Authority control is a system librarians have devised to manage access to the records for their collections. When a number of items are held in a collection that have a common characteristic--same author, same topic, same series, versions of the same work--users of the collection may want to see the records for those items brought together. In online catalogs, authority control uses a separate file of records called authority records (distinct from bibliographic records, which represent items in the collection). The authority file defines uniform headings for each of these common characteristics--names, subjects, series, and entries for works. Also needed are rules for how to create and use these headings, and system functions to link the authority records to the bibliographic records and provide an integrated display of information from both. Authority records also enable the library to provide entries for variants of the uniform heading, and to indicate relationships between headings.
For example, if catalog users are searching for works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, they can enter a search for either "fitzgerald f scott" or "fitzgerald francis scott". Both searches will find the heading in the catalog where the author's works are listed: Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940. Authority control ensures that the only one form of the heading is used, and that it can still be searched in a number of ways. Similarly, a search on "fbi" will bring up a link to the heading for the body: United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Authority records can also express relationships between headings. The authority for the FBI also points to a heading for the body's earlier name: United States. Dept. of Justice. Division of Investigation. The authority record for the topic Ostriches also points to broader and related topics: Birds, Ratites, and Cookery (Ostrich).
Often, authorized headings include more information than anyone would search for. This enables the system to display a clear and distinct heading in response to a partial or truncated search (e.g., "fitzgerald f s" leads to the full name heading above), and to distinguish between two similar entries (e.g., Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883 (for the composer) and Wagner, Richard, 1939-1972 (a dancer and choreographer).Posted by s-hear at January 18, 2005 4:15 PM