[Koha] Setting up authorities
mhelman at illinoisalumni.org
Tue Aug 21 07:39:15 NZST 2007
>I read that authorities is used to define how to separate levels of
>That info was from the Koha 2.2 user guide. As it relates to version
2.2.8, i don't quite understand the authorities page.
>Can anyone explain what authorities is and how to manipulate the page
and add new authorities.
Hmmm. I can only imagine I'll get lots o flack from the cataloguing
community out there for expressing my opinion on this, but here goes.
Usually, authority files are a happy thing. You happened to mention
Subject Headings, so let's pick on that for a second. An authorised
subject heading is a way of forcing your cataloguers to use a
standardised descriptor for a given work of a particular nature. Many,
many times, these headings are good things. They stop me from calling
something by a different name than you would at your Library. "A rose by
any other name" is difficult to find in a catalogue. So your authorities
file is a whole bank of subject headings and titles and authors that are
the uniform recognised entry for a given thingermajjiger.
Now, every now and again, those dear hearts at Sodom on the Potomac
authorise a subject heading that is whacky and no living breathing biped
would utilise in a search. To use one of Berman's great examples, let's
say you were looking for a lightbulb in a catalogue about 50 years ago.
Good luck with that, you'd have had to check electric lamp incandescent
to find what you needed, for that was the authorised LCSH heading. From
my own Library, I came across a subject heading for Aeronautics in
Astronomy, Juvenile Literature. I promptly added the also authorised
So, the vast majority of the time, we're grateful for those subject
headings, but they get a bit wonky now and again. The Library of
Congress are the folks that come up with most of these with input from
Librarians and they're available here
Now for the controversial part. This whole system was conceived well
before that boon to everyone, keyword searching. As a result, I tend to
view it as deprecated. We can now find things much easier on many
different fields in different ways than ye olde standard Title, Subject
and Author. If you're at an academic Library or a large Public and hope
to contribute your records back, you'll need to use authorities to keep
their little MARC noses clean. If you're a hermit like me and there's a
terribly low chance anyone gives a darn about your catalogue, the heck
with it and don't bother.
Did that make any sense?
Brooke @ Hinsdale MA
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