Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Shared Authority Control at the Western Library Network

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Shared Authority Control at the Western Library Network

Article excerpt

Shared Authority Control at the Western Library Network

Cooperative cataloging has been accepted as a norm by libraries large

and small for quite some time. Cooperative authority maintenance,

however, has not been practiced widely, although one can quickly see the

advantage of large, combined resources for authority maintenance due

to elimination of duplicate efforts. This paper examines the cooperative

efforts of the Western Library Network and its members to maintain

authority control over its central bibliographic database. The first section

describes the authority maintenance activities by WLN centrally; the

second section describes one WLN member library's contribution to

authority maintenance and its efforts in updating its local online catalog.

Cooperative cataloging has been taken for granted for quite some time. Libraries across the nation search databases of utilities for availability of MARC records before they invest their time and expertise in cataloging. This practice is formalized under the National Coordinated Cataloging Program (NCCP), in which selected research libraries create national-level bibliographic records based on agreed-upon practices. These records are to be contributed to the Library of Congress database and distributed for the use of the entire bibliographic community via the Linked Systems Project (LSP) or through the MARC Distribution Service.[1] This program itself is an outgrowth of the Library of Congress Name Authority Cooperative Project (LC/NACO) which began operation October 3, 1977, as a joint venture among large research libraries to create a common name authority database.[2] The Library of Congress (LC) is experimenting with a similar cooperative project to establish subject headings.[3] These cooperative efforts reduce the time spent for the creation of duplicate records and permit all parties to reallocate resources to activities promoting the timeliness, wider coverage, and the quality of the bibliographic database.

However, the actual updating of headings in bibliographic records according to the most recent authority information still tends to be performed by individual libraries or local systems. An obsolete authority heading in the same bibliographic record is being revised in the same way in each separate catalog and database throughout the country by local processing, by the use of authority vendors, or a combination of both.[4]

Since authority headings are never static and no one library or local system can hardly keep up with all the authority maintenance of its local database, discrepancies between the headings actually used in the bibliographic database and the correct form of headings in authority records are growing. Catalogers can quickly locate the proper forms of authority headings to be used for an entity or concept, but they may need to look under many different forms of headings in their own database or catalog for the same entity or concept. This causes confusion and frustration.

These discrepancies would be greatly reduced if libraries using the same bibliographic utility could combine their resources and update authority headings in the central database they share. Such a method would make more effective use of each library's limited resources and provide a more up-to-date database to all users of the utility. This paper examines the cooperative efforts of the Western Library Network (WLN) and its members to maintain authority control over its central bibliographic database. The first section describes the authority maintenance activities performed by the staff of the Western Library Network centrally[5]; the second section describes an individual member library's contribution to authority maintenance in WLN by focusing on the activities of the Washington State University Libraries in Pullman, Washington.

WLN Database and Its Authority File

WLN Authority File records are linked directly to all bibliographic records using them. …

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