I must admit to having mixed feelings about this proposal to add death
dates to existing personal name headings with open dates.

On the one hand I have long wanted to be able to add death dates to
established personal name headings with open dates, especially those for
well-known persons, and have been pained that the rules for authority
control did not permit it.  Thus, I should be jumping with joy at the

On the other hand, like Sherman Clarke, I am concerned about the
inconsistency that this proposal will add to catalogs.  Adding a death
date to an existing authority record, knowing that many libraries that use
that record will not go back and update the bib records they already have
with the open date form of the heading, seems a recipe for confusion.

Thinking of the proposal in terms of Cutter's objectives for the catalog,
I do not see that adding a death date to an authority record will improve
the finding of a specific work, nor will it make it more difficult.  As
for the collocation function of a catalog, that will be lessened AS LONG
UNDER A DIFFERENT FORM thus making nonsense of the concept that each
variant heading represents a different person.  Of course, for those
libraries that have the ability to change existing bib records with the
older form of the heading, collocation will remain with the added
advantage that the headings will now be more up-to-date and more
reflective of the known facts.

All that being said, should we base our rule changes on the capabilities
of the weakest libraries?  Or should we go ahead and adopt changes and
leave it to later improvements in technology, funding, workflow, etc.
to allow those libraries to catch up?  If we wait until everyone is in a
position to change we will probably never adopt anything new since that
time is unlikely ever to arrive.

To adopt the proposal or not to adopt?  In the end I think I will have to
favor adopting the proposal to add death dates, if only for the personal
pleasure I get from having the headings reflect all that I know about the
person, and to prevent catalogers from being charged with ignorance,
laziness, etc.

cc: cpso

Judith Hopkins                          [log in to unmask]
Norcross, GA  30092-1872                [log in to unmask]

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