Cataloguing: Authority files

I’m in the unusual position of having a brand new cataloguing system to play with, which is great, but also terrifying…  I don’t even have any librarian colleagues here to ask, just lots of volunteers who expect me to instantly know the answer to obscure cataloguing questions.  I try and preserve the “trained librarian knowledgable mystique” bit but there are limits to how long I can keep that charade up and some help here would be appreciated.  In the name of preserving that mystique?

All our cataloguing records have been migrated across to the shiny new MARC21 system, JAMIE, and they have authors on those records, but the authority records have not come across.  The old system wasn’t MARC compliant and there was only so much the techies could do.  I knew the old authors list wasn’t up to much anyway, so I said we would rebuild it.  And now I have to make the decisions about HOW to rebuild it.  Obviously I have spent a lot of time on the Library of Congress MARC standards website and they also have some really handy tutorials hidden away under MARC Formats which I would recommend.  So I have read the one on Authorities thoroughly, however it contains the following (unhelpful) line:

It is important to note that the formulation of a name, or subject heading in an authority record is based on generally accepted cataloging and thesaurus-building conventions.


Generally accepted conventions??  So, my first thought was ISBD which is what LOC usually seem to send me to.  However the key letter in ISBD is B – bibliographic – not authorities.  So it wasn’t a lot of help.  So which conventions?  Could anyone give me the shortened version?  And before anyone asks, no, I don’t subscribe to any packages which might help with this.  I have a paper copy of 1967 ACCR2 and a pdf of ISBD and that’s it!  I can consult the most recent AACR2 at my local university library but it means a special trip to the other end of town, and it helps to know what I’m looking up…  I’m already quite left behind as it is.  Goodness only knows how far left behind I’ll be when RDA takes off next March.  There’s defnitely no funds for a subscription here so I’ll be very reliant on people’s blogs and comments on big changes.

My key questions would be:

  • what exactly do you put in 670?  And do you always use it, or just when there’s danger of confusion?
  • Do you expand an author’s name in 100a, or use the fuller form of name field?  I prefer 100a myself, would I be making a huge error by sticking to that?
  • I have been searching LOC and BL for each author and adding dates to 100d whenever they have them.  Is this how other people do it?
  • Do you put a full stop at the end of “Smith, John.”?  If there isn’t dates following it, then the LOC examples seem to have a full stop.  Is this because it’s the end of the area??
  • And are there any other crucial things I haven’t thought to ask?

I have asked some local friends, but not many people actually do original cataloguing anymore and those who do, are not on MARC21 so we’re having some confusion.

I was really pleased to read on various CIG conference blogs that authority files and the possibility of a UK NACO funnel was proposed by Deborah Lee.  By a strange coincidence, I had been reading about NACO funnels just that very day online, then suddenly it started popping up in my Twitter feed!  Sharing work on authority files would be fantastic.

Thanks in advance if anyone can help me…




Filed under cataloguing

10 responses to “Cataloguing: Authority files

  1. Hi Jennie,

    We do original cataloguing, using locally controlled authorities, at the British Library for Development Studies and are using a new LMS (Koha) with MARC21. To answer your questions from our practice (which I should say is quite simplified):
    1. we don’t use 670 at all (not even sure what it is, sorry!)
    2&3. we use 100a and generally no other sub-fields (or dates) for personal names
    4. we don’t add a full-stop after the name, but our system generates one for us. In ISBD/AACR2 proper I think you would add it (or a comma if followed by dates).

    We generally follow AACR2 rules (we have the 1988 revision) on input, order etc. Happy to scan any useful bits for you if you want though not much different from 1967 as far as I know! Also for MARC21 100/700 fields (in bib records as well as authority files) we use the first indicator for entry element – ie surname entry = 1.



    • Glad to hear that someone else is also a. cataloguing and b. on open source! I will investigate whether our system is generating a full stop after names anywhere, because I’m not convinced it is… It certainly doesn’t show one in the OPAC view afterwards. May have to add them manually.
      Thanks so much for the scanning offer – I am planning a trip with laptop and scanner to do the AACR2 chapters in the twenties at the Uni library! They have the latest version and helpfully it’s in a looseleaf file…

  2. Lori

    I empathize with your experience of being at a library with few professional resources! It certainly makes things tougher. If you make a special trip across town for AACR2 access, see if you can get copies of the chapters in the twenties covering names of people and corporate bodies. In the meantime, a handy cheatsheet is the NACO manual, available from their website for free. It’s all about to be superseded by RDA, but it will give you an idea of what your authority records should look like, 670 construction, punctuation, etc. And the Library of Congress MARC21 site also has the authorities format, so you would be able to use that to answer any field/subfield questions. Hope this helps! If you need specific URLs, email me.

    • Hi Lori, thanks for your reply. I am definitely thinking of photocopying the twenties chapter of AACR2. In fact, I may take a scanner and laptop! The NACO manual looks helpful (and also thankfully free) so I’ve saved that to have a closer look at. I’ve already used the MARC21 site a lot, but this has a bit more detail. Great tip – thank you!

  3. Hi Jennie, we usually get our names from the LC Authority File and so would use their formatting, which I believe is based on AACR2. Our system automatically puts in a 670, and I find it quite useful information if I am trying to decide if an existing heading is for the same person as the current book I’m looking at (if that makes sense). As for full stops, my understanding is that the ending punctuation isn’t part of the authority heading itself, but is part of the MARC Bib field that the heading is used in (ie the 100 Main Entry field), so the full stop shouldn’t appear in your authority file. But I’m not 100% sure about that. Anyway, hope that’s of some help.

    • Thank you! I will start doing 670s I think (once I’ve figured out the format and punctuation…) and I’m glad to hear there shouldn’t be full stops actually in the record. I wasn’t looking forward to going back and putting them into the thousand or so entries I have already done! I do need to look and check though and see whether our system is automatically generating them or not as it doesn’t tend to.

  4. The Twitter world has also responded to this and again, the advice is:
    – to look at AACR2 ch. 22
    – use the name by which the author is commonly known.
    – Use whatever is in LOC NAF
    – No full stops in authority record
    – Use 670 to show where you got your information from.
    – NACO’s training for RDA is available free online (search “Catalogers learning workshop”)

    Thanks to @Iagina, @cjclib and @jenniferswright!

  5. Just to update, I am now happily creating authority records with 670s, 010s and even the odd 400a using lots of LOC records.
    Where I have a problem, is authors who are not in LOC, but I have found them on the British Library catalogue and got some extra information. What do I then put in the 670? I have 4 choices I think:
    – use the item in hand and put that in (even if it doesn’t give the evidence for say the fuller name or the date)
    – credit the BL website in 670 with a URL.
    – Do both and make two 670s of the two above,
    – Create a 670 based on the book the author is connected to on the BL website (because I can’t see the BL 670 in the online record).

    My current example would be ‘A descriptive catalogue of the the collection of minerals in the Geological Museum, Calcutta.’ by F. R. Mallet, officiating deputy superintendent, Geological survey of India, Calcutta 1883.
    Can’t find him on LOC, BL has a Frederick Richard Mallet writing at the right time about the same things, probably therefore him, but they don’t have this exact item.

    At the moment, I’m thinking option three – credit both!

  6. Hi Jennie, There is a name authority record for a Mallett, Frederick Richard, ǂd b. 1841 in the LCNAF that cites the Geological Survey of India.

    010 n 90616855
    040 ICU ǂb eng ǂc ICU
    1001 Mallett, Frederick Richard, ǂd b. 1841
    4001 Mallett, Frederick Richard, ǂd 1841- ǂw nnaa
    4001 Mallett, F. R. ǂq (Frederick Richard), ǂd b. 1841
    670 LCCN gs15-553: Geological Survey of India. Manual of the geology of India, 1879-87 ǂb (hdg.: Mallett, Frederick Richard, 1841- ; variant: F.R. Mallett)

    That doesn’t answer your bigger question, but perhaps this is your man?
    I’d be tempted to “credit the BL website in 670 with a URL” if I found fuller name info in their catalog. But that’s just my opinion.

    • Hi lagina,
      I contacted LC and they have corrected their Mallett to a Mallet! That solved my immediate problem for that particular record but not the bigger question.
      I agree that I need to credit where I actually found the information. This would all be a lot easier if BL showed their authority records in the same way that LC do. But the only current solution is to give the BL website I suppose. Otherwise it really doesn’t show where I got the information from.
      Here goes writing the documentation and training the volunteers! Deep breath required….
      Thanks again – you really have been hugely helpful with this,

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