The Library of Congress Authorities is a service that helps to standardize library catalogues by providing an authority on the proper forms of names, titles and subjects. The Library of Congress Authorities is a service primarily designed for librarians, although it is open to the public and can be a valuable resource in learning more about an author’s alias or corporate name change. There are 265.000 subject authority records and 5.3 million name authority records reflecting the sheer number of data managed by the Library of Congress.
The Authorities are updated daily Monday through Saturday to reflect the Library of Congress’s ever-expanding collection. The records are organized by MARC 21 authority that comprises a series of codes and designations to identify the content. There is established protocol for headings and the nature of the content. The Library of Congress Authorities and the Library of Congress Catalog are not linked, although the information gleaned from the Authorities may help the researcher find relevant information in the catalogue.
How do I use the Library of Congress Authorities?
The Authorities website, authorities.loc.gov has a search function, but it’s important to note that this is not a typical search function. Keywords cannot be used. The authorities assume you already know the name or title of the desired work or author.
As a result, there are four search options:
• Subject Authorities Headings
• Name Authority Headings
• Title Authority Headings
• Name/Title Authority Headings
If one would like to search the authorities, click on the “Search Authorities” and the center and top of the Library of Congress Authorities website welcome page.
For this example, we will find the standardized, Library of Congress authority on William Shakespeare as it should be entered into a library catalogue.
1. To find an author, the name must be entered last name first. Typing “William Shakespeare” will show you results about the William Shakespeare Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
2. Enter the search text, in this case “Shakespeare, William” into the box. Remember that this search does not support “keywords” so typing “William Shakespeare works” will not be helpful.
a. Omit all punctuation include apostrophes from names
3. From the list of results, select Shakespeare, William – 1564 – 1616 as this is the Shakespeare we want. Clicking on the record will show all variants for this author’s name, from the name that the author used toward the end of his life “William Shakspeare” to the Chinese equivalent of the author’s name “Sha-shih-pi-ya.”