LEAF researchers have developed a prototype architecture for linking ‘name authority records’ in libraries and other national archives across Europe. The system allows such records to be uploaded to a central system, then automatically links together those records that concern the same individual or entity.
Improving the accuracy of public records
“We gain access to name authority records from different countries all over the world, convert them into a common format, then insert them into a central database,” says project coordinator Hans-Joerg Lieder of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. “What this means for users is that we have gathered all the information from various sources that describes one person or entity, and linked it together.” Users can then search this data online and use the results to improve the accuracy of their own records, he says.
Lieder explains that an archivist in the British Library for example could set up a search for all records that have come from his institution, but have links to information from other sources. “If he finds a record from another institution that shows a different date of birth, he can add an annotation to the record which will then be forwarded automatically to the information source. A negotiation process then takes place to establish which record has the correct date.”
The information retrieved as a result of a user query is stored in a pan-European ‘Central Name Authority File’, which grows with each query. This central file also reflects which data records are most relevant to LEAF users.
The key advantage of the LEAF system, says Lieder, is that it provides librarians and archivists with a tool to identify records that need improvement, and the means to improve them. Although LEAF is designed to aid archivists across Europe, it is a free service available to anyone, as long as they register.
Further applications under investigation
The LEAF project closed at the end of May 2004, however at least two potential applications are under investigation for the system. One is to add LEAF functionality to the MALVINE service, an online search facility for post-medieval manuscripts hosted by the Berlin State Library and maintained by a European consortium of libraries, archives and museums.
In the other application, researchers are investigating how the prototype could be used by The European Library in The Hague. Here LEAF has significant potential for helping to improve the multiplicity of records from national libraries across Europe.
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin
Unter den Linden 8
Source: Based on information from LEAF