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A. Rose, by any other name A workshop on authority control. Cataloguing & Indexing Group CILIP HQ, London Friday 23 October 2009. Cooperative name authority data – The LC/NACO Authority File. Hugh Taylor Head, Collection Development and Description Cambridge University Library. Objectives.

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A rose by any other name a workshop on authority control

A. Rose, by any other nameA workshop on authority control

Cataloguing & Indexing Group

CILIP HQ, London

Friday 23 October 2009

Cooperative name authority data the lc naco authority file

Cooperative name authority data –The LC/NACO Authority File

Hugh Taylor

Head, Collection Development and Description

Cambridge University Library


  • Session aims to answer the following:

  • What is the LC/NACO Authority File?

  • Who creates and maintains it?

  • How is it “created”?

  • And, passim …

  • … Why is any of this important (right here and now)?!

  • But first – what about the audience?

Preaching to the converted
Preaching to the converted?

  • NACO participants?

  • Active users of LC/NACO authority data?

  • Believe in the continuing value of controlled access points? consistency?

  • In what contexts?

    • Users inputting searches?

    • Linked data?

  • Have institutional OPACs offering “browse” searches?

  • … That make use of references in authority records (if you have them)?


  • International cooperative project

  • >25% of current non-LC contributions come from outside United States (and ca. 50% of those from the BL)

  • Authority records for

    • Personal names

    • Corporate/conference names

    • Works and expressions - name/title, title (incl. series)

  • >7 million records in total

  • (Also serves as LC’s in-house authority file)


  • Community effort to try to provide most of the authority records that will be needed to support authority control in library systems

  • Available in MARC 21 (and soon as Linked Data?)

  • Should be able to meet most needs of staff, end users, and (traditional library) systems

  • But there are limitations in what can be (or is) achieved

  • And there’s no formal list of expectations against which to measure “success” – or even definition of “authority control”

Who starting at the beginning
Who? (starting at the beginning)

  • 1976 – MARC Authority format published

  • 1977 (April) – LC started inputting machine-readable authority records

  • 1977 (Oct) – US Government Printing Office joined with LC in sharing authority work

  • 1979 – Texas State Library joined

  • 1980 – The explosion began! (10 members by 1980, 24 by 1982, 37 by 1985, 55 by 1992, and so on, until…)

Who now
Who (now)

  • FY 2008 – 379 institutions contributed to LC/NACO

  • Of whom 51 contributed more than 1000 records

  • Wide range of contributors:

    • National libraries

    • Libraries of other national institutions (e.g. US Army)

    • Various tiers of education (mostly Higher)

    • Public, state, etc. libraries

    • OCLC

    • Publishers

    • Vendors

    • Etc.

Who now moving towards how
Who (now) – moving towards How

  • With membership comes obligations/expectations

  • Follow standards

  • Contribute through a utility

  • Commit staff and undergo training

  • Meet minimum contribution levels

  • Achieve independent status within 12 months of joining

  • Most contributors are individual members

  • But a number of “funnel projects” also exist to cater for those creating more modest numbers or records and/or with some sort of shared interest (e.g. Music, Art)

Who now partly driven by how
Who (now) – partly driven by How

  • Standards

    • AACR2, ch. 22-26

    • MARC 21 Authority Format (incl. additional LC Guidelines Supplement)

    • Subject Headings Manual, H 405 (“Division of the World”)

    • LC Rule Interpretations, ch. 22-26

    • ALA-LC Romanization Tables

  • Additional guidance

    • NACO Participants’ Manual

    • Descriptive Cataloging Manual (LC). Z1. Name and Series Authority Records

    • Various other smaller pieces of documentation on NACO and LC Policy Standards Division web pages

Who now partly limited by how
Who (now) – partly limited(?) by How

  • Since closure of RLIN, OCLC is currently only utility through which contributions can be made – so appropriate level of OCLC membership is de facto requirement

  • Normally a 5-day training programme

  • There are currently no NACO trainers based in the UK

  • Significant investment of time and effort (backed up with cash!) on part of would-be member

Who now partly limited by how1
Who (now) – partly limited(?) by How

  • Minimum contribution is 200 records per annum (100 for smaller institutions)

  • New members are assigned a reviewer to check work for first 3-6 months, then to be available for advice/feedback until independent

  • Series authority training is separate from the other types – would expect to be independent in other types of heading before considering contribution of series

Who now partly driven by how1
Who (now) – partly driven by How

  • All UK and Irish members are independent

  • And there are no Funnel Project members here (I think)

  • For Cambridge, adherence to (even reading) LCRIs was biggest shock (and, at the time, using USMARC Authority Format when we were still on UKMARC for bibliographic records)

  • How much the requirements (not just the Standards) are an obstacle to increasing UK/Irish membership is an interesting question (something to discuss over tea?)

  • (Or is there simply a different attitude here to cooperation? Or to authority control? Or to…?)


  • What follows is a somewhat simplified workflow (lacks wrinkles, doesn’t all apply to the BL, etc.)

  • Identify that no NAR exists for the person, etc., for whom/which a heading is needed in a bibliographic record

  • Double check an authorised copy of the LC/NACO file (local version won’t be complete/current, even if you have one)

  • Construct (mentally) an NAR from the resource to hand – if resulting heading (+ any references) doesn’t conflict with what’s already established then create NAR from information to hand


  • If proposed heading conflicts with established heading (or reference) attempt to break conflict, firstly by adding something to the new NAR, but if need be by changing existing heading/reference

  • For personal names, if conflict can’t be broken (you’d be surprised how difficult this can sometimes be, even for new publications), designate an “undifferentiated” heading (008/32=“b”)

  • Always break conflict for corporate, conference, name/title and title headings

Undifferentiated headings diversion
Undifferentiated headings – diversion!

  • Undifferentiated headings are a problem for everyone

  • Other databases/services take different approach (e.g. IMDb)

  • Distinctions permitted in LC/NACO are limited to those defined in AACR2 and LCRIs

  • “Solutions” acceptable to librarians may not be helpful to users (but is Smith, John, 1952- any worse than John Smith (III)?)


  • Go beyond resource to break conflict, verify form of headings used as subjects and of corporate bodies, resolve doubts, etc. – less often needed than one might imagine

  • Foreign languages/scripts may raise more problems – national library databases, authority files, VIAF, may all offer help

  • Create the record in OCLC (Connexion software) – when “finished”, submit it

  • OCLC sends each day’s new and updated records to LC for loading into the master database; LC exports these master versions to OCLC and BL for loading into “slave” copies of the master


  • LC needs to ensure its bib records are in synch with the LC/NACO file, so most NACO work that requires BFM on LC bibs needs to be reported to LC for action locally

  • Only LC staff can delete records from LC/NACO!

  • Little a contributor is obliged to do (other than adhere to standards ) – OK to duck proposal if it turns out to be too difficult, or sparks off chain reaction and you don’t have time

  • And participant can decide if certain categories are never contributed (e.g. Chinese, retrocon projects, theses)

  • But we’re all in this together, so if I don’t do it, then …

Lc naco maintenance
LC/NACO maintenance

  • Restrictions on types of changes that can be made to authorised headings – these are the main ones permitted:

    • Correcting errors

    • Changing heading to break potential conflict

    • Adding death date where “open” date of birth given (1949-)

    • Upgrading pre-AACR2 headings

  • Other data changes can be made more or less as needed:

    • Adding references (in accordance with AACR2/LCRIs)

    • Adding further citation information

    • Changing form of reference to avoid/break conflict

  • Many older records (keyed from LC slips) lack essential information

Some numbers
Some numbers

  • Total new name and series authority records FY 2008:

    • 213,404

  • Total changed name and series authority records FY 2008:

    • 503,613 (>80% of these done by OCLC)

  • Total new records by international partners

    • 54,926

  • Total new records by UK & Irish partners

    • 33,294

  • Credit where credit s due
    Credit where credit’s due

    • UK & Irish contributors FY 2008

      • Bodleian Library, University of Oxford*

      • British Library

      • Cambridge University Library*

      • National Art Library

      • National Library of Scotland

      • National Library of Wales

      • Trinity College Dublin Library

      • University of Strathclyde

      • Wellcome Library

        *contributes both name and series records (remainder only names)


    • Cataloguing is labour-intensive (£££$$$) – the more of the effort we can share, the more we can ultimately save

    • (This is widely accepted within the UK in respect of bib records, why shouldn’t it also apply to authority data?)

    • Membership quickly pays dividends

    • Participating in NACO is both a good discipline (you think more about what you’re doing) and a rewarding activity for your staff (satisfaction in both the challenges and the achievements)

    Why and for how long
    Why – and for how long?

    • Getting in first – practical benefits in knowing the form just used in a bib record is the one that is (or will be) what’s in the LC/NACO file –these benefits (or their extent) will vary depending on the way individual institutions exercise “authority control”

    • Members have a voice

    • But it’s not perfect and many of us accept that the community (that’s all of us!) need to be looking at even more powerful and effective solutions – which will likely not depend on such an “enclosed” community of contributors

    • Still… the achievements since 1977 have been tremendous and are a firm foundation on which to build that future

    A personal wish list
    A personal wish list

    • Things that Cambridge UL would most appreciate random order):

      • More NARs that cover the mass of 1850-1950 publications

      • More series authority records, especially for UK-published series – and even more especially for UK grey literature

      • More Greek script added to existing authority records

      • More compact, and less diffuse, documentation – less places to refer to or in which to check something

      • Other means of contributing than via OCLC Connexion

      • A more logical approach to the use of LCCNs covering undifferentiated names

      • A similar workflow for submitting subject authority proposals (which is out of scope for this presentation, I know…)