Authority Control in the Context of Bibliographic Control in the Electronic Environment

Michael Gorman
2004 Cataloging & Classification Quarterly  
There is a sense in which authority control and bibliographic control are coterminoustwo sides of the same coin. At the very least, bibliographic control is literally impossible without authority control. Cataloguing cannot exist without standardized access points and authority control is the mechanism by which we achieve the necessary degree of standardization. Cataloguing deals with order, logic, objectivity, precise denotation, and consistency, and must have mechanisms to ensure these
more » ... ensure these attributes. The same name, title, or subject should always have the same denotation (in natural language or the artificial languages of classification) each time it occurs in a bibliographic record, no matter how many times that may be. Unless there are careful records of each authorized denotation, the variants of that denotation, and citations of precedents and the rules on which that denotation is based (id est, authority control), the desired and necessary standardization cannot be achieved. Let us begin by looking at the fundamentals of cataloguing. A catalogue record consists of three parts: A location or (nowadays) the document itself i The access point leads the user to the record; the description enables the user to decide whether the items desired is the one sought; and the location takes the user to the desired document. This is a simple and profound formulation and is the basis of all cataloguing. Even the wretched Dublin Core, of which more later, contains access points, descriptive elements, and locational information. Each element of a catalogue entry is standardized. The description and the location are presented in standardized form (or they could not be understood). The standards that govern the description (principally, the International Standard Bibliographic Description standards) and the local standards for location designations are not part of authority control. Therefore, authority control and the related vocabulary control are concerned with access points and their standardization. The access point has two basic functions. It enables the catalogue user to find the record and it groups together records sharing a common characteristic. ii In order to carry out the first function it must be standardized (obviously the user should always find Il gattopardo under Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe [Gattopardo], and not sometimes under that access point and sometimes under Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi di and/or translations and variations of the title). This is what is known as vocabulary control-the presentation of every name (personal or corporate), uniform title, series, and subject denotation in a
doi:10.1300/j104v38n03_03 fatcat:izu23xahnzekfmltrnb6vjndpi