New Mexico State University

Authority Control at the NMSU Library

Everything you've always wanted to know about authority control but were afraid to ask!

Authority control can be defined as the assignment of a unique form of a heading and the use of cross-references from both unused and related headings in order to bring together, in one place, all the works of an author, titles in a series, editions of a work, and subjects dealing principally or exclusively with a topic. The use of "see" and "see also" references help create a syndetic structure to guide the user to the material being sought in an efficient manner.

History of Authority Control

At the NMSU Library we have worked hard to maintain accuracy in our on-line catalog through strict bibliographic control of headings entering the system. In the years preceding the automation of our catalog, manual authority control (called "variation searching") was an important part of the day-to-day tasks of the cataloging staff. All main, added, and series entries listed on the card sets received for incoming material were checked for accuracy in an extensive manual authority file, cross-reference cards were typed and filed in the public catalog, and corrections of changed headings were made. It was a natural progression with the automation of our catalog in 1985 to implement authority control and database maintenance processes in an electronic environment. With a large and constantly growing database, we try to facilitate efficient access to our library's resources by adhering to the concepts of uniformity of headings and cross-referencing in our on-line catalog.

Sources of Authority Records

There are four primary sources for authority records entering our on-line catalog . The majority of our authority records are exported from OCLC. These include authority records for personal names, corporate bodies, conferences, series, uniform titles, and name/titles. We outsource authority records for our government documents bibliographic records. These authority records are retrieved monthly via FTP protocol from Marcive. Since we also have the entire Library of Congress subject heading file loaded into our system, we also receive, via FTP protocol, the weekly subject heading updates from the Library of Congress Cataloging Distribution Service. The final source for authority records in our on-line catalog are those established locally by our cataloging staff when records are not available from OCLC for a particular heading and that they feel needs cross-references. In this case, the cataloger fills out an Electronic Authority Request Form and the local authority record is then entered into the system by authorities personnel.

Bibliographic Fields Under Authority Control

The system vendor for our on-line catalog, Endeavor, provides several access point capabilities in the OPAC. The chart below lists the bibliographic fields which are under authority control in our on-line catalog and thus are capable of cross-referencing potential. Unfortunately this system does not provide searchable cross references access points for series and uniform titles.

Bibliographic Fields Under Authority Control
Main Entries
Series Entries
(4xx, 8xx)
Uniform Titles
Added Entries
Subject Entries
100, 110, 111,
1xx / 240
440, 800, 810,
811, 830
130, 630, 730
700, 710, 711
600, 610, 611,
650, 651

Authority Control and Database Maintenance Procedures

Authority control and database maintenance is an ongoing process at NMSU Library. Authority and data maintenance reports are run Monday through Friday for unauthorized names (personal, corporate, conference), unauthorized titles (series and uniform titles), unauthorized subjects (topical, geographic as well as names used as subjects), and unauthorized name-titles. The Duplicate Authority Records report is also run on a Monday through Friday schedule as is the 'See' References With Linked Bib report, the 'See' References Authorized In Another Authority Record report, and the 'See-Also' References Without Corresponding Authority Record report. The report schedule is maintained through the use of the "cron" job capabilities in the system allowing the reports to be run on a nightly basis Monday through Friday.

All authority work from the reports listed above is done "on-line" rather than working from printed reports by using Access queries to sort and formulate the data contained in each report, and the Macro Express software program to copy the heading from the Access query and then toggle to OCLC where the heading is pasted and searched - all with one keystroke. A second macro, when activated, then exports the authority record from OCLC and toggles back to Access where it then drops down to the next heading in the list. Each macro is customized to the particular type of heading that is being searched. The queries are specific as to the type of heading being worked on - separate queries break the reports by heading type.

By automating the process of sorting, searching, and exporting authority records, time is saved that can then be used to do more complicated database maintenance in the on-line catalog. For batch correction processes the Cataloger's Toolkit and Correction Receiver software programs, developed by Mr. Gary Strawn, of Northwestern University, are used. This collection of software programs, that work with the Voyager on-line system, facilitate a streamlined approach to database maintenance by making a wide range of global correction possibilities available. The use of the various external software programs is necessary due to the very limited capabilities of the system for efficient batch corrections.

Brief Outline of Authority Control Procedures

  • Authority records are downloaded from OCLC for personal, corporate, conference, uniform title, and series headings listed on the Catjob reports as first-time use and in need of an authority record.
  • If the OCLC authority record does not appear to have adequate cross-references, local modifications are made to the authority record after it is downloaded and it is flagged with NMSU Library's OCLC symbol of IRU in the 040 field to alert catalogers that the record has been modified locally.
  • Each weekend the Library of Congress Subject Heading update files are loaded into the system via Bulkimport.
  • During the daily authority work, authority records for headings that are being locally established by our catalogers are input into the database. The catalogers use an on-line form Electronic Authority Request Form to submit their information and are given receipt verification once the information has been submitted electronically.

Authority Outsourcing Projects

Due to the increasing demands of a rapidly expanding on-line catalog as well as the need to implement authority control and database maintenance for material entering the system from our Branch libraries, we have begun two outsourcing projects for authority records. These projects have been very successful because of their well-defined scope and place in our authority control routine. These outsourcing projects for loading authority records which may not have bibliographic record headings attached is made feasible by virtue of our vendor software being able to automatically suppress from the public OPAC blind entries. The system automatically unsuppresses these blind headings when a bibliographic record enters the system and is attached to the authority record. This eliminates dead-end searches for our patrons since they only see menu items which have bibliographic records attached on author, title, series, and subject searches, and on any subsequent "referral" screen searches. Unfortunately the system is unable to differentiate and suppress authority records and the associated cross-references that are attached to bibliographic records that are suppressed. This is a manageable problem since we do not have a tremendous number of suppressed records in our on-line catalog.

MARCIVE Authorities Outsourcing Project for U.S. Government Documents

Our first venture into outsourcing of authorities was the MARCIVE Authorities Project. Each month we retrieve, via FTP protocol from MARCIVE, two separate files of authority records that correspond to the monthly bibliographic file for our incoming government documents. The authority records from MARCIVE are broken into two distinct files corporate/conference/personal authors; and corporate/conference/personal subject authors) with each file being loaded separately. By loading the authority records before the bibliographic records are entered into the on-line catalog, we are able to have the corresponding authority records in place in the system prior to the bibliographic records entering the system which eliminates a great deal of work.

Library of Congress Subject Authorities Outsourcing Project

Our second outsourcing project is the loading of the entire Library of Congress Subject Authorities file with weekly updates. This project gives our cataloging personnel on-line access to the latest and most up-to-date subject headings. The updated files are retrieved via FTP protocol and loaded into the system weekly. The quarterly subdivision paper report is matched against the incoming data and all changed subject heading records which have subdivisions are searched in the on-line catalog and corrected as needed.

Automating Database Maintenance Projects

By virtue of being able to do finite queries of our database using SQL, we are able to identify and retrieve groups of records that need some type of standardized correction. By building macros using the software Macro Express, importing the data into Excel or creating Access tables, we are able to correct the records automatically using a PC dedicated to automatic correction. This was particularly useful post-migration to correct some non-standard Fixed Field information that was created by our old system. The key element is that the records have an identical problem and that there is no variation as to the position of the field(s) being corrected, etc. An example of this process is outlined below.

A sample problem that we corrected in an "automated" solution:  Post-migration we discovered that we had thousands of older, locally established authority records not containing an 040 field and with numerous Fixed Field anomalies.

Automated solution

  • The database was queried for the absence of the 040 field using SQL.
  • A table was made that included the authority id and any other relevant data.
  • Since the 040 field will always appear in the same position in a locally established authority record, we then created a macro (using Macro Express software) that copied the authority id number, toggled to the Cataloging client and retrieved the record by the authority id number.
  • The macro then created an 040 field in the record and pasted our OCLC holdings symbol (including the delimiter character) into the record.
  • Fixed Field anomalies were then corrected in the 008 field by the macro.
  • After the standardized edits were made, the macro then saved the record to the database then moved back to the Access table or an Excel file and began the process for the next record in the list.

Using this type of process we were able to enhance over 20,000 local authority records this past year automatically. We also used a variation on this process to delete 55,000 provisional authority records that were no longer needed in our current system. The time spent creating very detailed and specific lists of records and building complicated macros makes the automation of corrections, enhancements, or deletions possible and streamlines database maintenance functionality saving a tremendous amount of time and eliminating a lot of manual correction of records.

Links to Other Authority Control Information Sites