Authority control and identity management

Kathleen’s comment on my last post made me realize that “identity management” and “authority control” are actually two faces of the same coin. It’s just using two expressions (the first scoped “information technology” and the latter “library”, maybe) for essentially the same thing, although implemented differently. Library identity management has some flaws, the major one probably being that for the most part the identification system has not been brought up to speed and transferred into the digital age.

Moreover, I can think of a number of entities that would be better off with a more stringent IM / AC instead of string matching: serials (which in the German and Austrian cataloging community do have identifiers that are linked to from the records and are treated as kinds of authorities), publisher or place of publication (collocating different names of the same place, e.g. Wien, Vienna, Vienne, Beč, Виена etc.).

Librarians / Catalogers have gathered a lot of expertise in this particular area over the years, we just need to take it a few steps further to fit the online digital environment and build authority control / identity management platforms that can make a real contribution to all kinds of efforts (semantic technologies, digital libraries, digital humanities etc.). One such entity authority tool set that moves beyond traditional library authority practice is EATS, developed and used by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Jamie Norrish anticipated my wanting to bring it up in his comment. 😉 I’ll mention it anyway: see his paper for more in-depth information about EATS (the paper is especially compelling because of its comparison between existing authority control mechanisms and EATS) and another paper he co-authored on the topic maps approach to authority management underlying EATS.

Extending our notion of authority and identity management beyond authors, titles and subjects to other entities in library data creates the opportunity to share links and identifiers with outside communities or across collections and increase search quality through consistency.


3 thoughts on “Authority control and identity management

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Authority control and identity management « all things cataloged --

  2. jrochkind

    I think you’re exactly right about those two things being the same thing. “Authority Control” is basically how we did Identity Management in a pre-computer era, when we library people were pretty much the only ones doing it on a large or sophisticated scale. Unfortunately, we mostly still do it much the same way now too, and what were the most sophisticated techniques for ‘identity management’ in 1900 or 1950 or even 1978 no longer are.

    1. Saskia Post author

      Precisely! It’s strange that librarians have been left so far behind and allowed others to “poach” in their original domain of expertise.


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