May 28, 2022

Presentation Slides: Thom Hickey, OCLC Research Discusses Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) During NISO/DCMI Webinar

The webinar took place yesterday and the slides are now available on Slideshare. We’ve also embedded them at the bottom of this post.

Blurb Describing Webinar From NISO Web Site:

Libraries around the world have a long tradition of maintaining authority files to assure the consistent presentation and indexing of names. As library authority files have become available online, the authority data has become accessible — and many have been published as Linked Open Data (LOD) — but names in one library authority file typically had no link to corresponding records for persons and organizations in other library authority files. After a successful experiment in matching the Library of Congress/NACO authority file with the German National Library’s authority file, an online system called the Virtual International Authority File was developed to facilitate sharing by ingesting, matching, and displaying the relations between records in multiple authority files.

The Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) has grown from three source files in 2007 to more than two dozen files today. The system harvests authority records, enhances them with bibliographic information and brings them together into clusters when it is confident the records describe the same identity. Although the most visible part of VIAF is a HTML interface, the API beneath it supports a linked data view of VIAF with URIs representing the identities themselves, not just URIs for the clusters. It supports names for person, corporations, geographic entities, works, and expressions. With English, French, German, Spanish interfaces (and a Japanese in process), the system is used around the world, with over a million queries per day.


The Webinar will cover some of the challenges VIAF meets in dealing with many different formats and approaches to describing identities, the relationship of VIAF to the source authority files, to other identity systems such as ORCID and ISNI, VIAF’s approach to sustainability, governance and persistence, and how ambiguity is recognized and managed.

See Also: Thom Hickey’s Bio and Links to Current OCLC Research Activities

See Also: Thom Hickey’s Blog: Outgoing. Library metadata techniques and trends

See Also: Recent VIAF News (Nov. 25, 2013)…OCLC Research Launches Scholars’ Contributions to VIAF Activity

Learn More About This Milestone in a “Hanging Together” Blog Post by Karen Smith-Yoshimura.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.