In the past few weeks I have had some interesting experiences with WorldCat, VIAF, and the Levenshtein algorithm. [1, 2]

In short, I was given a set of authority records with the goal of associating each name with a VIAF identifier. To accomplish this goal I first created a rudimentary database — an easily parsed list of MARC 1xx fields. I then looped through the database, and searched VIAF via the AutoSuggest interface looking for one-to-one matches. If found, I updated my database with the VIAF identifier. The AutoSuggest interface was fast but only able to associate 20% of my names with identifiers. (Moreover, I don’t know how it works; AutoSuggest is a “black box” technology.)

I then looped through the database again, but this time I queried VIAF using the SRU interface. Searches often returned many hits, not just one-to-one matches, but through the use of the Levenshtein algorithm I was able to intelligently select items from the search results and update my database accordingly. [3] Through the use of the SRU/Levenshtein combination, I was able to associate another 50-55 percent of my names with identifiers.

Now that I have close to 75% of my names associated with VIAF identifiers, I can update my authority list’s MARC 024 fields, in turn, I can then provide enhanced services against my catalog as well as pave the way for linked data implementations.

Sometimes our library automation tasks can use a bit more computer science. Librarianship isn’t all about service and the humanities. Librarianship is an arscient discipline. [4]

[1] VIAF Finder -
[2] Almost perfection -
[3] Levenshtein -
[4] arscience -

Eric Lease Morgan