Linking records: an overview

The information about your collection is stored in data sourcesClosed The management of a collection can involve a vast amount of information about objects / items / books, people and organizations, events, administration and more. This information is stored as records in data sources. Each data source stores a specific type of information: details about collection items, people, events, loans, and so on., each specific to the type of information recorded. For example:

  • Records for people and organizations involved in some way with your institution and collection are held in Persons and institutions.
  • Records for objects in your collection are held in the Object catalogue.
  • Records for storage locations are held in Locations and containers; and so on.

Where records intersect in some way, they are linked together using a type of field called a Linked field: the record for a book in the Library catalogue is linked to a record for the book's author in Persons and institutions from the author.name (ya) Linked field:

Linked field

To understand why we link records, consider the book and author example above, where a link is made from the author.name (ya) field in a Library catalogue record to a record for the author in Persons and institutions. Why not simply record the author's name and details in the Library catalogue record?

By linking to a record about the author, the author's details only need to be entered and maintained in one place (a record in Persons and institutions), but any number of records anywhere in your system can link to and access details about the author. Here a record in Library catalogue is linked to a record for the book's author in Persons and institutions (note that the data is underlined as for a hyperlink):

Linked field

Although the field can display some meaningful data (the author's name and birth / death dates for example), a Linked field actually stores a reference to the linked record (called a linkref): if we edit the author's name in the Persons and institutions record, the details displaying in the Library catalogue record automatically update as the details that display are pulled dynamically from the linked record:

Note: A Linked field stores a reference (a linkref) to a record in the target data sourceClosed A link is made from a record in one data source (primary) to a record in another data source (target). A data source could be both the primary and target data source in a linking relationship if one of its records links to another of its records. but dynamically displays a value from the linked record.

Not only is linking records efficient (details only need to be entered and maintained in one record and yet accessible to many), it helps to ensure consistency in the data displaying in records as you typically link records by selecting an existing value from a drop list rather than keying in values (which means fewer typos and inconsistencies in record data).

Furthermore, it is a simple matter to view details of the target recordClosed A link is made from one record (the primary) to another (the target). in a Zoom screen and to edit it. As we explain next, the target record is the linked record.

Useful terminology

Before we look at how to link records, it is worth understanding two terms which can help us describe linked records.

Let's consider the book and author example again. The link is made from a Linked fieldClosed A type of field used to link one record to another. A Linked field is a drop list of values (records that the field can link to). When a link is made, the field stores a reference to the linked record (a linkref). in a Library catalogue record to a Persons and institutions record:

  • The record from which the link is made (Library catalogue in this example) is called the primary record.
  • The record to which the link is made (Persons and institutions in this example) is called the target record.

The primary record contains the Linked field which holds the reference (linkref) to the target record.

We can also talk of the primary data source and target data source: in this case Library catalogue is the primary data source and Persons and institutions is the target data source.

More details: