ACAT James T. Kirk as author? really?

Posting to Autocat

On 9/15/2015 6:10 PM, OH McIntyre wrote:
OK. I’m old. I’m a few months away from retirement and have not put a lot > of effort into understanding RDA, but …
I have an OCLC record that lists the author of *The Autobiography of James T. Kirk* as:
Kirk, James T.,|d2233-2371,|eauthor
Those of you who really know RDA…is this how we are supposed to do this? We accord author status to fictional people who haven’t been born yet?

It is interesting to note that this thread is going on at the same time as the other thread “Value of cataloging”.

We are all supposed to believe that Captain Kirk wrote a book. (Sorry, I just don’t believe it)

This is a great example of what makes cataloging really valuable! 🙂




  1. Ron Murray said:

    This is a pretty good example of how cataloging might be understood as a means of creating knowledge about a Cultural Heritage resource via “theory-laden” observation. (See for background).

    The person gathering “author” information by following their institution’s cataloging rules (and who is already contending with concepts about the Authorship of Works) then had to think about science fiction’s future-leaning aspect in order to agree to using a proper date – itself translated from a fictional system of time measurement (

    *Then* the cataloger had to fold the author’s description into literary considerations that (a.) accept that imaginary works can have imaginary authors, and (b.) that allow the author to take her/himself as the subject of a Work.

    So, yes, there is theory-laden observation going on – *even* in descriptive cataloging. Now imagine what’s afoot in subject cataloging – and then imagine the intellectual requirements for the “Library-Scientific Selves” who take on cataloger duties.

    October 15, 2015
  2. Thanks for sharing that. I hadn’t heard of “theory-laden observation”. According to the definition on the page you cited: “Theory-ladenness of observation holds that everything one observes is interpreted through a prior understanding of other theories and concepts. Whenever we describe observations, we are constantly utilizing terms and measurements that our society has adopted. Therefore, it would be impossible for someone else to understand these observations if they are unfamiliar with, or disagree with, the theories that these terms come from.”

    I understand this, but it seems difficult to reconcile this idea within a catalog because “theory-laden observation” is so subjective. For example, I have met people who really, truly believe that Shakespeare could *not* have written the plays and poems and that the real author was, e.g. Edward DeVere, or Christopher Marlowe. It seems that fewer people today believe the author was Queen Elizabeth or Francis Bacon, although I am sure many still believe it even today.

    I don’t think that catalogs should add all, or any, of those headings to Shakespeare’s records, or change them in any way, even though several people may believe it quite strongly. Of course, we should try to give the *real* authors of works that are purported to be by other people whenever we can. What comes to mind are the fake Hitler diaries that were actually written by Konrad Kunjau and the catalog records should have the real author’s name, although Hitler can still be there in the record as an added entry. (In fact, in the records about the faked Hitler diaries, there is no mention of Kunjau’s name as author of the Hitler diaries e.g. I think it is vital that his heading be in the record because he was the author) With linked data, the information about Kunjau that is in e.g. Wikipedia, could display prominently so that reader can be aware that the materials are not real, but forgeries.

    With Captain Kirk, it is clear to everyone that it is completely impossible that someone who won’t be born until the year 2233 could be the person who wrote the books. Only an insane person could believe something so fantastical. In a time of falling budgets, and questions of the usefulness of catalogs and cataloging, I fear something so absurd will turn us into a laughing stock and marginalize us even more. Even and LibraryThing has the author as David Goodman and

    Finally, we should not forget something that everyone wants to ignore: the so-called “legacy data” which is actually 99% of everything that has been done since the beginning. Do we really want to go in and change all of those potentially thousands of records as well? For instance, the stories of Sherlock Holmes were supposedly written by Dr. Watson. Do we want to spend precious resources doing that instead of something that may be more useful for the public? Who does this help and why? And if we do not want to change those earlier records, what does that mean for consistency? Or do we want to throw the principle of consistency overboard in favor of some kind of theoretical idea?

    October 16, 2015

Comments are closed.