Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman
January 2000

Name Authority

Names fascinate me. As gabbai of my shul, one of my tasks is to be the keeper of the Hebrew names. I keep records of names for the purpose of preparing cards for calling people for an aliyah. It is interesting to see how some families have recurring names in the generations. We have families with unconventional spellings of names, families with easy names to remember and families with difficult to pronounce names.

Sometimes the Library receives calls for help with names. When a child is born parents consult name books for ideas. When a rabbi writes a ketubah or get sometimes he needs to check sources to make sure the names are spelled correctly.

Each author in the library catalog must have a unique name entry. If two authors have the same names, the cataloger must differentiate them. The usual method is to add a birth year (and death years if no longer alive). A few weeks ago we received a book written by David Cohen.1 ''David Cohen" is a common name. In order to catalog the book I had to check sources to see how his name had been entered by other libraries. The book had not been cataloged by any other libraries. Since the book was requested for immediate use, I decided to do original cataloging. The blurb about the author of the book said that he was a rabbi of a congregation in Brooklyn and gave the name of the congregation. He had no middle name or date of birth.

I checked my bibliographic sources and found 32 authors on Jewish subjects with the same name. There were over 30 more authors on topics from sciences and humanities. None of the authors matched the author of the book in hand.

I thought that the publisher could help. A call to the publisher told me that the congregation was not just in Brooklyn; it was in Flatbush. I used the internet to search for the congregation. I found a lawyer who was a member and sent him an e-mail. He replied within two hours with the author's birth date (1932). With this authority, establishing the author's name in the catalog was then easy to complete.


1. The book is :Templates for the ages : historical perspectives through the Torah's lenses by David Cohen; translated by Sara Cohen. New York, Mesorah Publications, 1999.

Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago, IL, a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit our web site to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at:

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Last revised July 8, 2003