I'm not sure I'll be able to justice to the points so ably articulated
here by others, but for what it's worth, the following represents a
small snippet of the results of an author browse search for 'smith,
john' in my institution's online catalogue (please forgive the ugly
display, which doesn't translate particularly well from the web-based
original to my e-mail package) :

Browse List: Authors

No. of Recs / Entry

3 Smith, Johanna M. - [LC Authority Record]
10 Smith, John.
13 Smith, John, 1580-1631. - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John, 1580-1631 Description of New England German
7 Smith, John, 1580-1631 Memoirs of Captain John Smith
1 Smith, John, 1580-1631 Sea-mans grammar.
1 Smith, John, 1580-1631 Selections 1988
1 Smith, John, 1580-1631 Works 1983
3 Smith, John, 1618-1652. - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John, 1618-1652 Selections 1660
1 Smith, John, 1618-1652 Selections 1673
3 Smith, John, 1630-1679. - [LC Authority Record]
2 Smith, John, 1630-1679 Gerochomia vasilike.

   Smith, John, 1662-1717. - [LC Authority Record]
      See: Smith, Mr (John), 1662-1717.
1 Smith, John, 1681-1766.
2 Smith, John, 1722-1771.
1 Smith, John, 1745-1820.
4 Smith, John, 1747-1807. - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John, 1747-1807 Galic antiquities
1 Smith, John, 1747-1807 Summary view and explanation of the writings of
the prophets Selections
1 Smith, John, 1749-1831.
1 Smith, John, 1752-1809.
7 Smith, John, 1766-1831.
1 Smith, John, 1789-1888.

   Smith, John, 1790-1824. - [LC Authority Record]

   Smith, John, 1792-1868. - [LC Authority Record]
      See: Smith, Seba, 1792-1868.
1 Smith, John, 1798-1888. - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John, 1924-
1 Smith, John A, 1947 Apr. 16- - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John A. (John Angus), 1936-
2 Smith, John A, rector of Baldock

   Smith, John Alec Sydney. - [LC Authority Record]
      See: Smith, J. A. S. (John Alec Sydney)
1 Smith, John Allan, 1902-

   Smith, John Allyn. - [LC Authority Record]
     See: Berryman, John, 1914-1972.
1 Smith, John Augustine, 1782-1865.
1 Smith, John, b. 1648?.
1 Smith, John B, 1940- - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John Bainbridge.
1 Smith, John Bernhard, 1858-1912. - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John Bernhard, 1858-1912 Explanation of terms used in entomology
3 Smith, John Blair, 1756-1799.  - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John Boulton.  - [LC Authority Record]
2 Smith, John Bristow, 1940-  - [LC Authority Record]
1 Smith, John C.
1 Smith, John C, 1809-1883.

The point here is that it is the very addition of this metadata
(qualifiers such as birth/death dates, middle initials, fully-qualified
names, titles, etc.) that enables a user of the catalogue to browse a
listing of dozens or hundreds or thousands of 'John Smith' listings in
order to zero in the right one or few.  This approach obviously assumes
that you have at least *some* sense of when the 'John Smith' in which
you are interested lived (or that he had the middle name 'Bainbridge'...
or whatever).  The qualifying devices serve two very distinct purposes
in that they

- bring together (collocate) all the works of a certain specific 'John
Smith'.  Thus, you'll notice that ND's catalogue indicates we have two
works by 'John A. Smith, rector of Baldock';

- qualifies (makes unique) one 'John Smith' from all others, so that we
can create meaningful chronological or heirarchical displays that will
enable users to find the specific 'John Smith' in whom they are interested.

These functions are at the very heart of modern cataloguing rules and
have been for well over a century.  They are quite apart from MODS or
MARC and should not be confused with them.  MODS and MARC are merely
reflecting in code these longstanding approaches to organizing
bibliographic information.

Hope this helps a bit,

- mt

Marc Truitt
Library Systems Department
213 Hesburgh Library
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5629

Voice  : 574-631-3409
Fax    : 574-631-6772
e-mail : [log in to unmask]
cell   : 574-276-8726

"And what I don't know, I make up.  Who you gonna believe?  A distin-
guished old goat like me?  Or one of those techie whippersnappers?"
                          -- James Steenbergen

Bruce D'Arcus wrote:
> On Monday, May 5, 2003, at 09:33  PM, Karen Coyle wrote:
>> That's another thing that libraries do -- we assign unique names to
>> authors and other "creators." This is part of the reason why the names
>> in the library catalog sometimes look odd.
> Oh, and on this, and just to make the issues I raise of relevance to
> library people more directly:
> Perhaps this way of labeling names accounts for the fact that online
> library catalogs can be so difficult to search?  If I type "John Smith"
> in my library catalog search engine, I imagine I get back a list of 40
> names.  The names themselves rarely help me identify the specific "John
> Smith" I need, though, and I regularly find myself clicking on links in
> vain looking for the records I need.
> On the other hand, if the additional metadata (birth dates, things like
> "musical group," etc.) were instead separated out so they could be
> displayed in separate results fields in a web browser, I imagine my
> life would be made easier.
> Bruce