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Discussion Paper No. 2008-DP05/2: New authority data elements


Section 2 of RDA covers recording attributes of work and expression and Section 3 covers recording attributes concerning persons, families and corporate bodies. RDA reflects those attributes and relationships as defined by the Functional Requirement for Authority Data (FRAD) in support of four user tasks: find, identify, contextualize, and justify.

In the RDA chapters that cover identifying attributes for person, family, corporate body, work, and expression, certain elements can be recorded either as part of the access point representing the entity or as separate identifying elements.

In RDA, the preferred access point is constructed using the name and/or title plus additional identifying attributes, as appropriate. These additions correspond to FRAD attributes of a person, corporate body, etc. For personal names, elements considered as additions are: Title or other designation associated with the person, Date associated with the name, and Fuller form of name. The question arises as to whether these RDA elements need to be duplicately carried, apart from their use as part of an access point.

As with bibliographic data, there are some elements that are not individually provided for in the MARC 21 Authority Format. They may currently be in a general subfield such as the100 subfield $d for "dates associated with a name" or they may have been recorded in an unstructured note field, when they were recorded at all. Alignment with FRAD has introduced a number of new elements that would not have been included in authority data formulated according to AACR.

Discussion Paper 2008-DP04 considered whether there was a need for specific content designation for additional elements specified in RDA or whether the information could be conveyed in unstructured notes. The MARC Advisory Committee agreed that it was worth considering the addition of new data elements to the authority format, which would give the user the flexibility to use the granularity of RDA if desired. Different communities may have different needs; some will use the greater granularity and others will not. This paper will explore possible MARC data elements for fuller descriptions of the entities described in authority records. The emphasis in this paper will be on persons, corporate bodies and families described in Section 3 of RDA.

Note that RDA will include an appendix concerning relationships between people and corporate bodies. This paper does not include any changes in the MARC 21 authority format resulting from that appendix, since it has not been made available yet.


2.1. Purpose of authority records

Authority records have traditionally been used to record the catalog entry form of the entity described as well as variant names with which it may be sought. However, there is often a wealth of additional information in these records, generally recorded in unstructured form in note fields. In particular, field 670 ( Source Data Found) is used for citations of sources consulted and often information found in those sources is recorded in parenthetical statements. For instance, the dates found in the source about a person or corporate body, or the field of activity of a person might be recorded.

RDA defines separate elements for a number of attributes of the entities recorded in authority records, and adding these to the MARC 21 Authority Format could result in a much richer record. Instead of documenting solely the catalog entry form with its accompanying data to support that, the authority record could become metadata about the entity (person, corporate body, etc.). These richer records could be used for additional purposes, especially if the additional data is kept up-to-date. The maintenance aspect of this extra data should be considered when agencies are implementing.

2.2. Additions to names for access points versus encoding in separate elements

Some information included as additions to access points in RDA is currently accommodated, but is not separately subfielded, in the 1XX fields in MARC 21. There are few subfields available in the 1XX fields, however, if it were desirable to include specific subfields for this information. Additionally, anything defined in authority 1XX fields also needs to be available in the authority 4XX and 5XX fields; they also need to be in bibliographic 1XX, 6XX, 7XX, and 8XX. Since it is not clear that special content designation is needed, it is suggested that subfield $g (Miscellaneous information) can be used. More analysis of the possible data that is needed and investigation of its relationship to the data in the new fields/subfields suggested below.

This paper discusses defining new data elements for information associated with persons, families and corporate bodies. These are to be included in new or already defined variable fields in the authority format, even if RDA specifies that they are additions to the entry form of the name in access points. A system could decide locally whether to use the data in the separate field in the heading structure as an addition or to encode it explicitly in the 1XX field in the subfield as specified above. For instance, this paper suggests the addition of a new field for information about families, which includes a subfield for name of prominent member of a family. A system could take that information and add it to the access point, it could be included in the access point in subfield $g, or it could be included in both places.


In analyzing the data elements defined in RDA for persons, corporate bodies, families, works and expressions, the information that might be included in MARC 21 authority records could be grouped into a number of categories. This is not a comprehensive list; further analysis is needed to account for all RDA elements.

Below is a summary of possible changes to the MARC 21 authority format to accommodate most of the RDA elements. In cases where there are existing fields in other formats, the proposal is to carry over the field with any necessary additional subfields. For proposed new fields a new 62X block (Additional Information about the Entity) is suggested, which would be consistent with the fact that other note fields in the authority format are in 6XX fields.

3.1. Identifiers

RDA includes elements for identifiers for persons, corporate bodies, families, works, and expressions. The MARC 21 authority format already contains field 024 (Other Standard Identifier). The source of the identifier is noted in subfield $2, which uses the source codes in the MARC Code List for Relators, Sources, Description Conventions. Source codes could be defined in that list for any additional identifier types. Some examples of source codes that are already assigned for use in this field include doi (Digital Object Identifier), isan (International Standard Audiovisual Number), istc (International Standard Text Code), and iswc (International Standard Musical Work Code).

3.2. Dates

The 1XX, 4XX, 5XX, and 7XX fields in the authority format have date subfields, where dates associated with the entry form are recorded. In field 100 for persons, subfield $d is defined as Date associated with a name and is used for birth date, which can be a single open date or a date range indicating birth and death dates. In field 110 for corporate bodies subfield $d is defined for Date of meeting or treaty signing and $f for Date of work. Field 111 includes $d for Date of meeting and field 130 includes $d for Date of treaty signing and $f for Date of work.

A new group of fields for dates could be defined in the authority format for various date types. Alternatively, a single field with separate subfields for specific RDA dates could be defined. Dates are generally more useable if they are in a standard format, so an ISO 8601 compliant date may be specified (e.g. YYYYMMDD or YYYYMMDD/YYYYMMDD for a date range).

The following are RDA data elements for special kinds of dates that are not already defined in the MARC 21 authority format that are needed for entities expressed in authority records.

3.2.1. Birth and death dates

RDA has specific data elements for birth date and death date. These could be recorded as a range as they are now in field 100$d and not parsed into separate data elements. If it is desirable to include parsed data elements, other options are:

3.2.2. Period of activity

RDA includes elements for period of activity (start) and period of activity (end). To include specifically in MARC, the same options are available as with birth and death dates: either define a new field for period of activity or define a new field to accommodate additional dates with one or two subfields for period of activity (depending upon whether you parse the start and end into two subfields or encode as a range in one subfield).

3.2.3. Date of establishment and Date of termination (corporate bodies).

As with birth and death date, either a new field could be defined or subfield(s) in a new field for additional dates. Date of establishment could be considered the start date and date of termination the end date and expressed as a range.

Proposed change

Field 046 is available in the bibliographic format for Special coded dates. Many of the subfields are for dates related to publication as well as B.C.E. dates and other special dates. These subfields are not appropriate in the authority format, but other subfields could be defined. Alternatively, another field could be chosen for special dates in the authority format since it will not be defined in the same way. However, all fields in the 04X block of the bibliographic format are already taken, and the formats attempt to define a field for the same type of data across formats. Thus, it may be preferable to define field 046 in the authority format and choose different subfields from those available in the bibliographic format.

The following could be defined in the authority format.

Note that Period of activity could be used both for persons and for establishment/termination for corporate bodies (since these establishment and termination denote start and end of period of activity).

Alternatively, the dates could be expressed as a range in a single subfield using ISO 8601 conventions, i.e. with a slash between the start and end. This would result in defining only three new subfields in 046.

3.3. Places

RDA specifies data elements for various kinds of places associated with persons, corporate bodies, families, works, and expressions. These include the following:

A field could be added to the authority format with subfields for different kinds of places. The field is similar to field 751 in the bibliographic format (recently added as Added Entry—Geographic Name), but in the authority format, 7XX fields are for linking entries. A field could be selected from the Note block (667-68X) or a new block of fields could be defined for all of these additional data elements.

Proposed change

There is already a subfield for Location of conference (111$c).

3.4. Address

RDA includes an element for address, both for a person and a corporate body. Field 270 (Address) is available in the MARC 21 bibliographic and community information formats and a field with the same information could be defined in the authority format. It could be defined as field 270 as in the other formats, although the 2XX block is defined as Complex Subject See Reference (only 260 is defined). Alternatively a new field tag could be chosen and it could be defined as follows. This is identical to the definitions in field 270.

Proposed change

3.5. Language

RDA includes elements for language of a person and corporate body. Field 041 (Language code) could be defined as it is in the MARC 21 bibliographic format to include language codes for this purpose. Some of the bibliographic subfields are not appropriate for the authority format, although they will have to be evaluated in terms of using thrm for works or expressions. Alternatively, if a textual form is desired, a new field could be defined.

Proposed change

Option 1. Add field 041 (Language code) as follows:

(Note that analysis may need to be done to determine if other subfields are applicable, especially for Author/title headings).

Option 2. Add field 628 (Associated language) with subfields:

3.6. Activities

RDA includes several elements related to activities of a person or corporate body. The following RDA elements could be grouped together:

Either each could be defined in a separate field or one new field could be defined with multiple subfields. For instance, if a controlled list would be used for the data (for instance field of activity), it might be necessary to define subfield $2, in which case a separate field would be preferable. It also might be useful to include dates associated with either of these properties; these could be recorded either as a range or in two subfields as start and end date.

Proposed changes

Add the following fields:

3.7. Biographical Data

Field 678 is already available in the authority format for this data defined in RDA. It is defined as:

“Summary of the essential biographical, historical, or other information about the 1XX heading in an established heading record, an established heading and subdivision record, or a subdivision record.”

3.8. Gender

RDA defines an element for gender (of a person). This information does not seem to be easily grouped with any other new element discussed in this paper. A new field could be defined. Subfield $2 could be included to allow for specifying the source of a controlled vocabulary.

Proposed change

3.9. Family names

RDA includes elements for additional information about families that have not been recorded in separate elements previously. These include:

A new field could be defined for additional information about the family.

Proposed change:


Field tags may be adjusted depending upon decisions about options presented.

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