RDA Personal Name Authority Records

Question:  What will personal name authority records look like under RDA and how will this affect searching in the future?

Answer: Resource Description & Access (RDA) is the new cataloging instruction manual that is being used and increasingly will be used by most libraries to record cataloging information. There are a few chapters devoted to the creation of authorized access points. In RDA these are referred to as the “preferred name.”

In RDA one records a number of “attributes” of a person. Following is a list of the attributes one can record in an RDA personal name authority record:

Name of the person
Date associated with the person
Title of the person
Fuller form of name
Other designation associated with the person
Place of birth
Place of death
Country associated with the person
Place of residence
Address of the person
Language of the person
Field of activity of the person
Profession or occupation
Biographical information
Identifier for the person

As one can see the list is quite long. Of course for many persons a cataloger will not have all of the information readily available. However, if some of this information is available on the piece, and the cataloger is authorized to create RDA preferred names, this information CAN be, and most likely, will be encoded into future personal name authority records.

Furthermore, this information is being parsed into separate MARC fields or subfields so that the information can be readily computer manipulated. In the past, a cataloger could choose to add this information in a note field that, in most cases, was not available to the public. Now that information will not only be viewed by the public, but will be able to be manipulated and used for search strategies by computers.

Below is an example of an RDA personal name authority record. I have added comments in blue to explain the MARC fields:

046 |f 19531111 [Date of birth is Nov. 11, 1953]
100  Blake, Michael, |d 1953- [Preferred name with his birth date]
372  anthropology [field of activity]
372  archaeology [field of activity]
372  Mayas [field of activity]
373  University of British Columbia |s 1986 [affiliation, began in 1986]
373  University of Michigan |t 1985 [affiliation, ended in 1985]
373  Brigham Young University’s New World Archaeological Foundation [affiliation]
373  Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation [affiliation]
373  Pacific Latin America in Prehistory [affiliation]
374  professor [occupation]
375  male [gender]
377  eng [the language he creates in]
4001 Blake, Thomas Michael, |d 1953- [variant form of name]
670  Pacific Latin America in prehistory, 1999: |b CIP t.p. (Michael Blake) data sheet (b. 11-11-53) pub. info. (prof. and archaeologist in the Dept. of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
670  His Archaeological investigation at the Wild Horse River (DjPv 14), 1981: |b t.p. (Michael Blake)
670  Colonization, warfare, and exchange at the postclassic Maya site of Canajaste, Chiapas, Mexico, 2010: |b t.p. (Michael Blake; Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation, no. 70)
670  University of British Columbia, website viewed 17 March 2011 |b (Michael Blake, Anthropology faculty, Associate professr, member, Laboratory of Archaeology; joined faculty at University of British Columbia in 1986; Ph.D. in anthropology with a specialization in archeology from University of Michigan in 1985; areas of interest are archeology of Chiapas, Mexico and British Columbia, Canada; doctoral research studied Postclassic period Maya site of Canajasté; project with Brigham Young University’s New World Archaeological Foundation; publicaton list includes several articles in Pacific Latin America in Prehistory)
670  Canajaste, 1985: |b t.p. (Thomas Michael Blake)

As you can see there are many additional fields that can be entered and coded to reveal information as to where this person worked, in what profession, during which years, etc.

In terms of searching this is great news for our users. Since this information is parsed into different fields it is possible for the computer to distinguish these elements. Therefore in the near future we should be able to devise name searches where we ask for John Smith, who worked at Tulane in the 1980s and was an archaeologist. This should be a great improvement over what we have now, especially in the case of common names.

It is interesting to note that authority records that are created as part of the NACO program, which is our national authority program, are currently being entered into VIAF, the Virtual International Authority File. Data from VIAF was recently linked to Wikipedia. It will be very rewarding if cataloger’s name authority work can someday help to bring some more refined searching and better name access across the internet.

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