Posts Tagged ‘Novice’

Basic Authority Control Terms for Novices

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Authority Control is a specialized subset of library science and has it’s own unique vocabulary. To help librarians and administrators who may be dealing with authority control for the first time we’ve created, and are continuing to create, resources for both authority novices and experts. Today, we’ve asked our resident Authority Librarian to give us a brief and basic overview of Authority Control. We hope it helps.

Some basic authority control terms:

Authority control

The term used in library and information science to refer to the practice of consistent use and maintenance of the forms of names, subjects, uniform titles, etc. used as headings in a catalog. Authority control fulfills two important functions.

1)  It enables catalogers to disambiguate items with similar or identical headings.

2)  It is used by catalogers to collocate materials that logically belong together, although they present themselves differently.

Authority control can provide the underlying structure of the catalog when this process is used to create links between bibliographic records and the authority file.

Authority work

The process of determining the form of a name, title, or subject concept that will be used as a heading on a bibliographic record; determining cross references needed to that form; and determining relationships of this heading to other authoritative headings.

Authorized Heading

The form of an entry, i.e., the word(s) or phrase(s) chosen to provide an access point to the bibliographic record in the catalog or database.


An alternate heading which directs the user to either the established form of a heading or to related headings Through the use of see and see also references, authority control creates a syndetic structure that guides the user to the materials sought.  This structure forms the pillar of authority control and makes possible efficient access to resources

See Reference – variant forms from the chosen, or authorized form of the heading.  They are used to lead the searcher to the proper form of the heading.

See Also Reference – Related form of a heading that is also an authorized heading.

Authority record

A record which shows a heading in the form established for use in the catalog; lists the cross-references to be made to and from the heading, cites the sources consulted in establishing the heading, and includes any other information that would be pertinent to the heading and its use.

Authority file

A set of authority records listing the chosen form of a heading and its appropriate cross-references. Types of authority files include name authority, series, and subject authority files

Library of Congress file are widely used.  They have separate name and subject files, but they are indexed together for searching at In addition to using a national authority file, individual institutions may have local authority files.

Global change

The ability to change every occurrence of a specified string of characters in a catalog, usually by using one command to change all representations of a heading from one form to another form.  This is facilitated by actually linking the authority headings to the bibliographic records.

We have even more resources, including an extensive and growing terminology page on our Wiki.