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Naming Conventions

November 14, 2011

Let’s take a little employment test: Where would you go in the fiction aisles to find books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

No doubt you would think he was a relative of the Salida attorney Ernie and find the aisle with Marquez in it. But no. Gabriel’s surname is Garcia Marquez.

How about novels by Arnaldur Indridason? I would have looked under Indridason, as did a patron recently, only to find nothing. Arnaldur Indridason is filed under Arnaldur Indridason, not “Indridason, Arnaldur.”

Don’t look at me. I didn’t make the rules. These practices come from all over the world. The simple days of Max Brand and James Jones are over. Well, I suppose they were over already with Louis L’Amour.

Popular books in English are written by or translated from authors all over the world, and it only seems right to honor their naming conventions. For our library catalog, we defer to the Library of Congress Name Authority file.

Except that there can be complications, such as with the new book by Korean president Lee Myung-Bak. “Lee” appears on the spine, on the cover, on the title page, in the copyright statement, but the Library of Congress name authority says “Yi.” Both are approximations, anyway.

We used both names in the catalog record and put “Lee” on the spine label to match what’s printed all over the book. I joke about the employment test, by the way, since the more important thing in shelving is following the spine labels and less the decision behind them.

But one likes things to make sense. So a couple-few times a year such questions come up in staff meetings. We’ve changed our practice several times for labeling “Mc” and “Mac.”

It’s nice to have the Library of Congress as the name authority. They provide authority listings for titles, subjects, and until recently, series, too. We greatly miss the authority for series names, which they dropped. I can’t blame them for giving up.

Authors and publishers sometimes can’t agree on the correct series order. Quite a few authors have the same book for, say, Book Three in one series and Book Seven in another.

Often, a series develops after the first book or two are already published. Nothing like success to create a series. Sometimes, the order of publication is not the final accepted order of the series, since subsequent books may go back in time.

Our recent catalogers—first Nancy and now Vic—have spent a lot of time figuring out series and providing labels because this makes it easier for readers to grab the next book.

Some of these decisions will leave our hands when we join the Marmot Library Network. We can participate in decision-making, but we will be joining a union catalog in which the holdings for all the libraries are connected to common catalog records.

Every library doesn’t have a record for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Instead, each of our copies is attached to one common record. This efficiency in cataloging also leads to efficiency in borrowing and lending among libraries, one of the reasons we’re joining Marmot.

I mentioned ebook lending last week, and I’d like to clarify a point of many subsequent questions. The ebook lending will work with many e-readers, such as Nook, Sony Reader, iPad, and only very recently the Kindle.

While looking up names at the Library of Congress, I had to check: The name authority for the rock star Prince is “Prince” as opposed to “Nelson, Prince Rogers,” as you might have thought.


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