These are really interesting questions!  We're pulled in two directions. On the one hand we want to protect people's privacy (and safety in some cases), which can indeed imply not giving a real name for someone writing under a pseudonym. On the other hand, scholars looking into the works of a person are not well served by a research tool which deliberately avoids associating works written under a pseudonym (Robert Galbraith)  with a known author (J.K. Rowling) by recording no connection between the names.

Likewise scholars working in gender studies would be ill served by a research tool which reported the works of George Eliot and George Sand as works by men and works by Madeleine Brent (pseudonym of Peter O'Donnell) and Margaret Cooke (pseudonym of John Creasey) as works by women. Better not to indicate gender at all than to indicate an imaginary one. But then, does avoiding gender statements ill serve scholars working in gender studies? 

Is the catalog an inventory access tool or a research tool? These two functions carry different obligations to our users. 

As my thinking on this topic evolves, it's becoming less about how we regard private individuals and more about our expectations of public personas as creators of works. We want to recognize the authenticity of the works of a person who writes from a given vantage point in terms of gender or race or cultural heritage. But that entails an expectation that persons creating works have understood the kind of exposure and scrutiny they may be subject to from  the receiving culture. In online culture there are domains where relative anonymity is widely accepted (all those secret dogs on the internet) and one's authority derives from the statements made under a disembodied handle. There's a kind of virtue to that kind of authority, but also a proven risk of deceptive practice in self representation. How can we know the things about a creator of works which authorize and validate their creations without knowing things which may compromise their privacy or potentially put them at risk? Is secrecy the only protection from such risks?

These are very deep waters.


On Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 9:01 AM, Luiza Wainer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Dear collective wisdom,


I was wondering on best practices for creating authority records for pseudonyms beyond what is covered on the LC/PCC FAQs on individuals with more than one identity.


If an individual only uses a pseudonym, we're instructed in RDA (exception), RDA and the aforementioned FAQs to input the person's real name, if known, as a 400. This seems a bit unethical to me. If this person does not want their real name associated with their works (hence the use of pseudonym), why are we making this explicit? In many cases with pseudonyms, a person has their real identity outed without their consent, and I question our complicity in this by publicly sharing this information in the NAF (see, for instance, the outing of J.K. Rowling as the real identity behind Robert Galbraith [1])


I also question using biographical information for the real identity when describing a pseudonym. Author's might decide that their pseudonym has a different gender, nationality, birth date, etc. then themselves for a myriad of reasons (like the endless list of women writers that decide to use male pseudonyms because, as Charlotte Bronte puts it, "we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice" [2]). Records like no2018033569 (Cunha, Eduardo, ǂd 1975-), n  79045512 (Eliot, George, ǂd 1819-1880), n  78081235 (Sand, George, ǂd 1804-1876) - just to name a few off the top of my head - all carry biographical information of the real identity, which does not describe the pseudonym.


It seems to me that the same best practices suggested for recording information about gender [3] should be applied for pseudonyms: "Do not dig for given names or genders assigned at birth". Which is to say, describe the identity associated with the pseudonym, and do not dig for information regarding the real identity. 




Luiza Wainer

Metadata Librarian

Princeton University Library

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(Pronouns: they/them/theirs)




Stephen Hearn, Metadata Strategist
Data Management & Access, University Libraries
University of Minnesota
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