FRASER librarians strive to provide users with a helpful context for FRASER documents and create useful connections between documents. As part of this process, we make every effort to validate the names used in FRASER. Librarians call this “authority control,” but it’s basically making sure the person tagged as the author of a work is the right person. We ensure that (i) authors are consistently identified throughout all of their works, (ii) the person identified is actually the person responsible for the work, and (iii) authors with similar or even identical names are grouped separately from each other.
If you search for “Alan Greenspan” on FRASER, you expect to find documents written by the former Chair of the Federal Reserve Board and not the Alan Greenspan who’s a firefighter in Long Beach. Ben Bernanke, another former Chair, sometimes is referred to as “Ben S. Bernanke” and other times as “Ben Bernanke.” However, according to the proper authority control, all works by “Ben Bernanke” and “Ben S. Bernanke” are grouped together under “Ben Bernanke”. Authority control also ensures that the works of William McChesney Martin Jr. (Federal Reserve Chair from 1951 to 1970) and his father, William McChesney Martin Sr. (St. Louis Fed President from 1929-1941), are grouped separately from each other. Authority control does all this and more and is a very important part of what FRASER librarians do.
Validating authors for many FRASER resources is a simple task and involves simply checking the Library of Congress Name Authority File and confirming that the author of a FRASER document is the one listed in the authority file. This is done by comparing spelling, birth dates, and works associated with the author to the information in the FRASER document. However, sometimes the act of validating the spelling of an unusual name leads to a very interesting discovery.
Miss VaLois Egbert was secretary to Chair Marriner Eccles from 1934 to 1948. While reviewing documents in the archival collection of Chair Eccles’ papers, we noticed differences in the spelling of Miss Egbert’s first name. Miss Egbert was listed as “Va Lois Egbert”, “V. L. Egbert”, and “Valois Egbert” throughout the collection. Since there was no Library of Congress authority record for her, we turned to the power of Google. With a few clicks, we found far more than the correct spelling of her name.
A 1979 Deseret News article featured a picture of a smiling Miss Egbert seated next to her boss and detailed her unexpected bequest of $3.6 million to the University of Utah. The article revealed that Miss Egbert began investing her money, on advice from Mr. Eccles, and over the next few decades, made a tidy sum. Despite this comfortable nest egg, Miss Egbert—or VaLois, as she preferred—lived modestly and did not flaunt her wealth. It was only after her death and subsequent bequest that family members and neighbors discovered she was a millionaire.
While not all FRASER authors involve this level of detective work, we still find interesting tidbits of information about authors in the process of our work. Browse through the full list of FRASER authors and see what you find.