Authority File Maintenance - An Ongoing Task

By Carolyn Brown and Jane Withers

We have been using the power of our library system in the ongoing maintenance of our authority files.

As we prepared to move to a new library system we decided that our data should be as 'clean' as possible for the data conversion process. But we realised that, like most Teacher Librarians, we had been so busy adding data we had not taken the time to check it thoroughly.

Before we began this process we met as a team and made sure our standards were going to be accurate and consistent with best practice and to meet the needs of our school community Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules Second Edition, 1988 Revision was to be a constant companion! Initially, when we printed out all the authority files (with the exception of subject headings) we were a little apprehensive about the inconsistencies we thought we would find. Printing out the authority files allowed us to see easily any errors or typos and to pencil in comments and reminders. Each member of the library team was allocated an authority file (eg, subject, title, series) and we aligned, changed and deleted our way through each entry in the folder. Best of all we found that the authority files weren't in too much disarray, and we easily met our deadline.

We have continued this maintenance program with the global processes being incredibly fast on the new platform, taking only seconds instead of minutes. Due to this speed and the fact that errors stand out clearly in the authority files, we can now fix problems immediately.

Subject headings and cross references

At St Margaret's the process of maintaining our subject authority is being undertaken in manageable batches, working with a 20-page printout of subject entries at one time. The entries are checked for spelling, consistency with the SCIS Subject Headings Fourth Edition, common appearance, appropriateness and, in some cases where there is doubt, whether there are actually resources attached to the heading. Alignments, changes and deletions are then made to the relevant entries in the subject authority file using the subject maintenance module of our library system. At the same time we are updating cross-references where we feel these would benefit accessibility to resources.

Due to the previous huge task of retrospective cataloguing we added see and see also headings by looking at research topics and anticipating need or checking our 'failed OPAC searches' report. This is a great feature of our library automation system as it allows us to see what students are entering as search terms and then failing to achieve a hit.

When we turned our attention to the Fiction collection we decided to review the subject headings before we began adding or revising items on the database. We wanted to simplify the searching process for our students. We were really impressed by the SCIS headings but felt they did not go far enough - we needed more.

The first step was to compare the SCIS list with various lists from journals and books on adolescent literature. A genre list was formulated, using the exact SCIS genre headings where they existed, always keeping in mind the terms and headings we thought our students would search under. We consulted with the English department, who agreed with our decisions and made suggestions where we were uncertain.

Maintenance of authority files is an ongoing, ultimately rewarding task. We would advise Teacher Librarians and other school library staff to undertake the process in small manageable 'chunks' and to use the power of the library system to make changes and corrections easily.

Note: Carolyn Brown and Jane Withers have provided SCIS with the list of genre headings they have devised for their library SCIS will consider which genre headings could be adopted for inclusion in SCIS Subject Headings. We are happy to consider any proposals for new headings. Please refer to the form for New Subject Heading Proposals at <http.//>.

Carolyn Brown and Jane Withers

St Margaret's School, Berwick, Victoria