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Establishing Geographic Names in NACO

This procedure assumes familiarity with NACO rules; likewise, it assumes a knowledge of OCLC for both searching and creating records.

It is important to know which geographic headings can be added as Names, and which must be added as Subjects. This procedure covers only NACO, or adding geographic entities of jurisdictional places as names; using SACO to add geographic entities of non-jurisdictional places as Subjects must be done using an online SACO form that is submitted to the Library of Congress, found here: (click on “Geographic Heading”).

In general, geographic names that can be added through NACO include populated places such as cities and towns, administrative districts such as Counties, Townships, and similar places; geographic names that must be established in SACO include non-administrative places such as bridges, estates, farms, forests, gardens, historic sites, mines, roads, etc. Consult the Division of the World in the NACO manual or similar sources to clarify what geographic entities can be contributed through NACO.

As of October 2012, all authority records are constructed according to RDA standards.  Consult the RDA Toolkit and the RDA in NACO training manual for details.

The first step in assigning a geographic name is to ascertain that the name is not established in LCAF. Search carefully, painstakingly, using every possible permutation of the name, then use your imagination and create a few new ways to search; when you're satisfied that the name has not been established, search again.

Next, find the approved form of the name. Always search the name at the USGS Board of Geographic Names web site.  Choose "Search domestic names," "Search foreign names," or "Search Antarctic names," depending on the location of the name being established. Supplement these sources, as needed, with reliable LC-standard print sources,  the Columbia Gazetteer of the World, Rand McNally Commercial and Marketing Atlas, or Webster's Geographical Dictionary.

Once the correct form of the name has been determined, construct the form of the heading. Use RDA instructions and Policy Statements, and if needed, the Library of Congress' Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings (SCM for short -- in particular see H690-H870 and H925-H1055), informed by similar examples previously established, to construct the heading. In general, use the English form of the heading, if there is one in common usage; otherwise, use the vernacular. Qualify the names of smaller divisions by larger ones, primarily the country (for example, Lima (Peru). See H810, Qualification of Geographic Headings, in SCM). Exceptions to the qualifications practice are places in Australia, Canada, the British Isles, and the United States, which are qualified by the next smaller division - state, province, territory, or, in the case of England, use England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man or Channel Islands. For example, Tyrone (Pa.), Cheltenham (England) or Melbourne (Vic.). Don't qualify states within these regions (for example, Vermont, not Vermont (United States).) There's more to it than this, but that's the basics; make sure you follow, like, rules and stuff. Examples of existing names are a great resource, but be alert for old forms and possible errors.

A key difference when establishing Geographic names is that conflicts must be anticipated. This means that when establishing a name the appropriate BGN database must be searched to identify conflicts so the name may be appropriately qualified, even in cases where the conflicting name is not yet established. Thus, it is important to start with the broadest possible search, limiting only by state, or by country; when conflicts are identified and search results numerous, subsequent searches may be done to limit the results to a manageable set.

For example, there are seven populated places in Pennsylvania named Middletown; when establishing one of these Middletowns the 151 must be qualified by County in addition to State, even if there is no current conflict in the authority file, to differentiate this Middletown from the others, i.e., Middletown (Dauphin County, Pa.).

Once the form of the name has been determined, create a record in OCLC using Connexion.

To create a Geographic Name Authority Record in OCLC, choose Authorities, Create, Single Record, Geographics. Alternately, a macro may be used; with your bibliographic record on screen, move the cursor in the field you wish to generate a record for, choose Tools, Macros, Manage, GenerateAuthorityRecord, Run. Follow basic guidelines for creating records; use the name attributes menu to input select elements, such as 034.

Fixed field:

Upd status will be a

Ref status will be a when there are 4XX fields, n when there are no 4XX fields

Auth status will be a

Name will be n

Source will be z

Variable fields:

034 - Coded Cartographic Mathematical Data

Add coordinates, as described in MARC21. Add separate 034 fields for both GNIS and Bounding Box coordinates.

040 - Cataloging source

Add ǂe rda to 040.    040   PSt ǂb eng ǂe rda ǂc PSt

043 - Geographic Area Code

Adding the Geographic Area Code is optional, but encouraged

1XX - Heading

Formulate the geographic name heading as described above, and record in a 151; both indicators remain blank.

4XX - See From Tracing

Record variant names in 451; again, both indicators remain blank. Most variant forms will be found in sources such as GEOnet or GNIS, but may also appear on the piece.

670 - Source Data Found note

  • The first 670 should cite the physical source for the name, i.e. the map or atlas in hand.
  • Subsequent 670s are needed to record the authoritative source(s) of the name. For names found in GNIS or GEOnet, record the source, GNIS or GEOnet in the subfield a, followed by the date consulted; in subfield b, record the form of the name as found, the Administrative feature designation, and coordinates; a variant name or names follow the coordinates after a semi-colon and are always reflected in a 451 field or fields. For example:

    Source Data Found Note
    Tag Contents


    GEOnet, Oct. 2, 2007 ǂb (Los Vilos, Chile; ppl., 31º 54'42"S, 071º 30'47"W)


    GNIS, Nov. 7, 2007 ǂb (Spartansburg, Pa.; ppl., 41º 49'26"N, 079º 41'02"W)

Note: To insert special characters in Connexion, move the cursor just past the space the symbol is needed, and either use the key combination [Ctrl]-[E], click the ALA button on the toolbar, or choose EDIT and then Enter Diacritics from the drop-down menu. Choose characters from the table provided. Use the degree sign for degrees, the Miagkii znak for minutes, and the Tverdyi znak for seconds.

When multiple sources are consulted - such as a gazetteer - record each in a separate 670. Follow standard NACO rules when citing sources.

         781 - Geographic Subdivision Linking Entry

Insert a 781 field for each record as shown. The 781 shows the heading in subdivision order and is used to link headings within a system. Use first indicator blank, second indicator zero, and add elements in subfield z. For example,

  781 _0 ǂz Netherlands ǂz Eindhoven

When the record is finished, use the save command to place it in the save file for review.

Example of a Township Geographic Heading
Fixed Field Values
Rec stat: n Entered: 20121011    
Type: z Upda status: a Enc lvl: n Source: c
Roman: Ref status: a Mod rec: Name use: a
Govt agn: Auth status: a Subj: a Subj use: a
Series: n Auth/ref: a Geo subd: n Ser use: b
Ser num: n Name: n Subdiv tp: n Rules: z

010    no2012133958

040    PSt ǂb eng ǂe rda ǂc PSt

034    ǂd W0790359 ǂe W0790359 ǂf n0413500 ǂg n0413500 ǂ2 gnis

034    ǂd W0791223 ǂe W0785721 ǂf N0413739 ǂg N0413130 ǂ2 bound

043    n-us-pa

151    Howe (Forest County, Pa. : Township)

451    Howe Township (Forest County, Pa.)

451    Township of Howe (Forest County, Pa.)

670    Township of Howe, PA (Forest Co.), 1974: ǂb map recto (Township of Howe, PA (Forest Co.))

670    GNIS, Sept. 25, 2012 ǂb (Township of Howe, Forest County, Pennsylvania; civil, (41º 35'00"N, 79º03'59"W)

Example of a General Geographic Heading
Fixed Field Values
Rec stat: n Entered: 20010917    
Type: z Upda status: a Enc lvl: n Source: c
Roman: Ref status: a Mod rec: Name use: a
Govt agn: Auth status: a Subj: a Subj use: a
Series: n Auth/ref: a Geo subd: n Ser use: b
Ser num: n Name: n Subdiv tp: n Rules: z

040    PSt ǂb eng ǂe rda ǂc PSt

034    ǂd W0772800 ǂe W0772800 ǂf S0085000 ǂg S0085000 ǂ2 geonet

043    s-pe---

151    Pomabamba (Peru)

451    Pamabamba (Peru)

670    Plano de Pomabamba, 1939: ǂb map recto (Pomabamba)

670    GEOnet, Sept. 17, 2001 ǂb (Pomabamba, Peru; ppl., 08º 50'00"S, 077º 28'00"W; variant, Pamabamba)

690    jih, 9-17-2001, 000046243089

781    ǂz Peru ǂz Pomabamba


Also, creating Name Authority Records for Boroughs and Census Designated Places can create some minor but unusual challenges. In almost every case, there will be a corresponding Populated Place for all Boroughs and Census-Designated Places, and LC prefers to establish only the Populated Place. This is primarily because the footprint is about the same, and two headings are not needed. Thus, when a geographic name authority heading is needed, and the item in hand is a Borough, establish the corresponding Populated Place. The first 670 will refer to the map in hand, but the second 670 and all other data – including the 034 – must refer to the populated place.

In the example below, for Connoquenessing, the map in hand refers to the Borough, but the record establishes the Populated Place; the 034s and 670 refer to the PPL.

Example of a Borough Geographic Heading
Fixed Field Values
Rec stat: n Entered: 20010917    
Type: z Upda status: a Enc lvl: n Source: c
Roman: Ref status: n Mod rec: Name use: a
Govt agn: Auth status: a Subj: a Subj use: a
Series: n Auth/ref: a Geo subd: n Ser use: b
Ser num: n Name: n Subdiv tp: n Rules: z

010    no2015105865    

040    PSt |b eng |e rda |c PSt

034    ǂd W0800051 ǂe W0800051 ǂf N0404904 ǂg N0404904 ǂ2 gnis

034    ǂd W0800147 ǂe W0795953 ǂf N0404932 ǂg N0404823 ǂ2 bound

043    n-us-pa

151    Connoquenessing (Pa.)

670    United States. Bureau of the Census. [Enumeration districts map, Connoquenessing Borough, Butler County, Pennsylvania], 1980: ǂb map recto (Connoquenessing Borough, Pennsylvania)

670   GNIS, August 11, 2015 ǂb (Connoquenessing, Butler County, Pennsylvania; ppl., 40°49ʹ04ʺN, 080°00ʹ51ʺW)

781    ǂz Pennsylvania ǂz Connoquenessing