Identify Requirements for a Cooperative "Identities Hub"

One of the activities related to metadata management and support, an RLG Partners Networking Names Advisory Group developed use case scenarios for academic libraries and scholars, archivists and archival users, and institutional repositories describing their needs to uniquely identify and distinguish persons and organizations. From these use case scenarios, the group defined the characteristics, functions, and data attributes of a "cooperative Identities Hub," a framework for concatenating and merging authoritative information from different sources and using a social networking model. 


Information sufficient to distinguish people and organizations with similar names is widely dispersed. Identification requires not just a name but information providing a context for the person or organization. Identifying the creators or personal/corporate subjects of works is needed across research communities, libraries, archives, museums, digital library production, institution repositories, etc., as well as by users in the Web networked environment.

The most costly component of library technical services is authority work, yet national authority files provide scant information to distinguish authors with same or similar names. The LC/NACO authority file, for example, is designed for librarians, and the practice of distinguishing between authors by birth dates is less informative than many kinds of users would expect.

Each national library has its own authority file; many museums have a name authority on local artists, which supplements their use of ULAN (Union List of Artist Names). The archival community requires more context for corporate bodies and state and government agencies than is typically provided in national library authority files. Institutional repositories struggle with uniquely identifying the authors of the works submitted. Article authors are often cited in a variety of ways that differ from established forms in authority files.

The current LC/NACO contributor model has severe limitations, both in who is enabled to add and edit authority records and the rules that constrain what information can be entered (even if the cataloger knows more information).The intellectual work that librarians who are not NACO contributors do in the course of creating bibliographic records is untapped. The expertise in archival and museum communities is not reflected. Scholars have expertise to contribute to more clearly differentiate creators of works and do so within the Web environment.

There is no one resource that illustrates the history and works by and about persons and corporate bodies, which may be known by a variety of names depending on location. Researchers need a tool to support discovery of publication "pedigrees" (to establish authority and relevance of a title), and the ability to disambiguate publisher names. Institutions need to manage names across resources, units, and domains.

RLG Partner staff volunteered to develop use case scenarios that described the needs to uniquely identify and distinguish persons and organizations in academic, archival, and institutional repository environments. From these scenarios, the group defined the characteristics, functions, and data attributes of a "cooperative Identities Hub" that we can all strive for.


The list of data attributes and functions defined for the "cooperative Identities Hub" can serve as a checklist for all services designed to uniquely identify and distinguish persons and organizations. It has already been used as a reference for the Names Project in the UK, the Encoded Archival Context: Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families, and the NISO Institutional Identifiers working group.


  • Bring together information about creators now hidden within library, archival, and museum contexts, using a social networking model.
  • Broaden the view of "authority work" beyond NACO contributors.
  • Increase metadata creation efficiency.
  • Make it easier for users to identify works by or about the same creator regardless of language or discipline.
  • Expose information about personal and corporate bodies beyond the confines of library, archival, and museum silos and bring them into the "network flow".

The RLG Programs Networking Names Advisory Group developed use case scenarios for the Cooperative "Identities Hub". These use case scenarios determined the functions and target audiences that would have the most impact and therefore also identify the most needed components. The advisory group members represented a cross-section of RLG partner institutions with participants representing different domains.



An overview of the names and identities problem space and the requirements for a "Cooperative Identities Hub" defined by the RLG Partners Networking Names Advisory Group was given at the 2009 RLG Partners Annual Meeting (Update session 1)

Cooperative Identities Hub: Presentation given by Karen Smith-Yoshimura at the ALA Authority Control Interest Group, The Future is Now: Global Authority Control 2009-07-12: 

Most recent updates: Page content: 2009-08-11

We are a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by members since 1967. Our public purpose is a statement of commitment to each other—that we will work together to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe, and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration.