March 1st, 2014 at 11:33 pm (Library School)
In my Cataloging class, we learned how to look up the authorized form of an author’s name. The Library of Congress maintains a Name Authority File that, for example, specifies that Samuel Clemens’s authorized name is Mark Twain. Then all searches on variants of his name can be redirected to this single standard form. Surprisingly (and as shown in this example), the authorized form is not necessarily the person’s legal name. Instead it is the name they most commonly use, or the form of the name they prefer to have used. For living authors, the first cataloger to add them to the database might call them up and ask what version they prefer (include middle name? middle initial? maiden name? etc.). For dead authors, it’s a matter of what they most commonly used when publishing works.
Interestingly, these records also track variant names that are NOT authorized (kind of a “do not use” list). For “Le Guin, Ursula K.” these unauthorized names include “LeGuin, Ursula”, “Le Guin, Ursula”, “Guin, Ursula K. Le”, and “Kroeber, Ursula.” Mark Twain has 22 of these.
So what do you do, given a list of Named Authorities? You look yourself up! (Select “Name Authority Headings” under “Search type” and specify the name as Lastname, Firstname)
Here is the record that came up for me. Finding yourself here is kind of, but not quite, as cool as finding yourself in Wikipedia. Apparently, someone cataloged the book I co-edited in 2008 titled Constrained Clustering: Advances in Algorithms, Theory, and Applications and added my name to the Name Authority File.
The charmingly formatted (for machine-readable purposes) entry looks like this:
HEADING: Wagstaff, Kiri Lou 000 00564cz a2200145n 450 001 7501355 005 20080830073608.0 008 080407n| acannaabn |n aaa 010 __ |a n 2008025062 035 __ |a (OCoLC)oca07727970 040 __ |a DLC |b eng |c DLC |d NjBlaOCU 100 1_ |a Wagstaff, Kiri Lou 670 __ |a Constrained clustering, 2008: |b ECIP t.p. (Kiri Wagstaff) book t.p. (Kiri L. Wagstaff) prelim. p. (senior researcher, Jet Propulsion Lab. in Pasadena, CA) 670 __ |a OCLC, Aug. 29, 2008 |b (hdg.: Wagstaff, Kiri Lou; Wagstaff, Kiri; usage: Kiri Lou Wagstaff) 953 __ |a jp02
and indicates that the preferred form of my name (field 100) is “Wagstaff, Kiri Lou” and that this was extracted from the Constrained Clustering book (field 670). Field 953 is a “local staff code” and indicates who created this entry — probably someone with the initials “J.P.” (why not just link to this person’s own Name Authority record?). J.P. did not call me to ask my preferred name form but instead justified this choice because that was how it was found on the “t.p.” He/she also included a bit of biographical information about my employment, possibly to aid future disambiguation with all the other Kiri Lou Wagstaffs out there.
So my name now enjoys a kind of newfound longevity that will outlast my own physical lifetime. Because I published a book, I now exist in the universe of persons that the Library of Congress encompasses. Kind of a weird thought.