Posts Tagged ‘Authority Records’

Anatomy of an Authority Record

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Those of us in the Authority side of library sciences (the dark side?) talk a lot about Authority records, but while most librarians understand bibliographic records, understanding authority records requires a whole different understanding. To help cover that, we had one of our Project Managers explain exactly what an authority record is, and whats in it.

One of the reasons Authority Control was developed was to keep headings consistent.  Just think how much fun it would be trying to sort out whose published work was whose, if there wasn’t some way to consistently clarify each author or subject or series.  For example, if you have 5 books written by 5 John Smiths, unless there is a standard for each John Smith (one is Smith, John, Jr., one is Smith, John,$d1957- , one is Smith, John$q(Johnathan), etc.) it could get crazy.

For all libraries who participate (and that’s most of them) a standard is established for every single heading created (called the “authorized form”).  Whenever a heading is used on a bib record, that authorized form should be the one a library uses.  That’s why you may enter a heading on a bib record but if we do authority control on it you might see it flipped to something else.  Currently the Library of Congress gives final approval for that standard and an authority record is created for every single heading.  What we do in the Authority Control department is help libraries manage their authority data.

All headings fall under 4 categories:  (1) NAMES; (2) NAME/TITLE COMBOS; (3) UNIFORM TITLES/SERIES; and (4) SUBJECTS.  There are also genre authorities and these come from different databases.

In the bibliographic record you have 1XX’s, 4XX’s, 6XX’s, 7XX’s and 8XX’s as the tags under authority control.  On an authority record, the authorized headings are in the 1XX of the authority record.  The “see-references” and “see-also” references are found in the 4XX and 5XX of the authority record.  Here’s an example of how the headings sync up:

Your Bib: 100 1_ $aRowling, J. K.

Authority Record: 100 1_ $aRowling, J. K.

Your Bib: 100 1_ $aRowling, J. K.

240 10 $aHarry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban

Authority Record: 100 1_ $aRowling, J. K.$tHarry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban

Your Bib:  440_0 $aHarry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban (Motion picture)

Authority Record: 130_0 $aHarry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban (Motion picture)

(ditto if this were an 830)

Your Bib:  650 _0 $aPotter, Harry (Fictitious character)

Authority Record150 _0 $aPotter, Harry (Fictitious character)

Your Bib: 651 _0 $aLondon (England)

Authority Record: 151 _0 $aLondon (England)

Your Bib:  710 2_ $aWarner Bros.

Authority Record: 110 2_ $aWarner Bros.

So …what are the parts of an Authority Record?  They are:

0XX =  These are standard numbers, classification numbers, codes, etc.  (Mostly you’ll see 001, 003, 005, 008, 010, 035, 040, 043).  A few comments about the usual ones:

001 =  In bib records this is a bib ID number (wln, oclc, etc.) – in authorities it’s the owning agency, typically the Library of Congress’, control number.  On a bib record this LCCN is found in the 010.  On the LC authority record it is the 001.

005 =  This is a date/time stamp – it will show the last time an authority record was updated.  Example:  20030808053519.0.  2003 is the year, 08 is the month, 08 is the day, and then the rest of the numbers equate down to the minute and second.

008 =  A fixed field – this field is very similar to a bib record in that it provides info on how an authority can and cannot be used (example:  it can be used as a name and/or subject heading, it can’t be used as a serial).

010 =  This is a repeat of the 001 control number.  Past control numbers appear here too:

010  $an  79065753 $zno 92031869

1XX =  Your main heading (whoo-hoo!) = see above explanation for how they match up with bib headings.  You will see:  100, 110, 111, 130, 150, 151, 155 and 185.  The 155 is for genres (which show up on bibs as 655_0 or 655_7 with a $2) and the 185 is for subject subfields (for instance, the $x in a 650 tag).

2XX =  Complex see-references.

3XX =  Complex see-also references.

4XX =  See-from references = These lead a user from an older, not authorized heading to the current valid heading (1XX).  In the authority record the tag structure typically reflects that of the 1XX:  400, 410, 411, 430, 450, 451, 455, 485.

5XX =  See-also references = These lead a user from one valid heading to another related valid heading.  In the authority record the tag structure typically reflects that of the 1XX:  500, 510, 511, 530, 550, 551, etc.

When a patron wants to look something up in an authority file on their ILS system, their findings will reflect what is found on an authority record.  For example, The authority Record below:

100 1_ $aTwain, Mark,$d1835-1910

400 1_ $aConte, Louis de,$d1835-1910

500 1_ $aClemens, Samuel Langhorne,$d1835-1910

Would Display as follows on your typical ILS System:

Twain, Mark, 1835-1910

See also:          Clements, Samuel Langhorne, 1835-1910

Clements, Samuel Langhorne, 1835-1910

See also:          Twain, Mark, 1835-1910

Conte, Louis de, 1835-1910

See:                 Twain, Mark, 1835-1910

6XX =  Notes.  These are used to explain various aspects of the authority record or to justify the heading.  The most common ones you see are 667 and 670.

7XX =  Heading Linking entries.  The most common one is the 781 field, which may show you how a geographic subdivision should be used.  Example:  781 $zIreland$zDublin.

8XX =  Alternative graphics.

9XX =  Library of Congress local tags.

By Judy Archer

Blind References

Friday, May 22nd, 2009


Blind References:  A subject, name or series title authority record contains a blind reference if there is no heading in the database corresponding to the valid form stored in the authority file.  Usually the last bibliographic record that contained the heading has been deleted.  These authority records are to be deleted from your ILS system authority file.

On a library’s ILS system the blind reference will either not be included in the authority index or will be included in the index with zero hits (bibliographic connections) associated with it. When an authority file is in place on an ILS system only the authorized heading 1XX or the see also reference 5XX of the authority record can be a blind reference. The nature of the see reference 4XX always points to the authorized heading 1XX and can not be a blind reference though on some ILS systems a search on the see reference will have the same result as a search on the authorized heading if the authority record is a blind reference. That is no bibliographic record will be found.

Example of a Blind Reference: Note the 0 that is in yellow is a blind reference.  The other 0 under Topographic Brain mapping is a see reference.

Subject                                                                                    Titles

Topographic brain mapping.                                      0 

  • See: Brain mapping.                                           1

Topographic maps – Databases. 2

Topographic maps — Databases — Software. 0

Topographic maps — Software. 2

How a Blind Reference gets on a Library’s ILS system

There are several ways an ILS system produces Blind References.  The following is a list of a few.

1.      If a library deletes the last bibliographic record associated with an authority it will become a blind reference unless it is removed from the system.

2.      If a new authority does not match up to an existing authorized bibliographic heading it will become a blind reference.

3.      If an authority automation vendor delivers an authority that the library no longer owns it will become a blind reference.

The first description of how a blind reference gets on a library system can be avoided by making sure that you delete any authority associated with a deleted bibliographic record.  Most ILS systems automatically generate a report of these occurrences.

The second blind authority problem occurs during the automation authority control process.  In the past these had to be reconciled or connected through a semi automated and sometimes time consuming process.  Backstage now has a process called “Heading Tracker” that makes manual reconciliation almost obsolete.

The last blind authority problem also occurs during the automated authority control process but can be easily remedied by routine maintenance described below.


The library needs to send their authority deletes to their automation vendor.  There is no automatic removal from the master authority file your vendor keeps with the library’s authority database.  The process can be part of a simple routine maintenance. Most ILS systems automatically generate a file of deleted authority records that can be accessed through reports.  If a list of the deleted records is sent to Backstage we can remove them from your master authority file.  That list should include the control number (001) of the authority record.

Announcing: Heading Tracker a death date fix and more

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Backstage Library Works is pleased to announce Heading Tracker, a much-anticipated enhancement to the MARS Authority Control Service. This enhancement is free to MARS clients using ongoing authority control services — Current Cataloging, Notification Services, or both.

In response to requests from many of our clients, the MARS team has developed this Heading Tracker enhancement to bridge the gap between antiquated and updated headings provided by the Library of Congress, when LC does not formally establish a see reference to connect the old heading to its new version.

This gap is most often noticeable in the problem whose solution we’ve long referred to as the ‘death date fix’ — where LC adds a death date to a name heading, causing a disconnect between your records with open death dates and the new authorized headings with closed dates — but it shows up in changes to uniform titles and other headings as well.

To resolve this problem, the Heading Tracker subroutine automatically generates a see reference (4XX) in your authority record, using the old Library of Congress heading. This see reference is marked as a local tag with a subfield ‘5’ and Backstage’s institution code: $5UtOrBLW. The see reference is also prefaced with a subfield ‘w’ and the appropriate coding to hide the reference from the library’s public access module: $wnnea.

An example of a see reference (4XX) correcting for the addition of a death date would look like this:
(Note that the $w and $5 are highlighted in yellow.)

001 __ n 50000918
003 __ DLC
005 __ 20090218072944.0
008 __ 800208n| acannaabn |a aaa
010 __ $an 50000918
035 __ $a(OCoLC)oca00036619
040 __ $aDLC$beng$cDLC$dOCoLC
100 1_ $aParker, Fan,$d1908-2004
400 1_ $aPockrose, Fania M.,$d1908-2004
400 1_ $wnnea$aParker, Fan,$d1908-$5UtOrBLW
670 __ $aOCLC, Feb. 17, 2009$b(hdgs.: Parker, Fan, 1908- ; Parker, Fan, 1908- ; usage: Fan Parker)

As with most functions of MARS 2.0, options for the Heading Tracker can be selected in your profile. For instance, if you want to display in the Public Access module, we can do that. If you want the enhancement, but you would rather not include undifferentiated or generic headings, we can specify that, too. The standard options available for this feature are listed below.

  • Display in public access, or not. The default will be to not display.
  • Create an undifferentiated or generic see reference, or not. The default is to create the reference.
  • Clean up see references (other than a 430) by making the second indicator of that tag blank, in compliance with Library of Congress standards. The default is to not adjust the LC-provided indicator.
  • Run a second file without Heading Tracker data, directly after the first file, to remove the Backstage-created see references. This provides the connection between old and new headings when importing the files to your ILS, but removes the old references when the second file is loaded. The default is to not provide a second file.

If there are options that you are interested in that are not listed above, let us know and we’ll work to accommodate your needs.

To incorporate the Heading Tracker process on your next Current Cataloging or Notification run, please contact your MARS project manager.

The MARS staff hopes this enhancement will further streamline your automated authority control process. Your input is always appreciated. Contact us if you have questions or concerns.

To learn more, ask questions, or make comments on this enhancement, click over to the Heading Tracker thread on our Control Center Community Forum.


John Reese
Vice President, Authority Services
Backstage Library Works
1-800-288-1265 x.249

Loading Replacement Authorities into Polaris

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

An update from Polaris Integrated Library Systems – $z in the 010 tag

Polaris ILS versions prior to version 3.5 do not allow an incoming authority record to overlay if the Library of Congress authority record is replaced by an older version of that authority record.  When a newer record replaces an older record at the Library of Congress a “$z” with the old authority control number is added to the 010 of the new record.  This tells the library that there was an old version of this record and it has been replaced with this new version.  Prior to Polaris version 3.5, the Polaris system would not recognize the $z as the old record and the overlay would not take place.

According to Brad Rogers, Director of Implementation Services at Polaris, version 3.5 addresses this issue with a new dedupe rule added specifically for authority record importing.  Version 3.5 is slated for release by Polaris in just a few weeks.  The following Polaris importing setup screen reflects the change.

Screenshot showing new import rules allowed by the soon to be released latest Polaris update.

Screenshot showing new import rules allowed by the soon to be released latest Polaris update.

Always Load in Correct Order

Friday, March 20th, 2009


We have often had clients ask us in what order they should load their authorities, if they have several groups to load.  Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the situation where you haven’t loaded your last set of authority updates and now you’ve sent in new bibliographic records to be processed, or maybe your next scheduled update has arrived.  You find yourself looking at two or more batches of authorities and you wonder, “Does it really matter which goes first?”  Absolutely!  And here’s why:


    *  Say you had a scheduled authority update in December, but things went crazy busy and you haven’t had time to load those authorities yet.  Now it’s March and you have a large group of new bibliographic records that need processing, so you send them in.  Thinking you can save time by loading both the December updates and the bibliographic authorities at the same time, you wait for the new group to be returned.  But now … which to load first?  You should load the December updates first.  Example:

    *  You have a heading for Doe, John,$d1955-   and sometime last year LC updated that to Doe, John Joseph,$d1955- (and if we’re lucky, LC added the “old” heading as a 400 see-reference).  This changed authority would deliver with the December group you hadn’t loaded yet.

    *  Now you’ve sent in your bib records and in there is the heading for Doe, John,$d1955-  .  However, between December and today’s date LC decided to edit the record again and they put out a new authority with the new heading of: Doe, John J.,$d1955- (and still kept the original “old” heading of Doe, John,$d1955-  in a 400 see-reference tag).

    *  With the processed bibs you’d get back the very newest authority for Doe, John J.,$d1955-, which is what you’d want in your system.

    *  But if you decide to load the bibliographic records and associated authorities first and the December authority updates second, the middle version of Doe, John Joseph,$d1955-  (from the December updates) would overwrite the newest authority sent with the bibs, and you would be stuck with an older, not current LC version of this heading.

Which is why it’s always wisest to load oldest-to-newest, when you’re working with several projects at once.

Written by: Judy Archer