Contributors to the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) have generally been national libraries and other library agencies. We have just loaded into VIAF the first set of personal names from a scholarly resource, the Perseus Catalog hosted by Tufts University, an OCLC Research Library Partner. The Perseus Catalog aims to provide access to at least one online edition of every major Latin and Greek author from antiquity to 600 CE. Adding the Greek, Arabic and other script forms of names in the Perseus Catalog enrich existing VIAF clusters that previously lacked them.
This addition represents a milestone in our Scholars’ Contributions to VIAF activity. We anticipate mutual benefits from our collaboration with scholars. Scholars benefit from using VIAF URIs as persistent identifiers for the names in their own databases, linked data applications and scholarly discourse to disambiguate names in multinational collaborations and using VIAF as a means to disseminate scholarly research on names beyond scholars’ own communities. Both scholarly societies and libraries benefit from enriching VIAF with name authority data which would not otherwise be contributed by national libraries.
As noted in an earlier blog post, Irreconcilable differences? Name authority control & humanities scholarship, OCLC Research discovered key issues important to scholars that didn’t mesh well with library practices represented in name authority files due to differences in intended audiences, disciplinary norms and metadata needs. However, if scholars do use the Library of Congress’ Metadata Authority Description schema, or MADS, as the Perseus Catalog does, we can add their files to VIAF much more easily.
Adding these scholarly files can demonstrate the benefits of tapping scholarly expertise to enhance and add to name authorities represented in VIAF. We have already seen the number of “alternate name forms” associated with VIAF clusters that include the Perseus Catalog’s contributions increase, with scripts not yet represented. We look forward to more such enhancements from other scholars’ contributions.
Karen Smith-Yoshimura, senior program officer, topics related to creating and managing metadata with a focus on large research libraries and multilingual requirements. Karen retired from OCLC November 2020.