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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 085-126-E
Division Number: IV.
Professional Group: Cataloguing
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 126.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

Public Online Access and Management of Documentary Resources: A New Role for Authority Files from National Bibliographic Agencies on Local Catalogs: The Experience of the Fresnes Public Library

Thierry Giappiconi
Bibliothèque municipale de Fresnes,
Fresnes, France


The Fresnes public library chose to enhance its bibliographic catalog by loading the complete backfile and regular updates of the BNF authority files. This unique solution allows them to put an end to local cataloging (notably subject assignment and the maintenance of the subject index) and to considerable reduce the cost per title cataloged based on the formula proposed by ISO Standard 11620: Information and Documentation.
- Library Performance Indicators.

The authority files improve the quality of online services: they reduce the number of unsuccessful searches, reduce aberrant responses and allow for numerous OPAC possibilities; they offer library staff a valuable aid in their mission of assisting the public; they facilitate and improve the tasks of collection development and management.

The new information system anticipated for the opening of the new library in March will give the authority files a larger role. Beyond assisting the simple catalog search, the authority files will function as a search engine for the whole network. The CD-ROM and DVD-ROM readers, and a selected number of Internet sites will, in fact, link to the authority files (notably subject and corporate author files) by the authority record number, using the same headings as in the library catalog.


1. The reduction of local cataloging

The new Fresnes (France) public library will open its doors in Spring 1999. The reconstruction of the building is also the occasion for profound administrative reform, touching on all of the functions of the organization and aimed at a better relationship between cost and effectiveness.

It is in this way that the strategic plan first saw the reduction of local cataloging through the complete and coherent importation of the bibliographic services offered by the Biblioth`eque nationale de France (BNF). This objective was achieved in the first place by the importation of the entire authority file from the BN-OPALE database and by putting in place a regular process to update it. Periodically, batches of requests for records are sent to the BNFs information service based on the profile set up the customer for the order of materials. Formost items, this data entry is limited to the validation number (referring to the collection development plan), the title, the primary statement of responsibility (eventually followed by a link to the corresponding authority record), the date of publication, the series (eventually followed by a link to the corresponding cover record for the series), the call number, the price and the ISBN. The records sent in return automatically replace the order records.

Therefore, they rely on the authority file for the authority record numbers contained in the linking fields of the bibliographic record. The control of access points is thus assured in a viable, automatic fashion. This solutions allows for the elimination of all authority work and all management of indexes; it also reduces the bibliographic entry to those elements necessary for the acquisition of materials and the production of key reports. In order to eliminate the loss of information or the distortion of records, the transfer, the recovery and integration into the local database is done in INTERMARC format from the beginning.

The library will benefit, with the opening of the new building, from a reformation of its information system, which will permit it to take advantage of the most current resources and information online. In this new configuration, the authority files will play a decisive role in the coherence and quality of the bibliographic services of the institution.

2. The resources of the BNF authority files

The authority files from the BNFs BN-OPALE database offer particularly rich resources. The records for individual persons (APP) notable contain the valid and invalid forms of the name, title and rank, birth (and in the case of deceased persons death) dates, nationality, the language primarily used by the author and reference to pseudonyms; in the corporate author record (ACO), valid and invalid forms of the name, a note about the institution (with perhaps its address and telephone number), its dates of establishment, and if applicable, cessation, its country of origin, the primary language of its publications and reference to successive forms of its name; in the uniform title record (ATU), the valid and invalid forms of the title, parallel titles, a note about the work, mention of the author to whom the work is attributed, the country of origin and language of the work, as well as associated forms (for example, in the case of titles pertaining to a literary cycle or saga); for subject authority records (AMA) based on the RAMEAU list of authorized subject headings, the valid and invalid forms (eventually the approved corresponding LCSH heading with its date of creation), a note detailing the field of application of the heading and references to broader, narrower and related terms. The cover records for publications in series will function as authority files for national periodical collections . The record is comprised of , besides the chief title and its abbreviated form, invalid forms of entry, a scope note, the starting (and eventually the ending) dates of publications in series, linked, by the linking fields, to the bibliographic records of the appropriate monographs. All the references are associated with the authority record numbers (or when such is the case, to other bibliographic records) to which they refer, which permits the management of hypertext links in the system.

These files are from the actual BN-OPALE database. The resources offered by the BNF also consist of the BN-OPALINE database, which are not yet available to the library, which contains the marks (ACU) of phonographic materials and of music-related uniform titles (ATUM). The files of these two databases are the object of a merger in the BNFs new information system. The Fresnes library is preparing to load the resulting merged and mutually enriched files into their future system.

3. The impact of the authority files on administration and service

6. The function of authority records in the new information system

The objective of the new information system of the public library of Fresnes is to perennialize the acquisition of the preceding stages of automation and to pull from the many online sources of information in order to better serve, as the UNESCO manifest recommends, its mission of formation, information and culture. It is from this perspective that the new OPAC is devised as a product diversified by its supports of information, coherent by its contents and of quality by its selection.

The new information system, entrusted to the French companies OPSYS and MEDIADOC, will offer on an intranet network, three major innovations:

To these structural modifications is joined improvements in layout (signage, localization of open access materials in the plan of the library). Nevertheless, the veritable originality of the solution resides in the fact that access to these three types of is conveyed by the authority files supplied and updated by the BNF. The structure of disposition is portrayed by the following diagram:


In practice, the user who attempts a search on a subject, a corporate author, a uniform title, etc. will be able to obtain, on the same screen, a selection made up of tangible materials (which one will then be able to download, to listen to, to see and of which one will be able to consult a large part), CD-ROMs and Internet sites (which one will be able to consult directly by clicking on an icon or an address). The role of search engines devolves to the authority files, thus permitting the library to offer an original product comparable to the commercial offerings and direct navigation of the Internet. The library network will in fact present the advantage of gathering complementary documentary sources, offering content controlled and cleaned up by a common interrogation logic.

Mediated searching of the authority files will therefore not be only means of use. An alternative searching solution, in full text on the various parts of the records, is under review. Moreover, taking into consideration the noise generated by this type of search, the library staff will only recommend it to users who have sufficiently mastered their subject matter in order to be able to select the appropriate combinations which will lead to usable results.

The putting together of a documentary product that will be accessible to the inside (with the parameters set according to usage devolved from different tactile or traditional screens) and to the outside (Extranet extension; that is to say to certain collective users of a local network) of the library, means that the appropriate bibliographic piece and the Internet links will have to become accessible on the website.

7. Balance and perspective

This experience illustrates how the role of the BNF authority files can go beyond its simple use for the internal aims of the institution. The contents of their notes and the logic of their reference links and of their orientation make of it an efficient natural language tool capable of bringing together and of suggesting, according to a single search strategy, an information base diversified by its sources, coherent by its content and of quality by its selection.

It thus follows that authority files can contribute to the efficacy and to the efficiency of important working groups and of the functioning of the library. They acquire, by the same token, a new importance and, in time, the most enduring of cataloging functions. In fact, one could think that the generalization of SGML type formats would in the future be able to lead to more or less direct recovery of the structure, and of large parts or the totality of the contents of a document. Nevertheless, if the tasks of traditional bibliographic description have lost their reason for being, the coherent control of access does not become any less necessary.

For the Fresnes public library, the importation and updating of the authority files answers their strategic objectives. This choice was first seen as a way to improve the quality of the catalog, reduce costs and standardize access points. It was further seen as a way to refocus staff values toward a better competency in documentary areas of which they were not responsible, as well as in their tasks of welcoming, of orientation, and of advice to the public. These goals attained, it is hereafter possible to conceive of a new even more efficient information system.

This experience shows, by the same token, if one still has need of them, that bibliographic or informational options cannot be taken up alone, but must be in close connection with the objectives, the strategy, and the methods of evaluation and control of the institution.


  1. International Organization for Standardization, Information and documentation - Library performance indicators, (B.3.3.1 : Cost per title cataloged), 1998. The references (A,B,C,D) mentioned in boldface correspond to the method (B. used in the standard.

  2. Price paid by the employer (that is to say, the average French civil service wage, including benefits) for each hour worked (relevant to the time spent by staff at work, taking into account vacation and sick leaves). On this basis the average hourly wage for someone in the middle of their career (in 1977 values) is respectively 102,01 FF for those in category C, 130,92 FF for those in category B, 159,51 FF for those in category A (librarian) and 188,75 for those in category A+ (conservators).