Change an Author’s Authorized Heading

When and why does the Library of Congress change an author’s authorized heading (i.e. do they add death dates if someone dies, etc.?)

The Library of Congress usually tries NOT to change an author’s authorized heading (i.e. the officially correct form of the author’s name) if at all possible. This is primarily because of database maintenance. If the authorized form is changed, all the libraries all over the world, who have used that name in their catalogs, have to correct their databases.

Therefore the Library of Congress will NOT add death dates to an author’s name, even if the authorized form has the birth date and the author is deceased. This can lead to some confusion, and in rare cases the Library of Congress has added the death date because of this confusion. For example, they added the death date to the heading for John Lennon.

Usually an authorized heading is created from the author’s first published work (usually NOT from their thesis.) If the author presents his name differently in later works, or supplies more information on the dust jacket in later works, cross-references and/or notes are added to the authority record as needed. However the authorized heading remains the same.

There are, however, some exceptions. If the author has changed the way they present their name for a long time and that is now the “predominant” form of that author’s name in published works, the Library of Congress MAY change the authorized heading. One can write to the Library of Congress and request such a change. Also, the Library of Congress tries to respect the wishes of the author. If an author publishes under two variant names, and one is the preferred form of the author, the Library of Congress usually will change the heading to the author’s preference.

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