Third box for filling in author's names
It would be a good idea to divide authors' names in three parts instead of two: for instance, Dutch authors often have insertions in their names: given name, insertion(s), last name. Insertions can be for instance "van", "de" or "van de", causing authors, as it is now, to be found under the V or D of the insertions instead of under the first letter of their last name. A solution could be a third or middle box, in which insertions can be filled in. That could also be used by people who want to use their middle name: alphabetizing for instance "John G. Field" and "Jan G. van den Akker" would give "Field, John G." and "Akker, Jan G. van den"; the correct forms. In that way also the two letter abbreviation of "Jan G. van den Akker" would become "JA", as it should, instead of "JV", as it is now (although of course "JvdA" would be greatly preferred). If someone does not have an insertion, or no middle name, or does not want to use it (some people even have four of five names plus insertions) the field can be left empty; for them nothing changes.
A. van Weerden commented
In the meantime, someone suggested a much better solution: suppose it would be possible to first choose a name format by choosing a country? Selecting a country would adjust the boxes to fill in, and the database then takes care of the rest: knowing which country's format is chosen, it knows how to alphabetize and address people.
I also agree with Anne van Weerden!
Roos Goverde commented
Although I so not have a name with an insertion, like described, I certainly agree with Anne van Weerden!
Stof van Stedum commented
Think also of Ludwig van Beethoven, the German composer. His surname is 'van Beethoven', but he sorts under de 'B', not 'v'. Like everybody knows him as Beethoven, so sorting under de 'v' is making him unfindable.
Like A van Weerden, surname 'van Weerden', sorts under 'W', not 'v'. And I Stof van Stedum, surname 'van Stedum', sort under the 'S', not 'v'.
The Dutch and German differ a little, but the key point stays: Surnames beginning with 'van', 'van der', 'de' (and some more; all Dutch) and 'von' (German) don't sort under 'V' or 'D'.