Friday, June 24, 2005

Proposal for the Addition of Dates to Existing Personal Name Headings

The Cataloging Policy and Support Office (CPSO) has been considering a suggestion to reinstate MARC 21 note field 678 (Biographical or Historical Data) in name authority records in order to provide the death date of persons who are known to be deceased, but whose dates are kept "open" as a result of the Library of Congress (LC) policy of not adding death dates to established headings except in certain situations. Throughout the past 20 plus years that this policy has been in force, numerous catalog users have expressed frustration with the policy.

After extensive discussion, CPSO has concluded that its decision should not be made solely to comply with the request of one community but across the board, as all users have expressed similar frustration with LC's policy. For example, within the art community, artists such as:

  • 100 1# $a Warhol, Andy, $d 1928-
  • 100 1# $a Dali, Salvador, $d 1904-
from the music community:
  • 100 1# $a Bernstein, Leonard, $d 1918-
  • 100 1# $a Stern, Isaac, $d 1920-
from others, scholars or literary figures such as:
  • 100 1# $a Borges, Jorge Louis, $d 1899-
  • 100 1# $a Paz, Octavio, $d 1914-
as well as famous political or cultural figures:
  • 100 1# $a Nixon, Richard M. $q (Richard Milhous),$d 1913-
  • 100 0# $a Diana, $c Princess of Wales, $d 1961-
  • 100 0# $a John Paul $b II, $c Pope, $d 1920-
CPSO has often received irate messages imploring LC to acknowledge the need to add death dates, or deploring LC's lack of sensitivity in failing to respond to such requests. The difficulty of justifying the policies to catalogers is only the tip of the iceberg, the reference staff who must interpret the catalog on the front lines and catalog users themselves are completely unaware of the purpose of the existing policy and often leap to the conclusion that the catalog is "wrong" or "outdated." Many libraries have indicated that they add death dates to their local catalogs to pacify their users, and for NACO participants this adds an additional maintenance burden.

Recently, it has also been noted in messages to the CPSO email account, or reports to the Cooperative Cataloging Team (Coop), that many catalogers are adding not just death dates, but are also adding birth dates to established headings even though the Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRIs) prohibit these additions unless they are needed to resolve conflicts.

Over the years, LC has made exceptional changes on a case-by-case basis and some of these changes have required major projects of bibliographic file maintenance (BFM). These projects have often created frustration within the cataloging community, as it hasn't been clear why LC or a particular library is successful in having dates added to headings while the rest do not. Recently, CPSO has been able to make large-scale changes to headings in bibliographic records using newly available technology and many libraries now have integrated systems that also facilitate BFM. Thus, CPSO is considering allowing the addition of all dates to existing headings rather than making piecemeal decisions such as reinstating the use of the 678 or allowing only the addition of death dates. This would mean that CPSO and the Coop Team would no longer need to adjudicate instances where dates are added to existing headings in apparent violation of policies, etc.

Recognizing that any proposal to add dates to existing headings impacts not only the LC catalog, but all the PCC and non-PCC communities, as well as the need for the revision of existing documentation, CPSO is posting for comment the following proposal.

Allow the optional addition of dates (birth, death or both) to existing personal name headings at will. (LC and NACO catalogers are aware of LCRI 22.17 that requires all new headings to have dates added when these are readily available). Note that catalogers would not be required to add dates to existing personal name headings (other than to resolve conflicts) but may exercise judgment and add the date or dates if these are judged to be useful.

Please send comments, alternative suggestions, etc., to by July 22, 2005. This message may be forwarded to other discussion lists.

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