Name Authority Records (NAR) and the Potential of Linked Data

by Andrea Belair


This post has been adapted from an article submitted to the Museum Section newsletter.


As a longtime archivist, it’s clear that different areas of librarianship don’t talk to each other enough; as we know, parts of an organization, even within a library, don’t always connect similar ideas. Much of the time it’s because we are using different language or descriptive metadata practices. Of course, this issue goes far beyond the compartmentalization within a library, but it can be interesting how much this is an issue for those working inside of a library space with the same ultimate goal. Linked open data offers many opportunities to address issues that occur from using different descriptive practices within an organization. For example, it’s hard to know if there is something that’s not getting on the radar of those who might not have the digital acumen to notice. A NAR, or name authority record, is one interesting opportunity for structured and linked data mining in order to connect entities in a digital space to those within physical collections and ILL systems that have implemented MARC cataloging.

At present, I am in a unique position in an art library within a museum, and I see so many opportunities for connecting the curatorial spaces with the library books and the archives. My current job is a grant-funded, term position as the Library Project Specialist for Collections Management at the art library of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (aka “the Clark”) in Williamstown, Massachusetts. One of the primary duties of my position is to create NARs. This position was developed by Andrea Puccio, the Collections Development Librarian at the Clark’s library. Its purpose is to identify and repair some of the gaps of artists from underrepresented or marginalized communities in the collection, since it has been dominated by classically-trained, Western-centric male artists for most of its existence. For many years, I have worked professionally in archival roles, so it has been interesting to see how that work informs and intersects with other areas of librarianship. All that I need to create a NAR is enough information to distinguish one creator from another. Through NACO, a cooperative program within the Program for Cooperative Cataloging, organizations contribute to the Name Authority File which is held and authorized by the Library of Congress. Participants of NACO create NARs through a submission process. Once entered into the Library of Congress, these authority records become LCSH standards and can be used by catalogers across the globe and accessed via their website. Below is a screenshot of a NAR being created for the artist and quiltmaker Mozell Benson, who, at the time of writing this post, is not yet in the Library of Congress authority file. Building this record starts the process, and Mozell Benson will be assigned a LCSH authority heading once this record is approved. Some of the data you can see represents date of birth, place of birth, and occupation; this gives us enough information to know that the record we are creating is unique, so that it will not be confused with a future entry of the same name.

Once added, this name will be available as an authorized heading for catalogers across the globe, it will be searchable in the Library of Congress authority file, and it will be more compatible for syncing with linked open data. It can be attached to other records that might hold her work, and it will increase visibility for her as an artist, as well as allow proper credit to be assigned to her as an artist and creator.

NARs can be harvested and used for other library catalogs and ILL systems, but they also have huge implications for Wikidata, SNAC, and other linked data projects. From what I understand, a WikiData bot runs and grabs new NARs and adds them to Wikidata. You can find NARs online on the Library of Congress website at the LCSH Authority Search page. (As an aside, the clunky, non-user friendly LCSH website search process represents one of the areas of disconnect between open linked data and the established schema of MARC.) An interesting guide to help explore some ways in which these are being used and connected to linked open data has been made available through Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) which integrates the LCSH headings with OCLC. With an understanding of the possible opportunities of NARs for use with archival work, I thought it might be helpful for archivists to understand a bit more about them and their potential to intersect with parallel projects through linked data.

At the 2022 ARLIS annual meeting, it was clear that there are several ongoing projects that have been using data to create linked open data, such as this list from the Smithsonian Institution. Additionally, there are many initiatives going on that are engaged in work to map LCSH headings to linked data, and there are lots of discussions going on to try to connect independent projects to one another. Over the course of this year, I hope that I can create many authority records that other institutions will use, thereby increasing visibility and exposure of many of these lesser-known artists so that they might receive proper copyright credit for their creations, as well as benefit from more recognition and visibility for their work.

A challenge for archivists and librarians in general is that we know we need to advocate, but we aren’t always advocating to an audience who understands, or cares, about our interests. We might have great intentions, but they might get overlooked by the interests of others, or they might just be falling short in terms of shared language. Opportunities for connecting data might get siloed, or they may be overlooked by collections that do not have the financial or staffing resources to take this on. I am looking forward to seeing how these descriptive practices become aligned as more and more people become aware of them.


Andrea Belair graduated with an MLIS in 2012 from Rutgers University. She has accessioned many hundreds of feet of materials, worked with rare books, organizational records, photographs, audiovisual materials, and special collections and manuscripts. She is based in western Massachusetts, and she will be seeking a position after her current term-limited role. Please feel free to connect on Linkedin.

Deadline Extended: Join the bloggERS Team!

We’ve extended the deadline to apply to be a member of bloggERS! (https://saaers.wordpress.com/), the blog of the Electronic Records Section (ERS) of the Society of American Archivists. The blog fosters communication and collaboration within the ERS and across the wider archival community. We, in conjunction with the ERS Steering Committee, are looking for two volunteers to take up the positions of Assistant Team Leader and Communications Liaison.

Assistant Team Leader:

The Assistant Team Leader serves as the second to the Team Leader. They assist in running the blog and promoting regular publication of scholarship. This role is open to all eligible Electronic Records Section members. The appointee will serve non-renewable two-year term (with potential to stay on as Team Member following end of term). Note: This position is appointed and not subject to election.

  • Term of service: 2 year term (first year as Assistant; second year as Leader)
  • Term limit: 1 term
  • Duties:
    • Keep notes during biweekly meetings
    • Help the Team Leader liaise between the Editorial Team and the ERS Steering Committee
    • Assist the Team Leader with other duties as needed
    • Learn the ropes about how the blog runs, to ensure continuity from year to year
    • Manage (recruit, edit, publish) one post every six weeks
    • Serve as Team Leader upon conclusion of first year of term

If you are interested in this position, please fill out the application by August 5th at the latest.

Communications Liaison:

The Communications Liaison facilitates communications between the Steering Committee and the Section membership and other audiences, including but not limited to the SAA microsite, electronic mailing list, blogs, social media, and other forms of online communication not yet in use by the Section. This role is open to all eligible Electronic Records Section members. The appointee will serve a renewable one-year term. Note that this role is appointed and not subject to election.

Communications Liaison description:

  • Term of service: renewable one-year term
  • Term limit: none
  • Time commitment: 1-2 hours per month
  • This role is officially defined in the ERS Standing Rules (can be a member of ERS or the ERS Steering Committee)
  • Duties:
    • Attend the ERS Steering Committee and bloggERS Editorial Board Meetings
    • Manage and maintain the blog’s technical infrastructure, at the direction of the Team Leader
    • Feed blog posts to social media and various appropriate listservs

If interested in this position, please fill out the application by August 5th at the latest. If you want to learn more about this position, email current Communications Liaison Brenna Edwards at brenna.edwards01@gmail.com.

Thank you for your consideration, and we hope to have you join our team!

Join the bloggERS team!

bloggERS! (https://saaers.wordpress.com/), the blog of the Electronic Records Section (ERS) of the Society of American Archivists, fosters communication and collaboration within the ERS and across the wider archival community. We, in conjunction with the ERS Steering Committee, are looking for two volunteers to take up the positions of Assistant Team Leader and Communications Liaison.

Assistant Team Leader:

The Assistant Team Leader serves as the second to the Team Leader. They assist in running the blog and promoting regular publication of scholarship. This role is open to all eligible Electronic Records Section members. The appointee will serve non-renewable two-year term (with potential to stay on as Team Member following end of term). Note: This position is appointed and not subject to election.

  • Term of service: 2 year term (first year as Assistant; second year as Leader)
  • Term limit: 1 term
  • Duties:
    • Keep notes during biweekly meetings
    • Help the Team Leader liaise between the Editorial Team and the ERS Steering Committee
    • Assist the Team Leader with other duties as needed
    • Learn the ropes about how the blog runs, to ensure continuity from year to year
    • Manage (recruit, edit, publish) one post every six weeks
    • Serve as Team Leader upon conclusion of first year of term

If you are interested in this position, please fill out the application with a brief statement of interest by July 22nd at the latest.

Communications Liaison:

The Communications Liaison facilitates communications between the Steering Committee and the Section membership and other audiences, including but not limited to the SAA microsite, electronic mailing list, blogs, social media, and other forms of online communication not yet in use by the Section. This role is open to all eligible Electronic Records Section members. The appointee will serve a renewable one-year term. Note that this role is appointed and not subject to election.

Communications Liaison description:

  • Term of service: renewable one-year term
  • Term limit: none
  • Time commitment: 1-2 hours per month
  • This role is officially defined in the ERS Standing Rules (can be a member of ERS or the ERS Steering Committee)
  • Duties:
    • Attend the ERS Steering Committee and bloggERS Editorial Board Meetings
    • Manage and maintain the blog’s technical infrastructure, at the direction of the Team Leader
    • Feed blog posts to social media and various appropriate listservs

If interested in this position, please fill out the application with a brief statement of interest by July 22nd at the latest. If you want to learn more about this position, email current Communications Liaison Brenna Edwards at brenna.edwards01@gmail.com.

Thank you for your consideration, and we hope to have you join our team!

Call for bloggERS: Blog Posts on the ALA Annual Conference

With short weeks to go before the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference (June 23-28, 2022), bloggERS! is seeking attendees who are interested in writing a re-cap or a blog post covering a particular session, theme, or topic relevant to SAA Electronic Records Section members. The program for the conference is available here.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing by sending an email to ers.mailer.blog@gmail.com! You can also let us know if you’re interested in writing a general re-cap or if you’d like to cover something more specific.

Writing for bloggERS!:

  • We encourage visual representations: Posts can include or largely consist of comics, flowcharts, a series of memes, etc!
  • Written content should be roughly 600-800 words in length
  • Write posts for a wide audience: anyone who stewards, studies, or has an interest in digital archives and electronic records, both within and beyond SAA
  • Align with other editorial guidelines as outlined in the bloggERS! guidelines for writers.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing by sending an email to ers.mailer.blog@gmail.com!

Call for bloggERS: Blog Posts on the Code4Lib Conference

With days to go before the Code4Lib Conference (May 23-26, 2022), bloggERS! is seeking attendees who are interested in writing a re-cap or a blog post covering a particular session, theme, or topic relevant to SAA Electronic Records Section members. The schedule for the conference is available here.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing by sending an email to ers.mailer.blog@gmail.com! You can also let us know if you’re interested in writing a general re-cap or if you’d like to cover something more specific.

Writing for bloggERS!:

  • We encourage visual representations: Posts can include or largely consist of comics, flowcharts, a series of memes, etc!
  • Written content should be roughly 600-800 words in length
  • Write posts for a wide audience: anyone who stewards, studies, or has an interest in digital archives and electronic records, both within and beyond SAA
  • Align with other editorial guidelines as outlined in the bloggERS! guidelines for writers.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing by sending an email to ers.mailer.blog@gmail.com!

Electronic Records Section + Oral History Section Joint Section Meeting 2022 – Call for for presenters!

This year, the Electronic Records Section (ERS) and Oral History Section (OHS) will host a joint section meeting in early August during SAA’s 2022 hybrid conference. In hosting a joint session, our goal is to encourage dialogue between our members and to reflect on our shared interests and challenges, particularly in the ways that our work has been impacted by a remote working environment and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

All section meetings are virtual this year, and do not require registering for the conference, set to take place August 24, 2022 – August 27, 2022. 

If you are interested in participating in this session, please fill out this form (https://forms.gle/2LCJ3MBEUbkgprC38) with your proposal  for a 10-15 minute presentation.  We are welcoming either live presentations or pre-recorded videos, to be followed by a live moderated Q+A session and/or open discussion, as time allows.

Potential themes can include, but are not limited to:

  • The impact of COVID-19 and remote work on the creation and management of born-digital content, including oral history projects
  • Managing changes in the process of creating and preserving oral histories remotely 
  • Strategic planning and long-term goal setting for digital objects created with oral histories
  • Archival labor and management of oral history and digital archiving projects
  • Underrepresented communities as focus of oral histories and born-digital collections
  • Post-custodial approaches and projects for oral histories and born-digital content
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility as core functions of our work
  • Lessons learned from projects completed during the COVID-19 pandemic

We hope to hear from you soon!

Deadline: May 31st

Recap: Securing Data & Records in the Cloud

By Stephen Gentry


This blog post is part of a series of session recaps from the Digital Government Institute’s 15th Annual Cloud Conference, which primarily focused on the intersection of records and cloud computing (hereafter referred to as “the cloud”). Click the link in this introduction to view the conference’s agenda and register (for free) to view the conference’s recording.


The third session of the Digital Government Institute’s 15th Annual Cloud Conference featured Mike Smoyer (President of the Digital Government Institute) as the moderator and the following panelists:

  • Beau Houser, Chief Information Security Officer (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Ross Foard, IT Specialist (INFOSEC at Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency)
  • Nick Marinos, Managing Director, Information Technology and Cybersecurity (Government Accountability Office)  
  • Benjamin Kurtis, Strategist (Peniel Solutions)  

Over the next 45 minutes, these individuals responded to different questions from Smoyer about:

  • Security challenges, particularly as it relates to the cloud
  • Cloud security best practices
  • Major concerns about storing data in the cloud
  • The necessity of including different stakeholders (e.g. records managers) when acquiring new technology

As the session progressed, I once more found myself in an interesting position as I listened to the panelists. Foard’s response to Smoyer’s question about security challenges–that cloud services can take different forms (e.g. software as a service, infrastructure as a service, and platform as a service) and that the particular service an agency selects really depends on their specific context–definitely sounded like a commonplace answer among archivists when addressing challenging/complex situations: “it depends.” Some panelists also echoed the thoughts of earlier presenters. Kurtis and Marionos, for example, responded to the question about security challenges by emphasizing the value of having more stakeholders involved when acquiring new technology. In response to Smoyer’s question about cloud security best practices, Marinos advocated for practical records management efforts; Foard noted the importance of understanding both users and their identities, as well as once again highlighting Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) certification; and Houser described efforts to limit unwieldy “data sprawl.” What felt like repeated emphases on similar or commonplace themes over the course of the conference not only made me feel less like an outsider (as noted in my first post on this conference), but reinforced the belief that–if I found myself in conversation with similar professionals on the topic of records management in the cloud–I could more easily engage with said colleagues because I now possessed a basic understanding of some of their needs and values (see Shaw, Adler, and Dooley, 2017, described in more detail below).    

This feeling ties heavily into one of my major takeaways from this session: the value of gaining a window into the mindsets and values of information technology (IT) professionals and records managers, at least those who work for the Federal government and who are focused on the cloud (see Shaw, Adler, and Dooley, 2017). To provide some context, I approached this conference as a professional whose values and code of ethics aligned with that of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). This means that I approach my work with an eye towards access and use, preserving materials, and facilitating trust (among many other values and beliefs). 

However, although there were some commonalities between my values and beliefs and those of the panelists, it is fair to say that our beliefs would not overlap completely. For example, while the SAA’s Code of Ethics has a section dedicated to “security and protection,” the panelists especially prioritized security and control during their comments. This is evidenced by Foard’s repeated emphasis on zero trust architecture throughout the session, to give just one example. While I would have been shocked had this session not focused on issues relating to security, the fact that these panelists–as well as speakers in earlier sessions–had focused so heavily on this topic revealed that this is something IT professionals highly value as they go about their professional business.    

This awareness is good for a few reasons. First, as noted by Seth Shaw, Richard C. Adler, and Jackie Dooley in their 2017 OCLC report, Demystifying IT: A Framework for Shared Understanding Between Archivists and IT Professionals, collaboration among archivists–particularly digital archivists–and information technology professionals is increasingly important if we are to succeed in our challenging technological environments (pp. 6-7, 23). We (archivists) can use conferences like these, as well as resources like Shaw’s, Adler’s, and Dooley’s (2017) report to better “understand the priorities, techniques and culture of information technology so that they [archivists] can be the most effective collaborators possible” (Forward). Equally important, and connected to the first point, is that these kinds of events and resources hopefully help limit any moments of tension between archivists and their IT colleagues. I think it is fair to say that all of us have heard about, or had conversations relating to, the challenges of working with those outside our immediate unit or profession, especially when it comes to IT. At the same time, I would not be surprised if those same IT colleagues had also expressed similar frustrations with archivists and their ways. By taking moments to pause, reflect, and learn from one another, I am confident that we can more easily and effectively build that “culture of collaboration” that Shaw, Adler, and Dooley (2017, p. 6) advocate as required for us to thrive in this increasingly complex and rapidly changing information age.


Steven Gentry is the Archivist for Archival Processing at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library (BHL). Previously, he worked as a BHL Project Archivist, where his responsibilities included processing multi-format accessions, reviewing and enhancing finding aids, and supporting various other projects.

Recap: Securing Identity in the Cloud

By Steven Gentry


This blog post is part of a series of session recaps from the Digital Government Institute’s 15th Annual Cloud Conference, which primarily focused on the intersection of records and cloud computing (hereafter referred to as “the cloud”). Click the link in this introduction to view the conference’s agenda and register (for free) to view the conference’s recording.


The next session in the Digital Government Institute’s 15th Annual Cloud Conference was a presentation by Brandon Traffanstedt (CyberArk), entitled Securing Identity in the Cloud.1 In contrast to Managing Data & Records in the Cloud, this presentation focused on identity management and cybersecurity in the context of the cloud. More narrowly scoped and less immediately familiar to me than its predecessor, it provided me with much to reflect on upon its conclusion.

To provide some context, Traffanstedt began the session by briefly introducing CyberArk, his role within the organization, and his professional background. He then encouraged audience members to consider the consequences of the expansion of different cloud-focused service models, such as software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and platform as a service (PaaS). In particular, he highlighted that the expansion of these complex services, their data, and different kinds of human and software agents (a.k.a. identities) now provides criminals with additional opportunities to successfully compromise systems. At the same time, Traffanstedt reinforced that prioritization, realistic expectations, and careful planning can work together to prevent these potential issues from becoming a nightmare.   

Traffanstedt started this hopeful shift in the presentation by emphasizing that not only should we expect main/primary security controls to fail, but that we should use this reality to prioritize specific kinds of identities (e.g. administrators) and what kind of safeguards we impose on them. One of his major points was that, in this unique technological world, attackers can exploit a variety of issues—such as the blurred boundaries between older and newer technologies, exponential increase in different kinds of identities, and added collaboration—to cause havoc. By more effectively securing and controlling not only the data to be safeguarded but also the aforementioned identities and related services, he emphasized that one can more effectively delimit and understand their technological workspace as well as anticipate the ways that attackers may try to gain access to systems. This approach, in addition to some other basic tactics mentioned in the presentation, can really help stewards safeguard their information.    

What followed in the presentation were a number of practical recommendations to support this argument. Some of these recommendations include detecting which identities have excessive permissions (and limiting those inappropriate permissions accordingly) as well as frequently changing secrets. Traffanstedt also noted that resources, such as CyberArk’s Cloud Entitlement Manager (see also Cloud Infrastructure Entitlements Management), can help one more effectively manage these identities and their associated permissions. He also described the benefits of just-in-time access, which can be thought of as a kind of temporary boost in permissions. Finally, he reinforced that—in addition to human entities, which we are all fairly familiar with—software are also identities that need to be managed. By better understanding these agents (to borrow language from the PREMIS Data Dictionary), Traffanstedt highlighted that listeners can remedy any initial discomfort they may have when dealing with these kinds of identities and manage them just as well as their human counterparts.

Ultimately, this session was far narrower in scope than its predecessor and, while it had some familiar concepts, it also provided much for listeners such as myself to consider. For example, I began asking questions such as: how many identities did my past and current employers have to manage? What kinds of identities and/or permissions were available to the archivists at those institutions? What kinds of permissions had been granted to those archivists, and which had not been granted–and why? Perhaps most importantly, how can identities be used more effectively—if possible—to improve a variety of archival processes, including preservation and access? 

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I did walk away from this session with an intense desire to know more. Much like the identity manager wrangling their cloud identities and permissions, I felt myself increasingly wanting to know more and delimit this space I suddenly found myself in. However, this had to wait as I began the conference’s third session: Securing Data & Records in Cloud.

1 Click this link to view and/or download a copy of Traffanstedt’s slides, which were distributed to viewers during the session.


Steven Gentry is the Archivist for Archival Processing at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library (BHL). Previously, he worked as a BHL Project Archivist, where his responsibilities included processing multi-format accessions, reviewing and enhancing finding aids, and supporting various other projects.