Following the example Mike proposes--I have a book on raising angora goats
published in Spain by author Juan Gomez, and I see an authority record for
"Gomez, Juan" with the title "Aerodynamics of paper airplane design" in a
670. A second look up tells me the 670 book is published in the US. The
question is, are these the same person? While it's true that I can't
definitively say they are different people without knowing some unique fact
for both of them, e.g., that they have different birth dates, I can
nevertheless use cataloger's judgment, which tells me that it's highly
likely that these are two people. My contention is that our accuracy rate
for correctly distinguishing people with common names would be significantly
better if we had rules in place that enabled us to make and apply such
judgments, rather than bundling persons we are virtually certain are
different people onto undifferentiated authorities. In practice, it's rare
to see anyone left on an undifferentiated authority when a date is
discovered for the person. By Mike's reasoning, if I found the plane
designer and the goat raiser sharing an undifferentiated authority and then
found a date for the goat raiser, I could do nothing--I still wouldn't have
definitive proof that they're different people. But in practice, such date
discoveries regularly account for the creation of a new, unique authority,
as the PERSNAME-L list attests. We do use judgment in these cases when the
rules allow us to. Separating heading strings from differentiation would
enable us to apply such judgment in all cases.

The advantage of moving to identifiers for managing the uniqueness of
entities is that they provide a stronger basis for assembling linked data.
For example, if OCLC modified its use of "controlled heading" links to
enable an auxiliary display of bib data linked to a given authority, I could
see more information about the plane designer noted above with my first
look-up. The authority record could reach out and find a set of titles
positively identified as being by my author by another cataloger. That would
make my searching easier.

There are lots of ways this could work and could look, and ways it would
still be vulnerable to careless data entry; but on the whole, I think we'd
be better off.


On Mon, Oct 25, 2010 at 1:32 PM, Mike Tribby
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Generally speaking I think worries about identity theft resulting from name
> authority work revealing persons' birthdates or fuller forms of their names
> are overblown. That doesn't mean that every author or other contributor
> wants their vital information shared and, having worked with more that a few
> authors who adamantly didn't want certain facts made a public part of their
> NAR, I sympathize with their desire to have some control over that
> information. As far as identity theft, though, it should be pointed out that
> the Mark Twain example is valid (as an example of finding useful tidbits for
> information theft) more because of Twain's fame than because he's dead.
> Granted most modern identity thieves would shy away from using a birthdate
> from the 1800s, but they's shy away from using a famous name even more. Some
> cases of identity theft do indeed using the personal information of dead
> people, just not famous dead people.
> I routinely give birthdate information not needed to create a currently
> unique NAR in a 670 note, especially if requested to not use the information
> by the author. But regardless of how we create unique name authority records
> I don't see how Stephen Hearn's scenario really changes much: "Once the
> uniqueness of a person's authority record is switched to a
> machine-processable identifier rather than the current name heading, that
> identifier can be used more successfully to locate information about the
> person via linked data stores--e.g., affiliation, other authored titles,
> etc.--thereby making the decisions about who likely wrote what simpler."
> How does that change make it easier to divine that the author with the
> common name who until recently wrote about the aerodynamics of paper
> airplane design has now moved to another country and taken up writing about
> raising angora goats? For at least the first title about the goats, we'd
> still have the problem with matching the author to his previous work and,
> thereby to the proper NAR.
> Mike Tribby
> Senior Cataloger
> Quality Books Inc.
> The Best of America's Independent Presses
> mailto:[log in to unmask]

Stephen Hearn, Metadata Strategist
Technical Services, University Libraries
University of Minnesota
160 Wilson Library
309 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Ph: 612-625-2328
Fx: 612-625-3428