That was the topic discussed recently by OCLC Research Library Partners metadata managers, initiated by Philip Schreur of Stanford. We were fortunate that several staff from the Library of Congress involved with the Bibliographic Framework Initiative (aka BIBFRAME) participated.
Excerpts from On BIBFRAME Authority dated 15 August 2013 served as background, specifically the sections on the “lightweight abstraction layer” (2.1- 2.3) and the “direct” approach (3). During the discussion, Kevin Ford of LC shared the link to the relatively recent BIBFRAME Authorities draft specification dated 7 March 2014, now out for public review: http://www.loc.gov/bibframe/docs/bibframe-authorities.html
The discussion revolved around these themes:
The role of identifiers for names vis-à-vis authority records. Ray Denenberg of LC noted that when the initiative first began, the framers searched unsuccessfully for an alternate name for “authorities” as it could be confused with replicating the LC/NACO or local authority files that follow a certain set of cataloging rules and are constantly updated and maintained. BIBFRAME is meant to operate in a linked data environment, giving everyone a lot of flexibility. The “BIBFRAME Authority” is defined as a class that can be used across files. It could be simply an identifier to an authoritative source, and people could link to multiple sources as needed. The identifier link could also be used to grab more information from the “real” authority record.
Concern about sharing authority work done in local “light abstraction layers.” It was posited that Program for Cooperative Cataloging libraries, and others, could share local authorities work and expose it as linked data. This is one of the objectives for the Stanford-Cornell-Harvard Linked Data for Libraries experiment. They plan to use a type of shared light abstraction model, where they may share URIs for names rather than each institution creating their own. Concerns remain about accessing, indexing and displaying shared local authorities across multiple institutions, and the risk of outages that could hamper access. Although libraries could develop a pared down approach to creating local authority data (which may not be much more than an identifier) and then have programs that pull in more information from other sources, some feared that data would only be created locally and not shared and libraries would not ingest richer data available from elsewhere.
Alternate approaches to authority work. Given the limited staff libraries have, fewer have the resources to contribute to the LC/NACO authority file as much as they have in the past. The lightweight model could serve as a place for identifiers and labels, and allow libraries to quickly create identifiers for local researchers prominent in the journal literature but not reflected in national authority files. Using identifiers instead of worrying about validating content—doing something quick locally that you can’t afford to do at a national level—is appealing. Alternatively, a library could bring in information from multiple authority sources—each serving a different community—noting the equivalents and providing an appropriate label. BIBFRAME Authority supports both approaches. Other sources could include those favored by publishers rather than libraries, such as ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) or ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier), or by other communities such as those using EAC-CPF (Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons and Families). This interest overlaps the OCLC Research activity on Registering Researchers in Authority Files.
Concern about the future role of the LC/NACO Authority File. Some are concerned that if libraries chose to rely on identifiers to register their scholars or bring in information from other sources, fewer would contribute to the LC/NACO Authority File. Will we lose the great database catalogers have built cooperatively over the past few decades? Some would still prefer to have one place for all authority data and do all their authority work there. LC staff noted that a program could be run to ingest authority data done in these local (or consortial) abstraction layers into the LC/NACO Authority File.
Issues around ingesting authority data. We already have the technology to implement Web “triggers” to launch programs that pull in information from targeted sources and write the information to our own databases. OCLC Research recently held a TAI-CHI webinar demonstrating xEAC and RAMP (Remixing Archival Metadata Project), two tools that do just that. There are other challenges such as evaluating the trustworthiness of the sources, selecting which ones are most appropriate for your own context and reconciling multiple identifiers representing the same entity. Some are looking for third-party reconciliation services that would include links to other identifiers.
Those interested in the continuing discussion of BIBFRAME may wish to subscribe to the BIBFRAME listserv.
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.