Friday, 19 August 2011

Thinking About Names

Lorcan Dempsey has a wonderful post about names, concluding with some reflections on contemporary library cataloguing, and how we might handle things better in the future. He precedes his suggestions with the words "Authorities work - and think NACO here - is a professional activity, hedged around by rules and procedures; it is after all 'authorities' work." I did have to look up NACO - is is the Name Authority Cooperative Program of the PCC (Program for Cooperative Cataloguing).

Lorcan writes about relationships which are not bibliographic, and suggests that in future we need not limit ourselves to bibliographic relationships in our cataloguing, nor to bibliographic "authorities" in the way we reference names.

In Australia we have a history with names. Here at Swinburne University the Nic Names project looked at approaches which did not involve authority or control; as Rebecca said in a Nic Names post in December 2009, ". . . this [other ways of matching] may well be far more valuable to help us tell people apart in a scholarly publishing context than their dates of birth."

The National Library of Australia has just completed the beautifully-acronymed ARDCPIP (you have to supply a vowell after the C but it can be pronounced) - the Australian Research Data Commons Party Infrastructure Project. In fact, after much debate, the NLA re-named names as "parties." The project does use an authority control basis for its treatment of names.

But Dempsey is interested in more than name authorities and name control. He is interested in libraries going beyond sorting out names by providing a more expansive service. Others are following that path too. OCLC's WorldCat Identities links to a Wikipedia biographical entry if it is confident the link is correct. The National Library of Australia's Trove links names (People and Organisations) to a bewildering variety of sources and locations. Dempsey asks - could we also identify family relationships? What about relatives? He suggests that network level knowledge organisation is where we might really want to go.

It is certainly worth trawling through some of the work being done to expand our access to rich information about people. Parties, too.

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