Corporate Bodies: Problems Associated With Access Points and Cross-References

by Moya K. Mason


Authority files provide unique and consistent headings in a library catalogue. These unique headings are the catalogue's access points to the bibliographic information stored in the library database, and may be uniform titles, subjects, or names. They also fulfill the collocation function of authority work by gathering together related works, and consequently, have an important role to play and must be chosen carefully. Since the goal of library catalogues is to provide access and allow for accurate searching, cataloguers need to decide which access points or headings to use by following the general rules set out in Chapter 21 of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules 2 (AACR2). For the purposes of this discussion of corporate bodies, rule 21.1B2, which documents the criteria needed to identify an organization or group of persons as a corporate group, will be the starting point. It must have a proper name (see rule 21.1B1), and have acted or can act as an entity (AACR2 1988,312). AACR2 defines a corporate body as:

An organization or group of persons that is identified by a particular name and that acts, or may act, as an entity. Typical examples are associations, institutions, business firms, nonprofit enterprises, governments, government agencies, religious bodies, local churches, and conferences (AACR2 1988,617).

The group of persons or body that is chiefly responsible for the intellectual property of an item is given main entry, while added entry status is given to other corporate bodies or groups of persons who have secondary responsibility and should be listed as access points in a catalogue. The choice of a main entry is a long-standing requirement for working cataloguers, and is continuing, albeit with some objections, in today's online environment. Corporate authorship is another contentious element in the cataloguing world that began with Charles Cutter's statement that "bodies of men are to be considered as authors of works published in their name or by their authority" (Cutter 1904,69). Many have questioned the concept that allows an association to be cited as an author, when in reality only individuals write (Berman 1990,22). Subsequently, it was decided that certain materials are cooperative in nature, and AACR2 documented the idea of collective thought emanating from a work (Berman 1990,22).

The next step is to decide how the main and added entries should be cited. Chapter 24 of AACR2 provides the basic rules for corporate bodies, along with rules for handling variations in the name of a corporate body; what to add or delete from corporate names; what to do with subordinate units of a non-governmental body; when do these subordinate units have to be cited under the larger body; what to do with subordinate units of a governmental body; and when do these units have to be cited under the larger body? This is only a selection of the most important rules written for corporate bodies. As Edward Swanson correctly points out in Choice and Form of Access Points According to AACR2:

Unlike the other chapters in AACR2, chapter 24 basically is not a chapter of rules. One could say (only semi-facetiously) that chapter 24 comprises one rule and forty pages of exceptions (Swanson 1990,45).

Herein lies the problem of cataloguing the materials of corporate bodies, with their many name changes, cross-references, and determinations of whom or what gets main entry status. The following paper will discuss some of the many difficulties associated with determining access points for corporate bodies, and for the handling of such access points in an authority file. In particular, a summary of the problems faced when cataloguing conference proceedings will be discussed.

An Overview of the Rules for Corporate Bodies

The most general rule for deciding headings for corporate bodies is 24.1A: "enter a corporate body directly under the name by which it is commonly identified, unless the rules that follow provide for entering it under the name of a higher or related body or under the name of a government" (AACR2 1988,441). To determine what name a corporate body commonly uses, a cataloguer must look at items that it has released for publication, or do some research into articles and books written about the corporate body (AACR2 1988,441). Corporate bodies often change their names and new headings must be established, but references have to be made between the old and new (AACR2 1988,443). For example, Farmer's High School changed its name to the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania in 1862, and to Pennsylvania State College in 1874, and finally, to Pennsylvania State University in 1953. A complex set of cross-references (see also), and explanatory notes detailing the history are used to collocate this one corporate body in an authority record (AACR2 1988,443).

References do help alleviate some of the complexities of corporate body cataloguing, and an entire section of AACR2 rules (26.3) was written to help in the collocation function. A major difference between choosing access points for persons and corporate bodies is that persons are entered under their latest name if a name change occurs, with early variations linked through references. However, corporate bodies have a new heading established for each name and "that heading is used for works by or about the body when it had that name" (Swanson 1990,47). References are also used to link the earlier and later names of a corporate body.

If a name found on a title page is different from the one most commonly identified with a corporate body, a see reference is required to connect the variant name to the authorized heading (Clack 1990,123). For example, the cataloguer finds the name Robert Marlin and Associates on the title page of a book, but finds other forms of the name elsewhere in the work, such as Bob Marlin and Associates, or Bob Marlin & Associates. That person would have to confirm the form used by the company in official documents. The same holds true if spelling variations are found. Additionally, some corporate bodies use more than one form of their official name to complicate the lives of cataloguers. AACR2 advises using the name presented formally, or the predominate form of the name in question (AACR2 1988,444).

If differences in the name result in it appearing in a different language, then one should "use the form in the official language of the body" (AACR2 1988,445). For example, use Societe Historique Franco-Americaine, not Franco-American Historical Society (AACR2 1988,445). A group of special rules handle all the various problems that can occur with variant names resulting from a language change. The rules for variant names apply equally to conventional names, religious orders and societies, governments, conferences, congresses, meetings, and local churches. All advise using the best known conventional form of the name. In the case of governments, the conventional name is the geographic name of the area the government controls (AACR2 1988,448). Examples would be to use Massachusetts instead of Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or to replace Town of Arlington with Arlington. Remember, cataloguing is creating access points that show relationships between items.

It means that the heading for the same name in different records is always the same so that bibliographic records for all works by and about the same person or emanating from the same corporate body can be displayed together (Wynar 1992,20).

Additions, Omissions, and Modifications

The Additions, Omissions, and Modifications section establishes the rules for corporate body headings, and is needed to clarify corporate names and to maintain consistent structure in the catalogue. Rule 24.4A1 states that cataloguers are to "make additions to the name of a corporate body...if the name alone does not convey the idea of a corporate body" (AACR2 1988,450). For instance, the rock group U2 would be catalogued as U2 (Musical Group), and the famous ship, The Norma and Gladys would appear as Norma and Gladys (Ship). Additions are also made when two or more bodies have similar names or the same name, as often happens with local chapters of political parties, government agencies, hospitals, schools, and churches, for example. A chapter of the National Committee on the Status of Women has groups all around the world, so a geographic location is added for clarification, just as schools called Ridgemont High need a locator. Cataloguers add a word or a phrase to make unique and consistent headings for easier access. Dates are also routinely added to help distinguish between two or more bodies, particularly when a place name is not enough to differentiate them (AACR2 1988,453).

Omissions are commonplace in the cataloguing world. Many names for corporate bodies begin with the articles 'the' or 'a', and therefore, are excluded from headings because they do not act as good or unique access points. Unless a heading is to file under an article, omit it (AACR2 1988,453). Instead of The Citadel, use Citadel; for A Brother's Touch, omit the article (Swanson 1990,49). The example of The Norma and Gladys would appear as Norma and Gladys in an AACR2 heading. Citations of honours, and terms indicating incorporation are required omissions of AACR2. To illustrate, if a publication has the name Sears Canada, Inc., abbreviate it to Sears Canada.

Some of the greatest difficulties associated with determining access points for corporate bodies are the problems with integrating the rules for subordinate and related bodies. It takes practice, great judgement, and experience to fully understand the hierarchal levels, the ambiguous rules, and the consequences to the integrity of the catalogue, if the access points are not chosen correctly. The rules are too numerous and complicated to be given justice in this essay, however, it can be said that they are divided into three sections to cover general rules, government bodies, and religious organizations (Wynar 1985,315). Government bodies are always subordinate to a jurisdiction, as with The Canadian House of Commons having the corporate heading of Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. The general rule allows a subordinate non-governmental body to be entered under its own name, with the exceptions listed in rule 24.13. References are used to connect the sub-heading to the higher or related body (AACR2 1988,460). For example, Edith Goodridge Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles would have the AACR2 heading of Edith Goodridge Gallery, with references from University of California, Los Angeles. Cataloguers have to decide whether a corporate body can be entered under its own name or under the heading of a higher body. Since religious and government bodies have their own special rules, it is important to establish if a subordinate body falls under one or the other (Wynar 1985,303).

What To Do About Conference Proceedings

To catalogue the wide variety of conference proceedings, AACR2 has developed very complex rules that are difficult to master. In Coping with Conference Proceedings, Barbara L. Berman says they are a necessity, but argues that most of the problems result from a lack of understanding of the rules, changes in cataloguing practices, and local policies (Berman 1990,19). All make for inconsistencies in the database and cause access problems. AACR2 defines conferences as:

Meetings of individuals or representatives of various bodies for the purpose of discussing and/or acting on topics of common interest, or meetings of representatives of a corporate body that constitute its legislative or governing body (AACR2 1988,313).

A conference must have a name predominately displayed on the title page of a document to qualify for main entry status, with capitalization a criterion (Clack 1990,135). For example, it would not be acceptable to find "a symposium on health." Conferences generate many different kinds of publications, with possibly more than one type coming from the same conference (Berman 1990,20). Each item may have to be catalogued differently.

Changes in cataloguing practices have affected the structure of conference headings, with the omission of words that show its number, frequency, or year(s) of convocation (AACR2 1988,313). Additions to headings include "the number of the conference, the year, and the place in which it was held" (AACR2 1988,313). These changes have repercussions on library catalogues, as do changes caused by the choice of a heading (Berman 1990,22). As Berman explains:

Consequently, most catalogues now contain records for conference proceedings not only under the name of the conference, but also under the name of the body which held the conference, under the name of the body subdivided by a term such as Conference or Meeting, under the place where the conference was held, and under the title of the publication. The variations depend upon the time at which the records were created, and they reflect different conceptions of corporate authorship in itself and in reference to conferences (Berman 1990,22).

As with all corporate bodies, conferences go through their fair share of name changes, but there is no search for an official name. Cataloguers are encouraged to rely heavily on the title page information, and therefore, use the name found on it (Berman 1990,24). The presence of various cataloguing codes, title page variations, multiple records for the same work, and local practises, are just some of the complications that hamper shared cataloguing, and the uniformity needed for international standardization (Cook 1984,252).


It is easy to see why inconsistencies show up in databases and how items can be lost forever. It is so dependent on each cataloguer properly using the complex rules for corporate bodies in AACR2. Libraries really need conscientious cataloguers, if they hope to fulfil their mission of providing access to the bibliographic information in their databases, and if they care about increasing user satisfaction. It is much harder to meet those standards when dealing with corporate bodies because the rules are so complex, ever-changing, and are affected by local cataloguing practices. Deciding the role of the corporate body and whether or not to catalogue conference proceedings as separate entities, which will not shelf together, or keeping some proceedings together for the benefit of users, are only some of the many decisions that can have great implications for a library's OPAC, and repercussions for the future.

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Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. 2nd ed. 1988 revision. Ottawa: CLA.

Berman, Barbara L. 1990. Coping with Conference Proceedings. Cataloguing & Classification Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 19-35.

Clack, Doris H. 1990. Authority Control: Principles, Applications, and Instructions. Chicago: ALA.

Cook, C. Donald. 1984. Headings for Corporate Names: International Standardization Under AACR2. Library Resources & Technical Services July/September, pp. 239-252.

Cutter, C.A. 1904. Rules for a Dictionary Catalog: Selections, pp. 62-71 in Foundations of Cataloguing, ed. By M. Carpenter and E. Svenonius. Littleton: Libraries Unlimited, Inc. 1985.

Swanson, Edward. 1990. Choice and Form of Access Points According to AACR2. Cataloguing & Classification Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 35-51.

Wynar, B.S. 1985. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification. 7th ed. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Wynar, B.S. 1992. Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification. 8th ed. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

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