Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Publisher Names in Bibliographic Data: An Experimental Authority File and a Prototype Application

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Publisher Names in Bibliographic Data: An Experimental Authority File and a Prototype Application

Article excerpt

The cataloging community has long acknowledged the value of investing in authority control. As bibliographic systems become more global, the need for authority control becomes even more pressing. The publisher description area of the catalog record is notoriously difficult to control, yet often necessary for collection analysis and development. The research presented in this paper details a project to build a database of authorized names for major publishers worldwide. The authors used ISBN prefix data to chester bibliographic records by publisher; the resulting database contains thousands of variant forms of each publisher's name and data about their publishing output. Profiles of four large publishers were compared. Each publisher's languages of publication, formats, and subjects demonstrated their distinctive publishing output and validated the record clusters.

"The centrality of authority control in librarianship and its value to the user is not likely to change soon."

--Nirmala Bangalore and Chandra Prabha, 1998. (1)

The Library and Information Technology Association held a series of institutes titled "Authority Control: The Key to Tomorrow's Catalog." (2) Despite dissenting views that authority files would be prohibitively difficult and expensive, the conference attendees believed that such Ides would give structure to the burgeoning universe of knowledge, fulfilling the objectives of Charles Cutter, specifically the reliable colocation of records by a given author or on a given subject, for the twenty-first century. In the decades since those institutions, the library community has slowly but surely progressed toward the goal of universal authority control; local electronic authority files proliferated, followed by larger collaborative efforts, such as the Name Authority Cooperative (NACO) (, led by the Library of Congress (LC), and the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) (, hosted by OCLC. Yet among all of the data elements in MARC cataloging that could benefit from authority control, the publisher description area--and specifically publisher names--have no authorized forms.

The goal of the research reported here is to develop a service to support advanced collection analysis and publisher entity and user discovery services. Specifically, it is a project to cluster items in library collections by the entity that published or distributed them. The research has two major objectives:

I. To build a database that will A. Identify:

* Authoritative strings for publishers, including common variants of the preferred/authoritative version of the name and common variants for the locations of publishers

* Hierarchical references to variants and related entities and nesting of subsidiaries

* Definitions of publishing entities using data-mined information regarding formats, languages, subjects, and other data for each entity

B. Conform to international authority and standards practice.

II. To develop a method to:

A. Integrate the mapping of the database entries to WorldCat bibliographic records

B. Automate updates of the publisher data

This paper reports the results of the first stages of the project: the building of a publisher name authority database and the development of a prototype web interface with the bibliographic records associated with each publisher in the database.

Researchers explored a number of different technologies and methods for the clustering of bibliographic records. These clusters were ultimately constructed on the basis of metadata relating to the issuing entities, specifically metadata in the Publisher Description Area (MARC field 260) and in International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs, MARC field 020). Along the way, the aggregate of the records that could be assigned to different publishing entities allowed researchers to learn about the nature of individual publishers, producing rich portraits of their global presence and publication patterns. …

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