Uniform Titles have been added to the Virtual International Authority File!
Now VIAF covers*:
- Personal names
- Corporate names
- Geographic names (only jurisdictional names so far)
- Uniform titles
There are a few more types of names in authority files, such as families (VIAF has a few since some sources consider these 'personal'), trademarks, and non-jurisdictional places. And then there are authority records for deities and imaginary people that start to be closer to concepts than names. Currently we don't consider concepts such as 'beauty' or 'agriculture' in scope for VIAF, but just about everything else in authority files is.
Adding uniform titles was a big step for VIAF and I expect that we are far from done with it. Titles are different from people and corporations. Compared to people and corporations, titles are not authors, but many of them have authors. In addition uniform titles recognize the FRBR concepts of works and expressions. Of course, since uniform titles have been around much longer than the current FRBR understanding of works and expressions, the relationships are not quite as explicit as we might like, but the basic relationships are there and needed to be recognized in VIAF.
Another aspect of uniform titles is that much of the information about them is in associated bibliographic records, not in authority records. This is true even to the extent that many uniform titles are not in the authority files at all. Since VIAF already uses information from bibliographic records to expand the information in other types of clusters, we initially planned to pull that information into VIAF for uniform titles. Unfortunately we found that creating VIAF clusters that do not have any actual authority records related to them started to open up issues that were growing more and more complicated as we got into them. In view of the limited time we felt we could spend getting uniform titles into production (~3 months), we decided to cut back to only using the information in the authority records and to spend our time trying to recognize and directly link the relations implicit in those records. Now that we have gotten this far we are starting to see some ways we could accommodate 'recordless' uniform titles, so we may get to that in the future.
Even without information from bibliographic records, we think uniform titles can make interesting VIAF clusters. Take a look at a well know author, such as Jane Austen. Expanding the 'Uniform Title Links' section you should see a number of works, and under those, expressions of the works. A well known work such as Pride and Prejudice will have its own work cluster and show several different expressions, such as Pride and Prejudice in Spanish.
It is not as clear how to handle things like 'selections'. As you can see in Jane Austen, we are treating both selections and 'works' as their own separate work. Also in Jane's list you can see works that have expression records, but no work record (e.g. the Polish version of the Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen). We considered creating a VIAF cluster for those authority-recordless works, but that too opened complications, so currently such works do not have a VIAF cluster.
We hope uniform titles in VIAF will be useful, and would very much like to hear what people think of them and how they can be improved.
NOTE: Since the uniform titles are so new, they should probably be considered 'beta' until people have a chance to look at them in more detail.
* From a FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Data) point of view, these are all names, but VIAF treats them as identifying what the name is about, for example http://viaf.org/viaf/96987389 represents Tolstoy himself, not his name or a record about his name. To a great extent VIAF is driven by the data it ingests, but does its best to reformulate it in a linked-data friendly way without forgetting current library applications that depend on it.
ANOTHER NOTE: This was actually written in the fall of 2011, right after uniform titles were added. I recently found it and thought it was still of interest.