January 19, 2022

Virtual International Authority File Service Transitions to OCLC

Post UPDATED on April 10, 2012

If you’ve never visited the VIAF, you should. It’s not useful for catalogers but we’ve found it VERY valuable when searching for information about people. In other words, a great resource for catalogers and researchers.

From OCLC:

VIAF (Virtual International Authority File), a project that virtually combines multiple name authority files into a single name authority service, has transitioned to become an OCLC service. OCLC will continue to make VIAF openly accessible and will also work to incorporate VIAF into various OCLC services.This transition from an interim, shared-governance arrangement to OCLC having primary responsibility for maintenance of VIAF and offering it as an OCLC service is done in agreement with institutions participating in VIAF. The change has been made to assure that VIAF will be well-positioned to scale efficiently as a long-term, cooperative activity.

The transition also assures that http://viaf.org will continue to have appropriate infrastructure to respond to rising levels of traffic as VIAF gains momentum and popularity as a resource for library authority work and linked data activities.

The institutions contributing to VIAF will continue to help shape VIAF’s direction through participation in a newly-formed VIAF Council which will provide guidance on policies, practices and operation of VIAF. At present, 22 agencies from 19 countries have contributed data to VIAF. Data is contributed on a non-exclusive basis.

Concurrent with the change in governance structure, OCLC has begun transitioning operational responsibility for VIAF from OCLC Research to OCLC’s production areas. VIAF will continue to be made available through http://viaf.org.

A Brief History of the VIAF

  • In April 1998, the United States Library of Congress (LC), the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, or DNB) and OCLC embarked on a proof-of-concept project to test linking each other’s authority records for personal names.
  • The VIAF Consortium was formed by written agreement of LC, DNB and OCLC signed on August 6, 2003, during the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference in Berlin, Germany.
  • The National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, or BnF) joined the consortium with an agreement effective October 5, 2007.
  • These four organizations—LC, DNB, BnF, and OCLC—assumed the role of Principals in the consortium, having joint responsibility for VIAF with OCLC hosting VIAF and supplying the software, and the participating institutions supplying the authority and bibliographic data content. Additional organizations later joined the consortium as Contributors, providing source files and expertise to advance the state of VIAF.

Btw, VIAF and OCLC are deeply involved in the recently INSI (International Standard Name Identifier) recently approved by the ISO.

See Also: The Virtual International Authority File
by Thomas Hickey
via NextSpace (OCLC Research Newsletter)
September 2009

UPDATED April 10, 2012
See Also: VIAF Developments
via Outgoing
by Thom Hickey

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.