Authority Control: Definition and International Experiences

Various authors, Mar 11, 2003
Commentary by Stephen Downes

When I see the words "authority" and "control" in the title of a work, I want to run for the hills. Authority and control are the last thing we want to bring to the web; their perceived advantages would break the network beyond repair. Still, I followed this link International Conference on Authority Control, held last month in Florence, and was rewarded with a stunning array of papers and presentations. If, like me, you are new to the concept of authority control, then start with this overview by Barbara Tillett, an authoritative work that takes you effortlessly from the movement's foundations in the late 70s through to current implementations. As Tillett explains, authority control is the set of "decisions on how the single, authorized form of name for each entity should be represented in their catalog." Sounds simple, but as you follow this article you will begin to appreciate the nuances of the project. For some fun, have a look at Lucia Sardo's Multiple Names to see what happens to librarians when names don't refer to people on a nice, neat, one-to-one basis. There's a wealth in this conference archive; the papers are collectively of exceptional quality and there is a trove of valuable lessons to be learned by those of us involved in metadata and the semantic web.
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