An interesting discussion. All I want to add is that we are seeking to establish as the heading the form by which a body is commonly identified, which will not necessarily be the "official" name. In cases of variant names, the "official" name is the very last choice in the 24.2D pecking order (unless it is also the form by which the body is commonly identified).
The perplexing cases are those where one form is de-emphasised by the body in favour of another, but the previous preferred name persists as a variant. It's often impossible to be certain whether to treat as a name change, without the benefit of considerable hindsight. 
Richard Moore
Authority Control Team Manager
The British Library
Tel.: +44 (0)1937 546806                               
E-mail: [log in to unmask]                           


From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Watters, Tim (MDE)
Sent: 12 August 2011 19:23
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] sources to use for establishing certain academic departments

I agree completely.


In at least one case the name appeared before the entity was legally organized. Michigan Public Act 135 of 1885 provides "... the asylum located at Traverse City shall be known, when organized, as the Northern Michigan Asylum" ( ) but the corporate name authority record is based on an 1882 publication of those in involved in creating the new asylum and that name is what is reflected in the authority record:


110 2_ Northern Asylum for the Insane at Traverse City (Mich.)


In 1903 the legislature reiterated in Public Act 217: "... the asylum located at Traverse City shall continue to be known as the Northern Michigan Asylum ... "


Unfortunately, the chain of name authority records continued to not reflect the official name:


110 2_ Northern Michigan Asylum at Traverse City


Consequently the most comprehensive history of the asylum does not have the official name in the subject headings, although it is in the title of the book:




Tim Watters

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Special Materials Cataloger

Library of Michigan

702 W. Kalamazoo St.

P.O. Box 30007

Lansing, MI 48909-7507




From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Brueck, Vicki
Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 11:07 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] sources to use for establishing certain academic departments


Chris Baer,


Thank you for your clear discussion of a convoluted issue; it is one that we are dealing with as well.  We mainly create name authority records for state agencies that routinely use variant or previous names on their published materials.  As an example, The “Division of Occupational Safety and Health” was changed by order of a General Statute to “Occupational Safety and Health Division” in 2005.  However in 2011, six years later the Division still sometimes calls itself “Division of Occupational Safety and Health” on its publications.  It is a difficult issue to manage.


Thanks for your thoughts,



Vicki Brueck

Senior Cataloger

Resource Management Services Branch

State Library of North Carolina

4641 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC  27699-4641

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Office: (919) 807-7451 Fax: (919) 733-1843


From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Chris Baer
Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 10:36 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [PCCLIST] sources to use for establishing certain academic departments


There is a legal-historical approach to this conundrum that is at odds with library practice but more solidly grounded.  It goes something like this:


1) Unlike mere self-constituted groups such as garage bands or criminal gangs, a formal bureaucratic subdivision can only be created by the action of such hierarchically higher body that is legally empowered to create it.  In principle, that body too is the creation of a higher authority, and so on back in a chain to someone or something possessing sovereign power, such as a monarch or legislature.


2) In order for the creation to be valid and undisputed, the creating body needs also to create a record or otherwise register its decision, such as in the minutes of a meeting, resolution, law, decree, memorandum, bulletin, etc.


3) The form of the name thus registered is THE valid name, unless changed later in the same fashion, irrespective of how it might be transposed, abbreviated, truncated or confused in colloquial speech and writing, as for example, when journalists might alternately refer to the Secretary of the Treasury or Treasury Secretary.  In the same way, my name is always what it says on my birth certificate, no matter what variation of elements I use in a specific signature aimed at a specific audience.


In a case like this, the answer may lie in the records of the higher body.  Institutional catalogs or directories might indicate if the higher university administration has a uniform usage for the names of its subdivisions, if a foundational document cannot be found.


Frankly, it is hard to think an archive lacks an authoritative source, unless it is a mere fragment or artificial collection of documents, such as those preserved by an individual employee.  The minutes and other foundational documents or digests constructed from them constitute THE authoritative source of an organization’s existence, name and structure.  With these, it is very easy to create, as we do, accurate descriptions of large corporations having thousands of parts.  Without them you are groping in the dark or depending upon mere gossip and need to employ legal-historical rules of evidence to judge the reliability of sources and witnesses.


Also, a caveat on web sites.  Most web sites, especially the more prominent ones, are really a form of advertising.  They tell you what the organization wants you to think about it and entice you into buying what it is offering, which is often less than the whole truth and much less than precise.  I was just creating a name authority record for the local Wilmington Friends School, which apparently called itself simply the Friends School at an earlier time in its history.  Its web site proclaims that it was founded in 1748.  No doubt some provision for Quaker education may have been made at that date, but almost certainly the institution received its present form and governance much later.  The site is big on ethos, ambience and educational opportunity, and short on hard facts, such as the exact circumstances of its creation, performance statistics, etc.  Corporate web sites are often like this, trying to convince the reader that some giant, opaque conglomerate is simply carrying on from some 19th century local shopkeeper or artisan whose business has been bought and sold ten times over.  Often the real name is in the fine print as the owner of copyrights and trademarks used in the body of the text.  A companion check of an official registry, in this case the data base of the Delaware Division of Corporations, reveals  the Wilmington Friends School, Inc., to have been created in 1971.  This confirms that the current name begins with “Wilmington.”  However, since only current names are in the free online data base, there is no hard evidence outside the undigitized files of the Division of Corporations or of the School itself as to the name and nature of the organization between 1748 and 1971.


Christopher T. Baer

Hagley Museum and Library




From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Ian Fairclough
Sent: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 2:57 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] sources to use for establishing certain academic departments


PCCLIST readers:

Thank you for all the contributions so far!  Yes, we recognize that the department web site is an appropriate source, and it was very helpful to have this fact pointed out.  Obviously, opinions vary, from those who would follow a uniform pattern for the sake of consistency between departments, to those who insist on basing headings on source documents regardless of consistency (an application of literary warrant).  My colleague is working with an archival collection having no such authoritative source.  I even thought of asking the department for a copy of their letterhead stationery!


Below is another message sent privately and forwarded with permission.  Any further comments and insights will continue to be welcome.  - Ian

Ian Fairclough
George Mason University
[log in to unmask]
703-993-2938 (office)

From: Mark H Danley (mdanley) <[log in to unmask]>
To: Ian Fairclough <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2011 10:16 PM
Subject: RE: [PCCLIST] sources to use for establishing certain academic departments

Dear Ian,


The exchange on the PCC list is interesting, and in following it I noticed something:


Is this not the department's actual webpage?  At first I thought I was just looking at a cached page, but I followed it from several links on your university's current website.


So would that now allow you to establish the NAR with "Dept." ...?


Just wondered!  (The question you asked on the PCC list is still a valid one, though, and might help other institutions.)

Best regards,





Mark H. Danley, Ph.D.

Catalog Librarian/Associate Professor

University Libraries

University of Memphis


126 Ned R. McWherter Library

Memphis, TN 38152-3250



fax: 901-678-8218