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PCCLIST  April 2015

PCCLIST April 2015

Subject:

Re: Best practices in updating authority records

From:

Gary L Strawn <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Program for Cooperative Cataloging <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:35:10 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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I'm going to take this opportunity to post some comments that I've been assembling over the last few weeks. These points apply to libraries of all types and sizes, from the very largest to the smallest; and include my own institution. If I sound a bit curmudgeonly at times, so be it; so far this calendar year I've updated nearly 9,900 errors in authority records.

Our motto should be: If it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right.

1) Learn the various 3XX tags, and use the tag that corresponds to the data. If you don't know, look it up; don't guess. ("female" does not belong in a 377 field, "Gospel musicians" does not belong in a 375 field, and "eng" does not belong in a 374 field.)

2) If you're going to use the 046 field, read the documentation; you aren't free to guess or make something up. Common errors:
	If you only have a month and a year, a hyphen is required (this does not mean you necessarily have "$2 edtf")
	If you have "$2 edtf" then hyphens are *required* between year and month, and month and day
	The order of date elements is year-month-day. Not year-day-month; not month-day-year; not day-month-year.  Largest to smallest in scope; it's actually quite simple.

3) The policy for the 370 field couldn't be clearer: Always use the NAF form for a place if there is one. The former policy of replacing the parentheses with a comma, and of abbreviating some names, has been out of effect for several years now; stop doing this.

4) Verify every name used in the 3XX fields against the relevant authority record. Never rely on your memory, or the word of someone else shouted across the room. 

5) Don't verify from a system-provided list of headings that match a search term, but view the actual authority record. That's one easy way to avoid thinking that a series heading is a subject heading. ("Financial management" is not an LCSH term.)

6) Using copy-and-paste even for the simplest terms is a foolproof way to avoid typing mistakes. Since you're already viewing the authority record (#5), why would you NOT do this?  You can't spell "History" or "Journalists" right every time, let alone "Ophthalmology", or the name of your own institution. Using copy-and-paste is also, obviously, of great use in other contexts, such as name/title authority records; this allows you to get the name part the same for each occurrence. And further, given the weak support in most of our systems for special characters: If a name contains diacritics or special characters, why would you not copy-and-paste the thing?  Always copy-and-paste terms used in 5XX fields, too (and get the 510 indicator right, while you're at it).

7) After pasting a heading into one of the 33X fields, replace subject subfields $v, $x, $y and $z with two hyphens (with a space on either side of the hyphens, or not, as you prefer), and replace other subfield codes with a space. Do not change the full stop at the end of the component subfields of a hierarchical corporate name to a comma.
	THIS: University of Vermont. College of Medicine
	NOT this: University of Vermont College of Medicine
	NOT this: University of Vermont, College of Medicine

8) Learn the difference between LCSH and NAF records. It's really not difficult: If the 010 starts "n", it's NAF; if it starts "s", it's LCSH (unless it's LCGMT, LCMPT, and so on). "New Orleans (La.)" by itself is not in LCSH, it's in NAF.

9) If you put commonly-used terms into macros or some other recall device, make sure you use the correct term; macros make it really easy to propagate an error. A macro or other device, correctly applied, would also be of help for common subfield $i terms in 5XX fields; many examples to the contrary, there's really only one way to spell "Predecessor".

10) For LCSH, learn the difference between an authority record and a reference record. Terms appearing in reference records are not valid LCSH terms. One easy clue: If the record contains a 260 field, you can't call it LCSH. "Military bands" is not a valid LCSH term.

11) Subfields $2, $s, $t, $u and $v apply to the entire field. Repeat the field as necessary for various combinations of these subfields. The following is not appropriate usage:
	373 $a University of Michigan $2 naf $a Ann Arbor (Mich.). Department of Forestry

12) Subfield $2 comes to the left of $s, $t, $u and $v; codes in subfield $2 do not justify the dates or the source information.

13) If a name isn't in NAF, do your best to come up with an approximation of the name as it would be, were it established. For hierarchical corporate names, this means largest entity first, with full stops and spaces between subordinate entities. Use the NAF form for the parts that are established.
	THIS: University of California, Santa Barbara. East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies
	NOT THIS: East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies, UC Santa Barbara

14) If you don't want to use the LCSH plural form in the 374 field, you're perfectly free to use a singular form instead; but then you can't call the singular form an LCSH heading. ("College teacher" is not an LCSH term.)

15) Take the NACO "normalization" rules into account. A 4XX field that differs from another 4XX field in the same record (or the 1XX field) only in matters of capitalization or diacritical marks is inappropriate.


Gary L. Strawn, Authorities Librarian, etc.           Twitter: GaryLStrawn
Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston IL 60208-2300
e-mail: [log in to unmask]   voice: 847/491-2788   fax: 847/491-8306
Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.       BatchCat version: 2008.22.409

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