nthe process of establishing standardized names and index terms for use in archival or bibliographic description and ensuring their consistent applicationEvans 1986, 249An authority control-based system focuses upon record-generating entities; it consists of descriptions of the histories and functions of organizations and of the administrative relationships between them. The authority control system is an intellectual construct, susceptible to emendation as institutions evolve, as functions change, and as administrative structures are altered.Michelson 1987, 195Authority control files are the key mechanism for ensuring consistency within bibliographic catalogs by distinguishing names, showing relationships (among variant forms of names, parent bodies, and earlier to later names), and documenting decisions. Such files thereby promote consistency in the subsequent determination of relationships and identification of headings.Bearman 1989b, 296The shortcomings of library-system-based authority control for retrieval of archival materials should encourage us to look to other options. When we realize that we need to focus more on the benefits of expanded lead-in vocabulary and less on achieving consistency of indexing, we will be attracted to reference files instead of term lists and will place greater value on the benefits of authority control from the searchers perspective as a means to identify alternative access points than on its value for headings management.Gracy and Lambert 2014, 113RDA may also be used for authority control purposes. Cory Nimer suggests that, in these circumstances, use of RDA may actually lead to better management of archival materials as it is more closely aligned to DACS than its predecessor, AACR2.
Authority control systems often also provide relationships between terms. Examples of such relationships include references from nonpreferred forms to preferred forms, references among earlier names and later names of corporate entities, references between higher and lower levels of institutional hierarchies, and references among topical terms that may be broader, narrower, or simply related.