Authority control
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Authority Control. Mary Marchio. What is Authority Control?. Formulation and recording of authorized heading forms in a library catalog Headings must be consistent Twain, Mark not Clemens, Samuel Headings must be unique Madonna vs Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint.

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Authority Control

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Authority Control

Mary Marchio

What is Authority Control?

  • Formulation and recording of authorized heading forms in a library catalog

  • Headings must be consistent

    Twain, Mark not Clemens, Samuel

  • Headings must be unique

    Madonna vs Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint

Types of Headings that are controlled

  • Personal Names

  • Subjects



  • Form Terms

    Corporate Bodies


  • Uniform Titles

More types of controlled headings

  • Series

  • Genre headings

Controlled vocabularies commonly used in libraries

  • Library of Congress Authority Files

  • OCLC Name Authority File

  • Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

  • Sears List of Subject Headings

  • GSAFD Genre Terms

Why bother?

  • Provide consistent, uniform access to materials in library catalogs

  • Provide clear indentification of authors and subject headings

  • Provide cross references to lead customers to the headings used in the catalog

How to gain control

  • Vigilant catalogers who scrutinize new cataloging records, keep up with changes in headings, and who use available tools to best advantage

  • Vendors who perform authority control on existing databases and/or process ongoing cataloging records

Why use an authority control vendor?

  • Bring local authority files up-to-date with current headings and standards

  • Enrich database with the addition of cross references

  • Improve the consistency and quality of an online catalog

  • Free staff time for other activities

Some things to think about when preparing for a project

  • Consider database clean-up

  • Consider local cataloging practices

  • Plan cataloging workflow during project

  • Know your system requirements

    how do you export/import large numbers of records?

    is a test database available?

How does a Marcive authority control project work?

  • Contact vendor at

  • Decide on level of service (initial cleanup, ongoing, etc.)

  • Receive cost estimate based on # of bib records in database

  • Complete and submit profile

  • Copy bib database and send to vendor

How continued

  • Receive sample database (about 10% of actual database)

  • Load sample authority records and bib records to local test database

  • Examine records and reports

  • Make needed changes to library system settings to correctly handle actual data load

More How

  • Reload sample records to test database if needed

  • Approve sample records or ask for changes

  • Receive updated bib and authority records

  • Load records to production database

Even more How

  • Examine records, reports

  • Consider using reports to make further, manual changes

  • Consider changes in daily cataloging workflow to maintain new authority files

  • Consider using vendor’s ongoing authority services

Where things might go awry with data loads

  • Unexpected system difficulties

  • You missed the part about not updating the copied portion of the bib database including downloading new OCLC records for the duration of the project??!!

Where things might go awry with authorities

  • Unexpected system difficulties

  • Local cataloging practices


  • Maxwell, Robert L. Maxwell’s guide toauthority work. Chicago, ALA, 2002.

  • Understanding MARC Authority Records: Machine-Readable Cataloging

    at Library of Congress website

More Sources

  • Library of Congress Authorities (Search for Name, Subject, Title and Name/Title)

  • Maine State Library: Minerva Cataloging - GSAFD Term List

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