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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