2008:The Year of Non-Latin References in LC/NACO Authority Records

We’ve seen lots of forecasts for 2008, the Year of the Rat. Here’s mine, which I have lots of confidence will indeed happen: We will see Arabic-, Chinese-, Cyrillic-, Greek-, Hebrew-, Japanese-, and Korean-script references in LC/NACO Authority Files!

I already blogged about the agreement among the Library of Congress, the British Library, National Library of Medicine, and OCLC – the major authority record exchange partners — in consultation with the Library and Archives and Canada to add references with non-Latin characters to the name authority records that make up the LC/NACO Authority File. What will really move this to fruition is the Programs and Research project to upgrade the LC/NACO Authority File with non-Latin references derived from the non-Latin bibliographic heading fields in WorldCat, using the same data-mining techniques developed for WorldCat Identities which already includes non-Latin script “alternate names”.

This will allow our users, for the first time, to look up Arabic-, Chinese-, Cyrillic-, Greek-, Hebrew-, Japanese-, and Korean-script names in those scripts without knowing their romanizations and to correctly identify authors who write in those scripts.

This also addresses one of the recommendations in the Report of the Library of Congress Future of Bibliographic Control Working Group released on January 9, 2008: 1.3.3 to “internationalize authority files”. Adding non-Latin scripts to existing headings is a first step to link names that differ according to language and geography but represent the same entity.

To get an idea of what these added references will look like, take a look at the “alternate names” listed in the WorldCat Identities pages for Sun Yat-sen or Menachem Begin. By harvesting non-Latin heading forms that correspond to entities in the authority file, we are reaping the benefits from the significant intellectual work of the many libraries that have provided non-Latin headings on bibliographic records for over two decades. We expect to add more than 500,000 non-Latin references to name authority records, a significant re-use of existing metadata in new contexts.

All NACO contributors will have the opportunity to review and verify the non-Latin script forms as part of their normal workflow. Catalogers will be better able to reflect on past practices related to non-Latin headings, and be in a better position to recommend future best practices for the LC/NACO Authority file. The Library of Congress has issued a White Paper: Issues Related to Non-Latin Characters in Name Authority Records for comment on the issues to be addressed during a six month period following this automatic pre-population of the authority file.

RLG partners expressed considerable excitement about this project during our discussions during mid-winter ALA in Philadelphia. For a number of us who have been waiting to see non-Latin script references in authority files for a quarter-century (or more!) 2008 will also be the Year Our Waiting Is Over.