Downloading SCIS Authority Files

SCIS catalogue records contain SCIS’s authorized name and subject headings. However, on their own, records will not display the See and See Also references that provide the optimal search experience for your students and staff. SCIS Authority Files provide these references, as well as providing all authorized forms of names and subjects used as access points in SCIS catalogue records. Installing them will enable your library management system to automatically create cross references, which will be visible in your library catalogue.

Schools can subscribe to SCIS Authority Files for only $90 per year, which includes both Name and Subject authorities. SCIS release a new version of the Authority Files twice a year, usually in March and August.

In this post we describe the benefits of installing SCIS Authority Files and provide advice on selecting and installing them, using two systems to demonstrate: Access-It and Softlink’s Oliver. You can find more information about SCIS Authority Files on the authority files help page. You can also watch our new Authority Files video…

SCIS Authority Files from SCIS on Vimeo.


SCIS Name Authorities

SCIS Name Authorities specify the authorized name of authors, illustrators, and other creators, be they corporate (eg “Primary English Teaching Association (Australia)”) or individual. This includes See references for non-authorized names. For example, if SCIS Name Authorities are installed and one of your staff search for “PETAA”, they will be directed to all works by “Primary English Teaching Association (Australia)”. Without Name Authorities, they may get no results.

Not all systems support name authorities, so check with your vendor before installing them.

SCIS Subject Authorities

If a user searches on the term “Hurricanes” without a See reference to direct them to the authorized SCIS subject heading, “Cyclones”, they may believe that the library does not contain any resources about hurricanes. See Also references exist between related terms and are important for assisting the user to find resources on similar subjects, such as directing users from “Cyclones” to the related topic “Tornadoes”.

SCIS Subject Authority files include authorized names as subjects. That is, whilst SCIS Name Authorities specify the name “Carroll, Lewis” as an author of a work, SCIS Subject Authorities specify “Carroll, Lewis” as a subject for when a work is about Lewis Carroll.

Selecting Authority Files – Full versus Reference Only

On the SCIS Authority Files page, schools need to choose which files they require: the SCIS Full Authority Files or the SCIS Reference Only Authority Files.

The Full Authority files contain all authorised SCIS headings, including those without See and See Also references, such as “Science fiction films – History and criticism”. This may be useful for local cataloguing of resources not catalogued by SCIS, such as vertical file materials. Use the full list of authorised headings in your library system to ensure consistency with headings used in SCIS records.

If most of your catalogue records are sourced from SCIS and you do little or no original cataloguing, you may decide you only need the significantly smaller SCIS Reference Only Authority Files. These contain only those headings that have See and/or See Also references. We recommend that all schools install at least the Reference Only Subject Authority Files.

SCIS Authority File download options
Download options on the SCIS Authority File page

Downloading SCIS Authority Files

Twice a year, when SCIS release new versions of the Authority Files, go to the SCIS Authority Files page, select the correct files for you, and download them.

The next step is to import them into your library management system. Read your system’s manual carefully for the settings to choose when importing the SCIS subject authority files.

Imports should be regarded as an overnight housekeeping task as the download may take several hours.

Access-It authority import
Steps for importing authority files in Access-It


In current generation systems, many of the steps will be similar.

  • In Oliver, go to Management > Import and select the MARC radio button. It is crucial to select “MARC-21 Authority” in the “MARC format” field is crucial.
  • In Access-It, click Cataloguing > Imports > Import MARC Authorities.

    Oliver authority file import
    Options for uploading authority files in Oliver

Your system may require you to make some or all of the following decisions:

  • Choose how to deal with existing, duplicate authority records: Unless you want to retain any Subject Authorities you have created, it is important to replace the existing subject authorities with the new SCIS authorities. In Oliver, select “Replace existing resources”.
  • Specify which authorities you are loading: In Oliver it is important to select “Load subjects” otherwise the subject authorities won’t be loaded. If you are importing Name Authorities, do not select “Load Authors into Subject Authority File” because SCIS Subject Authority files already contain author names as subjects.
  • Specify file encoding: MARC authorities will be encoded in UTF-8.  Select this in Oliver, and leave Access-It as “auto-detect”.
Access-It authority file options
Authority file options in Access-IT

SCIS asks

SCIS is conducting a consultation workshop in Melbourne on Tuesday 4 December 2012 from 9.00-1.00pm. The consultation aims to engage SCIS and its partners in discussion about future priorities in our support of school libraries.

Spiral sculpture
Spiral, Rena Voronoff, 2007
Photo by Michael Jongen

Twitter hashtag for the day: #scisasks

9.00am Welcome, SCIS update and consultation goals

9.15am Strategic directions

9.45am Resource Description and Access

  • Introduction to RDA and its benefits for education libraries (Renate Beilharz, Box Hill TAFE)
  • Recommended changes to SCIS Standards for Cataloguing (Pam Kadow, SCIS Cataloguing Team Leader)
  • Discussion and questions
    Outcome: Resolutions on RDA implementation dates and process

11.00am Morning Tea

11.30am ScOT and subject access in SCIS

  • Subject authorities looking forward
  • Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT) in library systems
  • Australian Curriculum alignment opportunities
  • Discussion and questions
    Outcome: Resolutions on research required and timeline

12.15pm Integrating digital collections

  • Challenges of collection building and workflows
  • Priorities for cataloguing digital content
  • Discussion and questions
    Outcome: Recommendations on priority areas for SCIS services

1.00pm SCIS Consultation closes
Participants are encouraged to stay for a light lunch and then join delegates at the keynote session and opening reception for the IDEA 2012 conference at the Sofitel, 25 Collins Street Melbourne.

2.00pm Keynote: The science and technology of learning, Professor Erik Duval, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
3.15pm Afternoon tea
3.45pm Panel: Challenges and opportunities for digital learning including Rhyan Bloor, Digital Education Branch, DEEWR; Rodney Spark, eWorks; Kerri-Lee Krause, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Western Sydney and Bevan Doyle, Chief Information Officer, Department of Education Western Australia

5.30pm IDEA2012 Reception and Networking

6.30pm IDEA 2012 Day 1 close

Contact for further information

Authority files: getting started

Are you new to SCIS authority files, or not sure about the best workflow for your library? This post outlines the decision making process as a simple guide to getting started with authority files.

Why should we load SCIS authority files into our catalogue?
Check out this post on why SCIS authority files are valuable.

How do we decide which file(s) to download?

SCIS Authority Files page

When you are faced with the SCIS Authority Files page for the first time, there are three key decisions to consider.

  1. Subject or Name authority first?
    SCIS provides authority files for subjects and for names. We suggest you start with the subject authority file as this provides maximum benefit to searchers of your catalogue.
    Then repeat the process for the name authority once you have completed the subject authority.
  2. Reference only or Full authority files?
    Reference only Authority Files are highly recommended as the minimum for all schools. Importing authority records with see or see also references greatly enhances the power of search for users of your library system.
    If most of your catalogue records are sourced from SCIS and you do little or no original cataloguing, loading the SCIS Reference only Authority Files is a good first step. Note: You can always load the full authority files later if you find you need these.
    Full Authority Files contain the entire set of authority records from the SCIS database.
    Does your library have a qualified cataloguer who creates a significant number of original catalogue records, and would benefit from access to the full list of SCIS headings from within the cataloguing and/or authorities module of your library system? In this case the Full Authority Files could be the best choice.
  3. MARC or ascii format?
    Different library systems require different formats for importing SCIS authority files. You will need to check with your library system vendor support team about which to use. Please ensure you consult the most recent documentation for your system.

So, how do we proceed with download and import?

  1. It is advisable to do a full backup of your library system before loading authorities for the first time.
  2. Download the required authority file from the SCIS Authority Files page [SCIS Authority Files subscription required].
  3. Activate the process in your library management system to import or upload the authority file.
  4. Run any updating or indexing workflow required by your library system.

How do we know the authorities are working?

  1. Do an OPAC subject search for a common non-preferred term, such as
    Cooking (should redirect to Cookery), Chickens (should redirect to Poultry) or Hurricanes (should redirect to Cyclones).
  2. If you loaded the Full Subject Authority File, then check in your library system’s authorities or cataloguing module for new subject headings from the latest SCIS Subject Heading List.

Further help for SCIS Authority Files

Why authority files?

What are authority files?

Authority files list the Preferred Term for each concept in a Controlled Vocabulary.  In practice, they also may contain variant terms.
A Variant Term may be a synonym, an abbreviation, an acronym, a misspelled version of the Preferred Term, or any other term that a researcher or Search Engine might like to use to find the concept.

‘Authority file’ n.d., Taxonomy Glossary, Taxotips

What benefit are SCIS authority files?

In the case of SCIS authority files, the cross-references that establish relationships between subject terms provide additional functionality to catalogue searching. It would be an extremely time consuming process to enter references manually into your library catalogue each time you use a new subject heading, whereas SCIS authority files do this work automatically to:

  • enhance subject searching by students and staff
  • improve retrieval rates of the most appropriate resources
  • increase usage of resources
  • provide a cost-effective library solution

How do authority files enhance resource discovery?

Authority FilesAs a controlled vocabulary specifically for print and digital educational resources, SCIS Authority Files provide enhanced subject retrieval for school catalogues.
For example, a student searches for ‘dieting’ in your library system. Without SCIS Authority Files the student will not locate all the resources. With SCIS Authority Files the student will locate more relevant resources because SCIS maps their subject searches to related subjects.

Susan Marshall from Chilton Saint James School says

What I like most about SCIS Authority Files is that even if our users enter a non-preferred search term they will be taken to the available resources for the preferred term.“See also” references are also provided to suggest alternative subjects to search.

What does it cost?

Government schools in ACT, NSW, SA and WA are provided with SCIS Authority Files by their school system.
For other Australian schools the 2011 cost is AU$85.00 and for international subscribers AU$77.00.

Complete the SCIS authority file order form

See and See Also what we have!

Visual representation of references
Visual representation of references

SCIS Authority Files (SCIS AF) have been updated with Edition 2 2010.

Once logged into SCISWeb at the Authority Files tab is available to open the SCIS AF page, if you have a current subscription. Several Education Departments (NSW, WA and SA) support their schools with access to SCIS AF.

SCIS AF are separate index files of authorised names and subjects used as access points in SCIS catalogue records, and are released twice a year as downloadable files ready for implementation in your library management system.

All SCIS catalogue records downloaded from SCISWeb contain authorised SCIS Subject Headings but no cross-references to other related terms to support user searching in the local OPAC. See and See also references between related terms are important for assisting the user to find resources on similar subjects.

We’ve updated our Authority Files

The latest version of  SCIS Authority Files was made available via SCISWeb this week.

To update your SCIS Authority Files, you will need to log on to SCISWeb and then select the Authority Files tab from the navigation bar at the top of the page.  From there you will be able to download the new Name and Subject Authority Files, ready for uploading into your Library Management System.

For more information about SCIS Authority Files,  how to download them, and whether to select SCIS Full Authority Files or Reference only Authority Files, please see our Authority Files Help Page.