Name Authority Control

From AC Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search


Definition of name authority control:

Name authority is the identification and formulation of unique identifiers for names. It is the process of choosing one authorized form of the name to provide consistency in its use. The choice of name and the form used is governed by Anglo American Cataloging Rules (AACR2). To facilitate searching for materials produced by the entity represented by the name, all variant forms should be identified and recorded. In this way, all materials will be found under the same form of the name regardless of what form appears on the individual items.

To provide control of names in a catalog or database, the chosen, or authorized, form of the name and its variant forms are identified in an authority record. In authority records created in accordance with the MARC21 standard (, the authorized form is recorded in the 1XX field, and the variant forms are recorded in 4XX tags. Information about sources used to choose the form may be recorded in 670 fields.

AACR2 recognizes three types of name headings; personal names, corporate names, and geographic jurisdictions. Since all these types are used as access points in bibliographic records, they need to be under authority control.

Personal Name Headings

Personal names headings include names of individuals and family names. Headings of this type are represented in the Marc format by X00 tags. The guidelines for determining the authorized form of names are given in AACR2 chapter 22. The general rule for authors is to choose the form that is most prominently used by the person. For other individuals, the general rule is to choose the name by which the person is most commonly known. AACR2 provides guidelines for acceptable sources to be used to determine the proper form of a name.

Personal names can be a challenge to find a unique form. There can often be several people that have the same name and it is important to differentiate between them. Birth and death dates are the most common identifiers used. Titles, honorifics, and other descriptors can be used to provide further differentiation.

Corporate Name Headings

AACR2 defines a corporate body as "an organization or a group of persons that is identified by a particular name and that acts, or may act, as an entity." (citation AACR2 21.1B1) The general guidelines for choosing the form of a corporate name are similar to those for personal names, and are found in Section 24 of AACR2. Basically, the form chosen should be the form by which the body is "commonly known." One difference between personal and corporate names is that when a person changes their name, they are still the same entity and only one form is chosen as the authorized form with cross-references made for all other forms. When a corporation changes its name, it is considered a new entity and so a new authorized form should be chosen. This means another authority record will be required. See-also references (5xx tags) can be made to link the two headings.

In AACR2, corporate name headings also include conference and meeting names and their guidelines are also found in Section 24.  AACR 2 defines a conference as "meetings of individuals or representatives of various bodies for the purpose of discussing and/or acting on topics of current interest, or meetings of representatives of a corporate body that constitute its legislative or governing body."  (citation AACR2 21.1B1 fn.1)  A meeting must be named to be considered an access point and therefore under authority control.  Some guidelines for determining if the meeting is named are,  use of definite articles, capitalization, and words that connotes a meeting such as "conference," "symposium," etc.  Corporate body headings use tags X10 and conferences and meeting names are found in X11 tags in MARC21 format.

Geographic headings

The guidelines for choosing geographic name forms are in AACR2 chapter 23. The general rule is to use the English form if one is in use, or if not, then use the form in the official language of the place. Geographic names create some confusion because they can be used for two different types of headings, the name of the place and also the name of the jurisdiction. These two types of headings are used in different ways in a bibliographic record. Jurisdiction names are considered corporate bodies and are used as added entry access points and in MARC 21, tagged as 110, 710 or 810. They are not used as 610 because when used as a subject, they are considered as a place name and tagged as 651. The same name will be used for both and only one authority record is made. They will be tagged as 151 in the authority record.

Only names that can stand alone will share an authority to serve for the place name and the jurisdiction name. Names of subordinate units entered under the place name are always considered a corporate name and will be coded as 110 in the authority record and X10 in the bibliographic record.

Names of jurisdictions are treated the same as corporate bodies if their name changes and a new authority record will need to be made. Jurisdiction names that are qualified by a larger body that changes it name will be modified rather that have a new authority record made. For instance, Moscow did not change its name when the Soviet Union became Russia. This is the one of the few times a heading other than a personal name will have the record modified rather than another record made.


Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd. Ed., 1998 revision. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

Clack, Doris Hargrett, Authority Control: Principles, Applications, and Instructions. Chicago: American Library Association, 1990.

Maxwell, Robert L., Maxwell’s Guide to Authority Work. Chicago and London: American Library Association, 2002.