Authority Control in a Bilingual OPAC: MultiLIS at Laurentian

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Authority Control in a Bilingual OPAC: MultiLIS at Laurentian

In a recent study on bilingual subject authority control, Rolland-Thomas and Mercure describe four necessary conditions for a bilingual online public access catalog (OPAC): (1) reciprocal references in the same file; (2) subject or term searching in either language from one bilingual thesaurus, with retrieval in either the language used in the search or the second language; (3) equivalencies between forms in different languages; and (4) access to and retrieval from the whole collection in either language. [1] Another fundamental criterion for the management of multilingual thesauri, and one, it would appear, that system vendors have had limited success in implementing, has been noted by Mandel. In her study prepared for the Library of Congress (LC), she observed:

A relatively few library bibliographic systems

have been designed to support a

library in maintaining more than one controlled

vocabulary in its catalog ... None

has yet been employed specifically to assist

patrons in retrieval from multiple thesauri.[2]

The whole question of the management of database access points in more than one language, or from different thesauri, has been the focus of several articles published since the introduction of online databases and multiple, noncompatible, indexing thesauri.[3] The future importance of multithesaurus authority control is further underscored by Jonhston's survey of authority-system vendors, which found, as far as the possible sources of authority records are concerned, that

One respondent . . . uses the National

Library of Medicine's Medical Subject

Headings (MeSH), and one vendor reports

that Sears Subject Headings may be used

as well as headings from LC and the

National Library of Canada.... Other

sources named were ... Vedettes de l'Universitaire

[sic] Laval, and "any source."[4]

Such is the rate of development for authority control systems that even as the essential criteria for subject retrieval in a bilingual system were being discussed, as in the comments above, one major vendor was introducing an automated authority control system that satisfies many of the conditions for a bilingual OPAC and associated thesaurus management.[5] The authority control module of MultiLIS has been in use at Laurentian University, a bilingual institution in Northern Ontario, since June 1989, and manual authority entry for subjects, as well as for personal and corporate authors, has been done on an extensive basis. In this article the major features of the MultiLIS authority module and its current use in a bilingual setting, as well as its potential in a multilingual or multithesaurus environment, as described. A brief evluation and critique of the authority module is also presented, principally in terms of its success in meeting the criteria for a multithesaurus management system, as outlined by Mandel.

Founded in 1960, Laurentian University is one of Ontario's three bilingual universities. The university's bilingual nature is emphasized in its statement of objectives, which appears in the academic calendar: "The University has pledged itself to the maintenance and promotion of both the English and French languages and cultures, inside as well as outside the classrooms."[6] Current full-time-equivalent enrollment is approximately 5,000 students, of which 25 percent are francophone. There are three federated colleges at the Sudbury campus; one is bilingual, and the other two are unilingual (English). In addition, there are three affiliated campuses located in other centers of Northeastern Ontario, one of which is unilingual (French).

The university offers most programs at the Sudbury campus in the humanities, social sciences, and professional schools in both official languages; many first-year introductory courses in the pure and applied sciences are also available in both languages. …