Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Compound Surnames

Philip Harvey

A recent message to the British Theological Library list from Judy Powles of Spurgeon’s College in London states that Judy is “scratching my head over how to catalogue the latest book by Stuart and Sian Murray Williams called Multi-voiced church and which I have on my desk – it is the difficulty over the form of the authors’ surname(s).”

Judy outlines the cataloguing issue. “Stuart Murray (who used to be on our staff here) has written several books under his “old” name. However since his marriage to Sian Williams they tend to call themselves Murray Williams (NB no hyphen). All of Stuart’s other books have been catalogued under “Murray, Stuart”. If talking about himself, Stuart describes himself as Stuart Murray and other recent books have been published with this form of name on the cover and title page. But what do I do with this joint publication? Sticking to old fashioned cataloguing practice, I was always taught that for Anglo-American names you always used the last element of a name, unless there were a hyphen, so in this case it would be under Murray for both Stuart and Sian but clearly the Murray Williams don’t want this.

“If I catalogue the book giving the authors as “Murray Williams, Stuart” and “Murray Williams, Sian” the book won’t appear in the list with Stuart’s other books.

“Probably it doesn’t matter in the end but do any of you who have a feeling for good cataloguing practice have any suggestions?”

Since the advent of feminism we have witnessed a proliferation of compound surnames and, history being what it is, this practice is now not untypical amongst those with little knowledge or interest in feminism. In my own experience I have catalogued books by an author using her family name, then had to change them all when she added her husband's name to her own, then changed them all again when, sadly, she announced that the marriage was over and she was going back to her original name.

There is something to be said for keeping to the established name in a catalogue. While you have the 'see reference' facility then it should be easy to cross reference any new forms of the name to the established one. This generally seems to be the way it goes with names established by Library of Congress or other name authority files. It raises a question of respectable vintage in cataloguing: at what point in time can we confidently claim one form of a person's name as the common or established usage?

Our problems begin when we are required to establish the name ourselves at home on our own catalogue because the name has not been established on LC or elsewhere. This is where the magical power of 245c statement of responsibility comes into action: both forms of the name can appear on the one record, making verification that much easier. Computer programmers who like to remove that subfield from record settings because "it's already in the main entry" have not done us any favours.

If your 'see reference' facility is unsightly or just not in sight to start with, then I can only recommend using one form as the authority with a note in the record explaining the variations in name. I will not mention the unspeakable, which is to use both forms in the one record; this doesn't mean you can't talk about it.

Who knows what RDA has to say about compound surnames, possibly nothing new, though there is an assumption in some RDA writing that keyword search is the standard means of searching. If this is the case then your colleagues the Murray Williams will be found via any use of those names, albeit with results that include everyone else with those names in their name.

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