n.an entry in an authority file that contains information about the preferred form of a name or subject headingMorton 1986, 24In addition to this family of formats for bibliographic records, there is a MARC format for authority records. These records specify the correct headings to be used for names, subjects, or series, based on the A.L.A. Cataloging Rules for Author and Title Entries, the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, and the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Authority records are vital in maintaining consistency of entry in a catalog or data base.Weber 1989, 507To record decisions, librarians create authority records that show the choice of heading used as the “official” form, the cross-references from variant forms to the authorized heading, and the relationships of the heading to other headings in the file.Tschabrun 2003, 312The representation of political poster artists or their sponsoring organizations in the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LCNAF) is only marginally better. Catalogers will normally have to create their own in-house authority records for most of the people and organizations they encounter while cataloging political posters.Anderson and Allen 2009, 393, fn. 48While contributing these names to official registries such as the Name Authority Cooperative Program of the Library of Congress (NACO) would be ideal, we think that a flat folksonomic implementation will be more useful and accessible to a larger group of moderately interested people and more likely to effectively capture the local nuance. Contributing authority records to official registries is likely to exceed the abilities or interests of most people making a contribution or clarification about a name or place.Sweetser and Orchard 2019, 339In contrast, authority control and bibliographic description have long been separated within the cataloging realm whereby a single record (i.e., an agent such as a personal name) serves as the authority record. This single authority record is reused thereafter, referenced in each bibliographic record of which it is the creator or subject.Roke and Tillman 2022, 182SNAC aggregates and interlinks descriptions of people, collections, and other resources from a variety of sources, including MARC records from WorldCat, authority records from the Library of Congress, and finding aids.synonym for archival authority recordEvans 1986, 255–256An authority record “gives the authoritative form of a heading . . . variant and related forms of the heading . . . [and] other miscellaneous information. . . .” [footnote] This other miscellaneous information—data not required to establish the form of entry, but which further explains and defines the entity being described—is fundamental to an improved archival information system. In addition to the name of the agency, an authority record in an archival system would provide historical notes describing the establishment of the agency, including the historical conditions and legislative authority of its founding; the functions delegated to or assumed by the agency and changes in functions or activities over time; and formal and informal relationships to other agencies.Dooley 1992, 349Occupations and functions are inextricably linked with provenance, and it is conceivable that these data could better be stored in authority records than in MARC AMC descriptive records.Durance 1993, 40In other words, the authority records can reveal to a user information about relationships between records and their creators—the fonds to which they belong—or can also be combined in different ways to reveal information about the creators or the documents themselves.Orchard et al. 2019, 70However, inadequate description can also be more insidious, as examples of excluding the authority records of women in a collection’s description show, or worse, there are no authority records to (not) include.Trace 2021, 331To incorporate such an understanding within emerging archival information systems, the authors turned to library practice, calling for archivists to institute a system of separate, standards-based provenance authority records. Like Scott, the new archival model thus sought to separate (but link) information about creators (authority records) from information about records (archival control records).Punzalan and Marsh 2022, 45This includes the way that EAD (Encoded Archival Description) and EAD and EAC-CPF are used to standardize and link information in finding aids, and the standards, such as the Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), that dictate the creation of accepted terminologies and authority records.
An authority record typically includes a list of cross-references of variant forms that point to the preferred form. The authority record may contain additional information to help ensure the heading is applied correctly. For example, entries for topic terms may include a scope note restricting its use to a specific meaning, or an entry for a personal name may include birth and death dates to distinguish the subject from other persons with that name.