Amy refers below to the British Library Guide to Name Authority Records. I’d just like to mention that the PDF version on our website, at that link, is a recent snapshot of the more regularly maintained master version that lives in the RDA Toolkit, under Global Workflows. If you want to read it and have access to the Toolkit, I would recommend using the version there. I will need to update it again soon.
Authority Control Team Manager
The British Library
Tel.: +44 (0)1937 546104
Reading the definition of “best practice” in Wikipedia, I see that different best practices are applicable to different institutions. A wide variety of best practices for the optional RDA fields have already been developed, both formally and informally. I would like to summarize three levels.
1. Minimalist. The fields are optional, with the possible exception of the 046. (The date is a core element for personal names, and the current NACO training materials state that the 046 is required, but since RDA is not written in terms of tags, one could argue that the date in the 1XX and/or 670 would meet the core requirement). A strict minimalist approach would forbid use of the fields, to save time in both cataloging and training, and be done with it. At Duke, we are a little removed from this. We say that the fields will not be covered in training, but catalogers independent in NACO may use them. This is a fuzzy line, because the fields are actually emphasized in the latest version of the training materials. But I, as NACO coordinator and trainer, use only the 046 and do not train in any of the others. As Mary Charles Lasater pointed out, the new fields can significantly increase training time for NACO, which was already substantial.
2. Moderate. This is well described in the British Library Guide to Name Authority Records
BL practice: balance must be struck between fullness and efficiency, when deciding what to record at the element level. Record only those elements that are:
Expedient to record
Readily ascertainable: only do the amount of research needed to identify the entity, and to create and justify unique authorised and variant access points. Only include in 046/3XX fields appropriate data that has been discovered in the course of this research. Do not do extra research in order to complete additional 046/3XX fields.
Useful: be selective in recording data in 046/3XX fields. For example, only record significant dates in 3XX |s and |t. In 373, only record institutions with which a person has a significant connection. In 372 and 374, only record significant fields of activity and occupations. Any of these fields may be omitted if useful data is not readily ascertainable.
Expedient to record: only search the LCSH file briefly, for suitable terms. If a specific term is not available, use a broader term. If no term is readily ascertainable in a quick search, omit the field. Make full use of Aleph short keys and drop down menus to insert elements into the authority record.
3. The sky’s the limit. I have a couple of examples of ARs with optional fields that go beyond the purposes of authority control as outlined by Richard Moore when he started this thread: n 2010043877 and no2011152077.
Discussion thus far indicates that which level a library chooses must be more an attempt to forecast the future than a reflection of current needs. Of course, the amount of resources available also comes into play. This is the main reason that Duke has taken the minimalist approach.
Mary Charles Lasater mentions:
"A few ‘best practices’ might be useful. "
With which I wholeheartedly agree.
Locally, I have established a few "best practices." For example, we put extra effort into authority records for certain categories, such as entities affiliated with the University and special collections. Hence, I would include our institution in a 373 field for faculty authors. We have a special collection of women composers, so I include a 374 field for them, in the hope that someday (soon?) this field will enrich searching.
But, of course, more widely agreed upon best practices would make a lot more sense. We are all about cooperation, aren't we?
University of California, Davis
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