Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Family Names and the Cataloger

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Family Names and the Cataloger

Article excerpt

The Joint Steering Committee for the Revision of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules has indicated that the replacement for the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed., to be known as Resource Description and Access, will allow the use of family names as authors and will provide rules for their formation. This paper discusses what a family name describes; examines how information seekers look for family names and what they expect to find; describes the ways in which family names have been established in Anglo-American cataloging and archival traditions; asks how adequately the headings established under these rules help users find such information; and suggests how revised cataloging rules might better enable users to identify resources that meet their needs.


Descriptive catalogers have devoted a great deal of time over the last century to deciding how to establish personal names and corporate names, but they have largely ignored family names. Anglo-American cataloging codes have been based on the notion that authorship is the best basis for organizing access to works, and many library catalogers have not considered the possibility that families can be capable of authorship. One looks in vain for a discussion of families as points of entry or as headings in the comparative studies of cataloging codes written by Pettee, Hanson, or Ranganathan. (1) The Paris Principles adopted in 1961 do not even mention the word family. (2) This state of affairs has persisted from the days of Cutter through the various Anglo-American cataloging codes, as a glance at the indices and tables of contents of such works reveals . (3) For example, the index of the second edition of the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR2), refers the user from "Family names" to "Surnames," which are used only for individual persons in chapter 24. (4) The closest such codes come to considering family names is identifying surnames for individual persons and indicating that firms bearing the name of a person need to be entered under surname. (5)

Nonetheless, catalogers currently use family names when cataloging books about families, and archivists have a tradition of entering family papers under the name of the family responsible for the collection. (6) This paper will discuss how families act as agents and create collections of papers, including objects, letters, records of real estate transaction, or photographs. Traditional cataloging rules are unable to deal with materials such as these except through makeshift means, such as title main entry with an added subject entry for the family involved. Such means result in the inability of catalogers to describe such materials properly, and users encounter difficulties in accessing those materials. The neglect of this area by descriptive catalogers appears likely to change with the revision of AACR2, as the rules devised for part three of the intended replacement, Resource Description and Access (RDA) are supposed to contain rules for establishing names of families. (7)

This plan is in accordance with the draft Statement of International Cataloguing Principles issued by the International Federation of Library Associations and Organizations (IFLA) Meeting of Experts on an International Cataloguing Codes that "If a person, family, or a corporate body uses variant names or variant forms of names, one name or one form of name should be chosen as the authorized heading for each distinct persona." (8) Unfortunately, the few statements in the International Cataloging Principles that concern the formation of family names ( and the choice of entry elements (5.3) are much too vague to provide aid to the cataloger. The Library of Congress has proposed rule revisions to AACR2 for the formulation of family names. (9) A fresh look at the problem is necessary.

Such an examination involves several steps. The first is to determine what a family name describes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.