POST: Irreconcilable differences? Name authority control & humanities scholarship

A jointly-written post from OCLC Research describes an area of potential overlap for librarians and humanities scholars: names.

Writing on hanging together, Karen Smith-Yoshimura, OCLC Research program officer, and David Michelson, Assistant Professor of early Christianity at Vanderbilt and director of The Syriac Reference Portal, describe a collaboration between OCLC Research and Syriac studies scholars to improve Syriac coverage in the OCLC-hosted Virtual International Authority File (VIAF). Recognizing that VIAF can function as a stable, persistent, and linked authority control, DH scholars have been integrating it into projects. But, as Smith-Yoshimura and Michelson describe, “fundamental differences between library and scholarly practice” keep VIAF from being as useful to scholars as it might be. They identify:

two keys issues important to scholars that just don’t mesh well with the library practices represented in name authority files… due to differences in intended audiences, disciplinary norms, and metadata needs: Scholars eschew a ‘preferred name.’Scholars need to know the provenance of each form of name.

The collaboration between OCLC Research and Syriac scholars aims to overcome these distinct requirements and sources by developing a dedicated database for Syriac scholars that provides naming information tailored to their needs. This database will be crosswalked to enhance VIAF data.

This post was produced through a cooperation between Kate Pitcher and Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (Editors-at-Large for the week), Sarah Potvin (Editor for the week), and Zach Coble and Roxanne Shirazi (site editors).