The Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) helps to make library authority files less expensive to maintain and more generally useful to the library domain and beyond. To achieve this, VIAF matches and links the authority files of national libraries and groups all authority records for a given entity into a merged “super” authority record that brings together the different names for that entity. By linking disparate names for the same person or organization, VIAF provides a convenient means for a wider community of libraries and other agencies to repurpose bibliographic data produced by libraries serving different language communities.
More specifically, VIAF:
- Links national and regional-level authority records, creating a cluster record for each unique name
- Expands the concept of universal bibliographic control by (1) allowing national and regional variations in authorized form to coexist; and (2) supporting needs for variations in preferred language, script and spelling
- Plays a role in the emerging Semantic Web
In addition to providing Web-accessible identification of entities of interest to libraries, VIAF builds a foundation to enable localization of bibliographic data by making local versions of names (e.g., in different scripts, spellings, or other variations), available for searching and display. For example, German users could be able to see a name displayed in the form established by the DNB, while French users could see the same name as established by the BnF, and English-speaking users could view the name as established by the LC/NACO file. Users in their respective countries are able to view name records as established by the others, making the authorities truly international and facilitating research across languages anywhere in the world.