I've been following this discussion with interest. For what it's worth, here's my opinion:
1. I think that death dates should be added when we have them. Most especially for prominent people, but for others as well. One of the hardest reference questions to answer is "is this person still alive". We have the capability to enhance one source available to our reference colleagues. And if we enhance the catalog, it'll make it easier for reference librarians to find the answer quickly.
2. I deeply resent the fact that such policy decisions are driven by the lack of capabilities in our technological tools. It is unconscionable that any library system vendor offers a product with a poor, or worse, no, authority control system. It is also unconscionable that any library system vendor would offer a product that doesn't allow for efficient global updating of headings. I belive that we must _demand_ (not ask nicely for) these capabilities from our vendors, and let them know with our dollars that we will not settle for less than what we need. I understand that there are libraries who are not automated. Could they not intefile cards with death dates with the ones that do not have death dates?
3. I am puzzled by the discussion of "inconsistencies across library catalogs". When we download records into our system, we make changes to the record to meet our local needs. I find it really hard to believe that we are the only library to do this. Surely this creates inconsistencies already, having death dates in some headings doesn't seem to me to add that much inconsistency to an already inconsistent culture.
Just my $.35.
US GAO Library
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