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Publication Title

Ethical Questions in Name Authority Control

Document Type

Chapter in a Book

Publication Date



Authority control in libraries has always been a collaborative effort, but that collaboration has usually been among librarians. Librarians have considered themselves the experts on forming data strings that hewed to an exacting set of standards opaque to all but a small number of gatekeepers who have been through NACO training. In the process of creating personal name authority records, NACO participants usually do not attempt to contact people for whom authorized names are being established, even when the person is known to be alive and contact information is readily available. The exception is when additional information (such as year of birth or middle initial) is needed to differentiate that person from others with the same name. Sending such a query to a creator requires providing a basic explanation of authority control, so NACO participants often develop scripts or templates for this purpose. This chapter looks at existing practices of contacting creators and the outcomes of these practices, and argues that attempting to consult with individuals about their authorized name and data in their authority record should become a standard part of the name authority control process for personal names.

The chapter goes on to explore contacting creators not only as a way to ensure the authenticity of the data in the authority file, but as a rare opportunity to highlight the efforts of technical services librarians. The act of explaining authority control principles and asking for creators’ assistance in ensuring accurate information should be viewed as outreach, demonstrating how the work of libraries benefits creators by representing them accurately and facilitating access to their work. Regarding authority work as a collaborative partnership, both in advocacy to creators and managing their identity along with them, will reframe our practice as one of a truly collective process.

Approaching personal name authority work as a partnership in which libraries collaborate with creators to promote and implement sound identity management practices will help to us address one of the main ethical questions in name authority control.



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