    "Authority work consists of the creation of authority records, the formation of such records into an authority file, the linking of that file to the bibliographic file to form a system, the maintenance of the authority file and system, and the evaluation of the file and system." (Burger, p.10)

Authority control can provide:

Here's what can happen without authority control:

AUTHORITY CONTROL GONE AMOK, OR, WHAT CAN GO WRONG

EXAMPLE 1 - WITHOUT AUTHORITY CONTROL THE CATALOG WILL HAVE MANY HEADINGS:

  1. Twain, Mar. (1)
  2. Twain, Mark. (98)
  3. Twain, mark. (2)
  4. Twain, Mark, 1835-1910. (129)
  5. Twain, Mark. 1835-1910. (35)
  6. Twain, Mark 1835-1910. (6)
  7. Twain, Mark,1835-1910. (5)

WITH AUTHORITY CONTROL ONLY THE PROPER HEADING WILL DISPLAY: 

Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.

EXAMPLE 2 - WITHOUT AUTHORITY CONTROL THE CATALOG WILL HAVE MANY HEADINGS:

  1. Diana. (1)
  2. Diana, Princess of Wales. (1)
  3. Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961- (13) 
  4. Diana, Princess of Wales 1961- (1)
  5. Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961- (2)
  6. DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES, 1961-1997. (1)
  7. Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997. (2)
  8. Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-  -- Juvenile literature. (2)
  9. Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-  -- Marriage -- Juvenile literature. (1)
10. Diana, Princess of Wales--Biography. (1)
11. Diana, Princess of Wales, -- Iconography. (2)

WITH AUTHORITY CONTROL ONLY THE PROPER HEADING WILL DISPLAY:

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-

EXAMPLE 3 - WITHOUT AUTHORITY CONTROL THE CATALOG WILL HAVE MANY HEADINGS:

  1. White, E        B. (3)
  2. White, E. B. (5)
  3. White, E. B. 1899- (Elwyn Brooks) (5)
  4. White, E. B., Editor. (1)
  5. White, E. B. (Elwyn Brooks), 1899- (43)
  6. White, E. B.(Elwyn Brooks),1899- (1)
  7. White, E. B. (Elwyn Brooks), 1899- ed. (4)

WITH AUTHORITY CONTROL ONLY THE PROPER HEADING WILL DISPLAY:

White, E. B. (Elwyn Brooks), 1899-

EXAMPLE 4 - WITHOUT AUTHORITY CONTROL THE CATALOG WILL HAVE MANY HEADINGS:

Eyewitness juniors ; 1
Eyewitness juniors
Eyewitness juniors ; no. 3
Eyewitness juniors ; vol. 4
Eyewitness juniors ; v. 5

WITH AUTHORITY CONTROL ONLY THE PROPER HEADINGS WILL DISPLAY:

Eyewitness juniors ; 1
Eyewitness juniors ; 2

Note: Without authority control the catalog could have inconsistencies.  With authority control all of the entries in the catalog would look consistent:

Bibliography:

Burger, Robert H.  Authority Work:  the Creation, Use, Maintenance and Evaluation of Authority Records and Files.  Littleton, Colo. :  Libraries Unlimited, 1985.

Clack, Doris Hargrett.  Authority Control:  Principles, Applications, and Instructions.  Chicago :  American Library Association, 1990.

Maxwell, Robert L.  Maxwell's Guide to Authority Work.  Chicago : American Library Association, 2002.

END OF LESSON 1

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