If all we could get was a list of names or names with meaningless differentiating numbers, I wouldn't see the point of this either. But computers can do better than that. Lots of list display entries are actually concatenations of data from more than one source. For example, our system can show title and main entry data as additions to its call number lists, which is helpful for shelflisting, even though the title and main entry don't appear in the call number field. Similarly, bits of data from elsewhere in an authority record, or from elsewhere in a data system if the necessary linking data is present, could be combined with the name heading in a list display, as occurs in the IMDb Names index. The added information doesn't have to be part of the heading to become part of the list display.

But--adding these kinds of details is much more useful if the name entries are differentiated for those persons catalogers have judged to be different. Hence my argument that we need to abolish undifferentiated personal name authorities by uncoupling differentiation from the form of the heading.

Take an extreme case--two scientists in the same field and the same department publishing under the same name at the same time. We have a book by each of them. Most catalogers would reasonably assume, without some evidence to the contrary, that they're the same person, and I wouldn't fault them for establishing and assigning a single, unique personal name authority to both titles. But suppose there was evidence of difference--say, a picture of the author appears on each book. So we establish them as separate people with the same heading, and assign each title to its authority, and each authority to its appropriate bib record. Now another book appears, but with no picture. What to do? My answer would be that if differentiation is distinct from heading form, it becomes possible to assign the name heading to the new book without necessarily ascribing its authorship to either of the two established authorities. This to me would be truer to the state of knowledge about the new book and its predecessors than would creating a third, undifferentiated personal name authority just to accommodate the as yet unascribed title. Perhaps the point of this little digression is that the real problem in the case of very similar authors is one of ascribing authorship rather than of differentiating individuals. We're better off dealing with such cases with a mechanism like OCLC's controlled/uncontrolled headings rather than with undifferentiated personal name authorities.


On Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 8:40 AM, Mike Tribby <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I am indeed a slow learner at times, the moreso with anything regarding RDA, but I'm still wondering what the results display would look like in the environment Stephen Hearn describes. for the example of Michael Douglas, would the patron entering the search simply pull up a list of "Douglas, Michael" entries, undifferentiated until clicked on? Would some snippet of differentiating information appear in the list? If it's just a list of "Douglas, Michael" results with no further information on the results screen, how is that an improvement on what we have now? At least with birth and/or death dates a patron could make an educated guess for a film star like Douglas, but what if the search is on "Johnson, George"-- where one is searching on a very common name for a person who may well not be the son of Kirk Douglas or a cultural icon, but just an author (or director, or artist, or poet, or whatever) who is not yet widely known?

I don't deny that the information available in Stephen's scenario would be an improvement on our present bare bones approach, but how does this lead to a clearer display for patrons? Aside from occasional factual mistakes, one of the most consistent complaints I hear about IMDb's results displays are that they can be a jumble of undifferentiated names (other than the Roman numerals).

However, with mots like this: "detailed a far more seamier side of the Hollywood film industry"* it's a daily source of entertainment.

*from IMDb's bio of Kenneth Angerer.

Mike Tribby
Senior Cataloger
Quality Books Inc.
The Best of America's Independent Presses

mailto:[log in to unmask]

-----Original Message-----
From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Stephen Hearn
Sent: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 4:09 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Theses name headings and privacy concerns

When I search "michael douglas" in IMDb, I get a list of identities for "Michael Douglas." They have the roman numeral designation, but more importantly, they also have information associating, say, a particular Michael Douglas with "stunts" for "Ski School". The point is that the roman numeral is just a neutral bit of differentiating data (in principle; not claiming that IMDb has done a great job of merging and differentiating persons). Once the differentiation is achieved, other facts can be called up and joined to the differentiated identity. The type of facts and the type of display could vary; it wouldn't have to follow the pattern in IMDb. That said, if I'm looking for a Michael Douglas who's credited as a stuntperson on the DVD I'm cataloging, the information IMDb provides is more useful to me than a list of birth dates would be. It's also more economical, since the facts about this Michael Douglas are already recorded in the data IMDb has for "Ski School," and don't need to be researched. A machine could come up with them, given the right underlying data structures.

I also like that all the "Michael Douglas" entries are pulled together in IMDb. In our catalog, any $c text gets alphabetized with all the middle names and initials for other Michael Douglases, making the task of browsing to find a particular Michael Douglas that much more arduous. If our indexes could collocate the $c cases, that would help, but I've given up on hoping for that. The better solution would be to make the name heading simple, make it always possible to differentiate one heading from another, and work on deriving the additional identifying information associated with the identified name for the list display. That wouldn't solve all our problems. There will always be ambiguous cases and the potential for human error. But it would be a big step forward in terms of our ability to differentiate entities and convey useful information about them.


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