A newsletter from the LEAF Project surveys recent results and current activities of the project participants. Started in March 2001, LEAF (Linking and Exploring Authority Files) is a three year project "co-funded through the Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme within the European Union's Fifth Framework. The consortium consists of fifteen partners in ten European countries, including libraries, archives, documentation and research centers. LEAF will develop a model architecture for a distributed search system harvesting existing name authority files (person names and corporate bodies). LEAF is also participating in the development of an XML format for authority records and archival context information, as relevant to the EAC (Encoded Archival Context). Results from testing the first version of EAC within LEAF will contribute to the development of the public version, which is expected to be launched in 2002. The LEAF Project public deliverables include a report on a recommended name DTD, a mapping between the name DTD and a name metadata set, a report on the XML encoding, and conversion tools for the encoded name data. The principal expected benefit for LEAF is that access to authority files will no longer be restricted to professional users from large libraries and archives, but will be available to any interested person. Furthermore, the professional use of authority files will also be enhanced; as the workflow between the participating institutions will be established, authority records can easily be exchanged and improved and small institutions will also be able to provide their information."
From Hans-Jörg Lieder (Berlin State Library) in the LEAF Newsletter, Issue 1:
Most European countries have authority files, the obvious benefits of which, for cataloguing purposes, have been widely acknowledged. The fact that authorities - in this present context we are exclusively dealing with authorities for person names and corporate bodies - can be linked to bibliographic data records points at a crucial benefit for librarians/archivists. Once the identity of any person/corporate body has been established by means of an authority record, cataloguers can link bibliographic records to it with consistency and accuracy. It is obvious that this certainty is also beneficial for search and retrieval operations conducted by users.
There are, however, some clear limitations in the present use of authority information. One major problem is the limited access to such data. Generally only large institutions respectively networks of institutions have unlimited online access to permanently updated authorities. Smaller institutions either have to fall back on less efficient ways of obtaining authority information or have no access at all. Additionally, access to authorities is mainly restricted to professional users, typically staff working in institutions which use these authorities. Public users are, by and large, excluded from access. Another crucial problem is the fact that authorities, if at all, are usually shared on a national level only. There is presently no pan-European or international framework available which would ensure shared access. Last but not least: existing authorities are frequently of rather poor quality and in need of improvement.
The LEAF project tries to overcome these present shortcomings by striving for these three major objectives: (1) provide shared access to authority information for all involved [cataloguers, reference librarians, end users etc.], (2) improve the quality of existing authorities, and (3) improve search and retrieval functionalities of a variety of applications."