Discussion at the Taxonomic Authority Files Workshop, Washington, DC, June 22-23, 1998
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Transcript of Questions for Beacher Wiggins

Roy McDiarmid:
I'm interested in how you avoid duplication in this cooperative effort. In other words, if I were sitting some place and had ten items that I wanted to catalog, I might want to devote some effort to making sure that my ten entries were into the system. On the other hand, if there were ten of us doing the same thing, I might be way ahead of the game by waiting for the other nine to do the work for me.
Beacher Wiggins:
There are components of everything you say in the answer to the question. One of the ways duplication is controlled is the fact that catalog librarians at many institutions have fairly immediate access through the bibliographic utilities, so they see what has already been cataloged. The workflow procedure for new material at most institutions incorporates searching to see if cataloging copy has already been created by another institution. The fact that we have the mirror authority files, so you can see whether authority headings have already been created for the work, is another way to make sure that there isn't any duplication. Even with the fast turn-around time of 24 hours there is still, as you might suspect, some window for duplication, and that happens periodically. We have built into our national bibliographic infrastructure ways for having those duplicate catalog records reported to us, and generally the Library of Congress takes that on. As we have become increasingly "on-line", the incidence of duplication has certainly decreased over the years. With more and more libraries getting on-line systems, we hope to reduce that amount of duplication even further.
Roy McDiarmid:
In setting up bibliographic reference points to taxonomic names, which many of us do, there are various kinds of numbers that are associated with books, and serials, and whatever, including LC numbers. From your perspective, which of those should we pay attention to?
Beacher Wiggins:
There are several numbers involved, and depending on what you're using it for, the main controlling number for a bibliographic record, for the Library of Congress and the library community, would be the Library of Congress Control Number. For authority records there is a similar control number that you would use to link that record then to any other authority record you would create. Presumably the system then would be able to match those numbers and be able to display a hierarchy, or even an encoding listing, of some of the headings that you might have created. It gets back to some of what Karen was beginning to describe with authority control on a global basis, where we're beginning to look at having one number, and that number would control a number of headings each for a particular language or cultural background. If you use the control number for any authority records we've created, and mapped that to any authorities you create, in a taxonomic sense, I think that would ensure some level of integrity.
Barbara Stein:
You mentioned at the very end of your talk that you hope now to be able to turn more attention to electronic media. Would you briefly state what you think the differences are in dealing with information you get electronically versus in paper form.
Beacher Wiggins:
By and large for us, at least at this juncture, it is simply a matter of having the staff resources to focus in a way that would give us true benefits from dealing with electronic resources. So much of what we have to deal with now—speaking from the perspective of the Library of Congress, and I think it's true for other major research libraries— is the on-going influx of print material, and the limited staff that we have still have to maintain control over those. There are inherent problems in dealing with electronic resources, of dealing with the transient nature and determining how much of it is worth expending our time to provide the kind of cataloging that we've been doing in the past. Does the full-fledged MARC record serve the purpose for electronic resources or should be we finding different and more streamlined approaches for doing that? In order to take this on we need to have staff engaged enough in that kind of processing to see what the problems are, to see what the pros and cons are. As we've had a hundred more years to devote to the print world to come up with our procedure for print materials, we simply have not had that luxury with electronic resources. So we're hoping that if we can get more authority records and more bibliographic records created collectively, then each of us can have the leisure of turning some of our staff to focus in a more direct way on these new issues. That's what I had in mind. We've started that process at just about every major research institution, we've started it at the Library of Congress and it's overwhelming. We're nowhere near where we want to be.
Adam Schiff:
I just wanted to comment on Roy's question about linking to bibliographic records. The vast majority of the source citations that you would include in a taxonomic authority file would be to journal literature rather than the kinds of bibliographic records that would be included in the database that libraries manage. Most of what we are cataloging are whole books, or journals themselves, but not the individual contents, and so that would be a problem.
Beacher Wiggins:
But might not there be also some of the headings that are created that could serve a purpose for the subject side of what we create— subject authorities? There should be some way we should explore those kinds of links. That was the thrust I was hoping you would pick up on.
John Mitchell:
To follow on that, since I am in the Cooperative Cataloging Team and a proponent for SACO, we would highly welcome your contributions to the SACO program, as long as you submit appropriate authority control and citations.
Gail Hodge:
Nice plug, John! In response to what Roy was saying and some of the other comments, there is also work within the primary publishing community and the secondary publishing community to develop a system for article level identification, primarily within journals. There is some in use within Elsevier's publications I believe, the Primary Publisher Item Identifier (PII), which tracks an item from manuscript all the way through to publication, and then incorporation of that into a larger standard called digital object identifier, which can then break a whole manuscript down into pieces that can then have some level of rights management, for example copyright of a photograph within the span of an article. So those are the kinds of things to look out for. They're not here, yet, but there are several primary publisher who are involved in major tests at this point. I think that it's going to come.