A weblog following developments around the world in FRBR: Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records.

Maintained by William Denton, Web Librarian at York University. Suggestions and comments welcome at wtd@pobox.com.

Confused? Try What Is FRBR? (2.8 MB PDF) by Barbara Tillett, or Jenn Riley's introduction. For more, see the basic reading list.

Books: FRBR: A Guide for the Perplexed by Robert Maxwell (ISBN 9780838909508) and Understanding FRBR: What It Is and How It Will Affect Our Retrieval Tools edited by Arlene Taylor (ISBN 9781591585091) (read my chapter FRBR and the History of Cataloging).


January 2015
« Jul    

My work here is done

Posted by: William Denton, 17 July 2012 10:22 pm
Categories: Administration

I made my last post here 462 days ago, on 12 April 2011. This blog has not been active for over a year, and I am not going to reactivate it. My interests have changed and my attention is elsewhere.

I would like to hand the blog or domain over to some person or group who can better use it. If you have ideas, let me know: I’m William Denton, at wtd@pobox.com.

If nothing works out, I will still keep the web site online, though dormant.

CCQ call for papers: The FRBR Family of Models

Posted by: William Denton, 12 April 2011 10:58 pm
Categories: FRAD,FRSAR

A special issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly will be devoted to The FRBR Family of Models. Since 1998 when Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records was first published by IFLA, the effort to develop and apply FRBR has been extended in many innovative and experimental directions. A special issue of CCQ in 2004 edited by Patrick LeBeouf was titled FRBR: Hype, or Cure-All? and included papers exploring the origins and extension of FRBR, as well as a survey of specific applications.

Submissions to the present volume should address an aspect related to the extended family of FRBR models, dialogues between the FRBR Family and other modeling technologies, and/or any specific applications of the FRBR family.

Ideas may include any of the following topics:

  • Analysis of FRAD or FRSAD
  • Interrelationships between FRAD, FRBR, FRSAD
  • Modelling of aggregates.
  • Applications of FRBR and family
  • Analysis or comparisons of RDA, REICAT and other codes based on FRBR entities and relationships
  • FRBRoo and its extensions, or applications
  • The FRBR/CRM Dialogue
  • Wider acceptance of FRBR in applications

Or any other topic that addresses the FRBR Family.

Proposals of no more than 300 words to be sent by May 31, 2011 to the guest editor, Richard Smiraglia (smiragli@uwm.edu). Decisions will be communicated to contributors no later than June 24, 2011. Delivery date of manuscripts for peer-review: [October 1, 2011]. Each article should be in the range of 5,000–8,000 words. Instructions for authors can be found at http://www.informaworld.com/0163-9374.

Acceptance of a proposal does not guarantee publication. All manuscript submissions will be subject to double-blind peer-review. Publication is scheduled for CCQ vol. 50 in 2012.

Cataloging & Classification Quarterly is dedicated to gathering and sharing information in the field of bibliographic organization. This highly respected journal considers the full spectrum of creation, content, management, use, and usability of bibliographic records and catalogs, including the principles, functions, and techniques of descriptive cataloging; the wide range of methods of subject analysis and classification; provision of access for all formats of materials; and policies, planning, and issues connected to the effective use of bibliographic data in catalogs and discovery tools. The journal welcomes papers of practical application as well as scholarly research. All manuscripts are peer reviewed. Once published, papers are widely available through Taylor & Francis’ Informaworld database and other outlets.

Richard P. Smiraglia
Editor-in-Chief, Knowledge Organization
Professor, Information Organization Research Group,
School of Information Studies
University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

LibraryThing tackles FRBR

Posted by: William Denton, 17 February 2011 12:57 pm
Categories: Implementations,LibraryThing

Much interesting activity at LibraryThing involving FRBR. With such a large group of interested and intelligent people who want to contribute a bit of time to make their collections and the system better, they can do things no-one else can.

Tim said, “Note that the term and to some extent the idea of ‘expressions’ is borrowed from FRBR, a largely unimplemented library idea. It doesn’t escape our notice that this might turn out to be the most comprehensive implementation of FRBR, and an inspiration and help to the library world.” Indeed.

Here are some links:

These are the kinds of relationships:

  • contains
  • is a retelling of
  • is a (non-series) sequel to
  • is a (non-series) prequel to
  • is an adatation of
  • is an unabridged version of
  • is an expanded version of
  • is a parody of
  • is a reply to
  • was inspired by
  • is a study of
  • reference guide/companion to
  • is a supplement to
  • is a commentary on the text of
  • is a concordance to
  • is a student’s study guide to
  • is a teacher’s guide to

From HelpThing on Works and Relationships

General Principles/Rules

  1. Create no new works.
  2. Link whole work to whole work.
  3. This doesn’t change any rules about what’s a work.
  4. This isn’t for series.
  5. Make the closer link.
  6. Relationships are reciprocal.
  7. When in doubt, leave it out and talk about it with others before adding the relationship.

Here’s a screenshot to show the interface:

LibraryThing work-to-work relationships


I don’t see the work-to-work relationships in the librarything.ck.getwork web service, but I expect they’ll add it soon (or maybe it’s there and I missed it).

Last Week in FRBR #39

Posted by: William Denton, 14 January 2011 12:38 pm
Categories: Last Week

The future of this site

FRBR, and to a lesser extended FRAD and FRSAR, and now fundamental parts of how we think about bibliographic information. When I started this blog in May 2005, there was nowhere on the Internet to keep up with what was going on in the FRBR world. Now FRBR is everywhere. The problem for most people is not how to keep up with the details, but how to know what’s most important.

I think the focus of this web site will change from posting a lot of news to being an up-to-date listing of key FRBR-related resources: standards, implementations, code, projects, references, books, talks, instructional material, and so on. Not a lot of all that, but the best and most relevant, so that if anyone ever needs to check on something, they can find a link here.

Let me know if you have any comments about this, if you think it’s a good idea, a bad idea, would like to help, or anything else.

Nelson and Cleary, FRBRizing an E-Library : Migrating from Dublin Core to FRBR and MODS

FRBRizing an E-Library : Migrating from Dublin Core to FRBR and MODS, by Jeremy Nelson and Alan Cleary, appeared in the most recent issue of the Code4Lib Journal.

Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado developed an open-source eCataloger Framework, based on Dublin Core metadata, on Google’s App Engine to manage and serve electronic resources to the library’s patrons. Pressed to find new solutions for failing manual workflows for serials and government document resource management, the eCataloger Framework was extended to FRBR to automate and enhance serials management and government documents receiving. Based on successfully FRBRizing the eCataloger, Western State College converted their e-Library management from Dublin Core to FRBR and MODS. This paper examines the processes of each of these implementations using Python, AJAX, and jQuery, the details of the FRBR data model, including using FRBRoo, and the successful user interface supported by a FRBRized catalog.

Here’s a little more on eCataloger, which as noted above runs on Google App Engine:

The eCataloger application provides cataloging utilities to create an eLibrary for an individual or small organization. The research goal of eCataloger is on creating semantic services for artifacts.

An eLibrary is a collection of electronic records used to organize and manage born digital resources (websites, ebooks, mp3) and as a meta-data proxy for books, magazines, physical video and audio, and other physical objects. The 1.1 release of the eCataloger, currently in an development beta, uses the FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) framework to model the records using data elements and concepts from the MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema), MARC, and other current and developing cataloging and metadata standards. By using FRBR as the descriptive framework, an overarching goal of the eCataloger is realized by being able to produce valid and well-formed MODS and MARC xml documents for interchange with existing and legacy library electronic systems. Because of the richness of the underlying FRBR data model, the eCataloger can be valid component in a larger semantic web ecology.

Ross Singer’s Open Library X-Identifier Service

Ross Singer created this Open Library X-Identifier Service with Open Library data. He explains:

This web service operates like OCLC’s X-Identifier or LibraryThing’s ThingISBN services, although it returns an RDF Graph representation from the data in the Open Library. Lookups can be done by ISBN (10 or 13), OCLC number, LCCN, Open Library edition ID or Open Library Work ID. It will return the FRBR Work set grouping for the requested resource. Responses can be provided in RDF/XML, RDF/JSON, NTriples or XML (RDF/XML sent with an “application/xml” content-type).

As an example, and in honour of Joe Gores, the great crime writer who died earlier this week, here’s 32 Cadillacs, identified by ISBN, viewed as RDF/XML.

If you’ve never read anything by Gores, try Interface.

Last Week in FRBR #38

Posted by: William Denton, 10 December 2010 7:22 am
Categories: Last Week


Three or four FRBR-related talks were proposed for Code4Lib 2011, which is great. This one especially caught my eye:

Next-L Enju, NDL Search and library geeks in Japan

Next-L Enju is an open source integrated library system developed by Project Next-L, the library geek community in Japan launched on November 2006. It is built on open-source software (Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL/MySQL and Solr) and supports modern ILS features (e.g. FRBR structure and RESTful WebAPI).

Enju has been inplemented by some libraries, which include National Diet Library (NDL), the largest library in Japan. NDL has chosen Enju to provide a new search engine, called “NDL Search” and added some extra features (e.g. automatic FRBRization and providing bibliographic data in a Linked Data format) . The development version is available at http://iss.ndl.go.jp/.

I’m one of the authors of Next-L Enju. I’d like to talk about the overview and structure of Next-L Enju, NDL Search and the activities of our project.

Presenter(s): Kosuke Tanabe, Keio University, tanabe at mwr dot mediacom dot keio dot ac dot jp

Perhaps someone who reads Japanese could comment about the FRBRization?

Seeking a Web-based FRBR Catalog

Mike McReynolds asked on RDA-L for examples of FRBR catalogues. He got some replies:

German National Library training materials

FRBR training materials from Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. This is to support the move to RDA. An introduction is available in English, then the actual training material is in German.

Coyle at SWIB

Speaking of Germany, Karen Coyle was there for Semantic Web in Bibliotheken 2010. She blogged about it and a conference in London:

I saw two examples of uses of FRBR that do not follow the structure provided in the FRBR documentation and both made good sense to me.

  • The Bibliotheque Nationale of France (BNF) is working to export its data in a linked data format. They are linking the Manifestation directly to the Work and to the Expression, rather than following the M -> E -> W order that is defined in FRBR. I need to think about this some more, but it seems to remove some of the rigidity of the linear WEMI.
  • The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek is using an identifier method that seems to resolve the (long) discussion I instigated on the FRBR list about identifying WEMI with a single identifier. They give an identifier to the single WEMI group (one work, one expression, one manifestation, and presumably one Item, but no one seems to be talking about items.) There is also an identifier for each W, E, M, I. This works well for input and output (and sharing). When a matching W or WE is found, a “merged” identifier is coined for the FRBR units. I couldn’t follow the presentation, as it was in German, but from the slides it looked to me that all of these identifiers could co-exist, and therefore would represent different views simultaneously of the bibliographic data that would depend on the function in play (e.g. export of data about a book v. support of shared cataloging).

Open Bookmarks planning

And a short last pointer sent by Jodi Schneider, to a post from the mailing list about Open Bookmarks, “a project to discuss, develop and design an open framework for saving, storing and sharing bookmarks, annotations and reading data in ebooks.” Are bookmarks made to an edition or a work? is a problem that should be handled with a FRBR approach. I’d never heard of the project before, and feel a bit rude in pointing at it like this, but if you’re involved (or get involved), then introducing FRBR to the planning would be a help.

Last Week in FRBR #37

Posted by: William Denton, 26 November 2010 7:00 am
Categories: Last Week

Massey, Linking Petterson – Visualising FRBR data with Protovis

Linking Petterson – Visualising FRBR data with Protovis by David Murray takes a fresh angle on FRBR that I don’t recall seeing before. (Protovis is a tool for doing graphical visualizations in your browser.)

This short article describes a potential use of a bibliographic data set that has been created using the principles of FRBR 1 (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records). The FRBR entities and relationships are visualised using the Protovis toolkit2 developed by Stanford University.

The result of experiment can be viewed at this address: http://bibin.hio.no/~davm/php/sparqling/pode/petterson.html

The visualization page really slowed down my computer, so be careful, but it’s cool.

Mailing list thread: Changes to FRBR?

Karen Coyle started an interesting discussion on the FRBR mailing list, with the subject “Changes to FRBR?” I’ll quote her post here, because the mailing list archive is a huge RTF file and you’ll have to scroll down to the bottom and look for this thread.

Interesting FRBR development… I sent the following three suggestions relating to FRBR to some individuals having a related discussion about changes needed to FRBR:

1) we need a generalized WEMI that allows one to create a bibliographic record where properties are not bound to a particular group 1 entity. This is needed so that FRBR-ized data can interact with non-FRBR-ized data.

2) the entities of group 3 need to be freed from group 3 and make usable anywhere. Group 3 should disappear and be replaced by a “has subject” property that can take any URI or string as its value.

3) as many as possible of the frbr entities and properties need to be associated with other defined classes and properties that exist outside of frbr.

I received a reply from someone who I believe is part of the FRBR committee that the group is indeed considering each of these already. I don’t know more than that, but it would be good to be having a more open conversation about this. For those of us trying to implement a new bibliographic data environment, these changes could make the difference between success and failure.

I don’t find anything about these changes on the FRBR web site, unfortunately. These are critical issues for developers (and there are probably others) so there is a real need for this information to be disseminated and discussed. I would also be interested in hearing from others who have attempted to work with the FRBR entities, especially if you have requirements to add to the 3 I listed above.

As she says, there’s nothing on the FRBR web site about this, and most of the people responding on the mailing list were outsiders. There’s less active disucssion of FRBR on the official mailing list than on mailing lists about RDA, linked data, open bibliographic data, next-generation catalogues, and elsewhere.

Variations/FRBR releases new XML schemas

An announcement that was posted to various mailing lists and is on the Variations/FRBR news page:

New XML Schemas for FRBR data released (November 19, 2010)

The Variations/FRBR Project at Indiana University (http://vfrbr.info) has released version 1.1 of a set of XML Schemas designed for the representation of FRBR data in XML. The 1.1 Schema release represents some significant improvements over our earlier 1.0 release, particularly in the handling of FRBR relationships. As before, the Variations/FRBR XML Schemas are defined at three “levels”: frbr, which embodies faithfully only those features defined by the FRBR and FRAD reports; efrbr, which adds additional features we hope will make the data format more “useful”; and vfrbr, which both contracts and extends the FRBR and FRAD models to create a data representation optimized for the description of musical materials and we hope provides a model for other domain-specific applications of FRBR.

A User Guide with details on the structure of the Schemas and how they relate to one another may be found at http://vfrbr.info/schemas/1.1/UserGuide.pdf, and links to all Schemas and documentation may be found at http://vfrbr.info/schemas/1.1. We hope this updated Schema release will lead to further discussion of FRBR implementation issues within the community. Comments and questions on the Variations/FRBR Schema release may be sent to vfrbr@dlib.indiana.edu.

Massart et al, Taming the Metadata Beast: ILOX

Taming the Metadata Beast: ILOX, by Massart, Shulman, Nicholas, Ward, and Bergeron, is in the November 2010 issue of D-Lib. Section 2 is “Modelling Learning Objects in FRBR.” It goes into a full explanation, of course, but here’s an example:

An ILOX instance can be rooted at any level of the hierarchy depending on how abstract or concrete one needs to be. Handling learning object descriptions at the:

  • Work level permits one entry per learning object with no immediate distinction between learning object versions;
  • Expression level permits one entry per learning object version with no immediate distinction between the different formats of a given learning object version, and without having to decide which Work different Expressions belong to;
  • Manifestation level permits one entry per learning object format with no immediate distinction between the different copies of a learning object, and without having to decide which Work or Expression the Manifestations belong to;
  • Item level permits one entry per learning object copy, without having to decide which Work, Expression or Manifestation the Items belong to.

Figure showing pattern for describing the different FRBR aspects of a learning object. objects.

Byrne and Goddard, The Strongest Link: Libraries and Linked Data

The Strongest Link: Libraries and Linked Data by Gillian Byrne and Lisa Goddard is from the same issue of D-Lib.

Abstract: Since 1999 the W3C has been working on a set of Semantic Web standards that have the potential to revolutionize web search. Also known as Linked Data, the Machine-Readable Web, the Web of Data, or Web 3.0, the Semantic Web relies on highly structured metadata that allow computers to understand the relationships between objects. Semantic web standards are complex, and difficult to conceptualize, but they offer solutions to many of the issues that plague libraries, including precise web search, authority control, classification, data portability, and disambiguation. This article will outline some of the benefits that linked data could have for libraries, will discuss some of the non-technical obstacles that we face in moving forward, and will finally offer suggestions for practical ways in which libraries can participate in the development of the semantic web.

Naturally FRBR and FRAD come up, as they do in any discussion of linked bibliographic metadata, in connection with RDA, Davis and Newman’s vocabulary of FRBR in RDF, etc.


MetaLex is “an open XML interchange format for legal and legislative resources” that will let people “ink legal information from various levels of authority and different countries and languages.” Its partially used by the legislation.gov.uk project that I pointed out in September.

There’s a lot of FRBR in MetaLex, but checking the archives I see it’s never been mentioned here before. The CEN MetaLex Workshop Agreement (PDF) from 2009 defines how it works. There’s a lot about URIs and RDF in it, as you’d expect these days, but on top of that in section 4.2.1 it says their terminology is inspired by FRBR. Work, Expression, and Item are all there, and here’s its Manifestation:

A bibliographic manifestation embodies one expression of one bibliographic work. The boundaries between one manifestation and another are drawn on the basis of both content and physical form, e.g. the adoption of a specific data format, or its rendering as ink over sheets of paper. When the production process involves changes in physical form the resulting product is considered a new manifestation. Thus, a specific XML representation, a PDF file (as generated by printing into PDF a specific Word file with a specific PDF distiller), a printed booklet, all represent different manifestations of the same expression of a work. Manifestation is an intentional object. A MetaLex XML document is a bibliographic manifestation.

[...] A MetaLex XML document is a standard manifestation of one or more bibliographic expressions of a source of law. Editing the MetaLex XML markup and metadata of the XML document changes the manifestation of an expression. Changing the marked up text changes the expression embodied by the manifestation. Copying an exemplar of the MetaLex XML document creates a new item.

(Via Jodi Schneider.)

Last Week in FRBR #36

Posted by: William Denton, 19 November 2010 7:41 am
Categories: Last Week

ol-tech thread on FRBR in RDF at Open Library

Karen Coyle’s New treatment of frbr:manifestation in work RDF kicked off a long thread on the ol-tech mailing list (where technical stuff about the workings of Open Library is discussed). She linked to http://openlibrary.org/works/OL262758W.rdf, which is The Hobbit described in FRBR terms and represented in RDF. Much discussion ensued, and if you’re interested in FRBR and RDF you’ll want to look at it.

ALCTS FRBR Interest Group at ALA Midwinter

The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) has a FRBR Interest Group, which is having a meeting on 7 January 2011 at the ALA Midwinter conference. Manuel Urrizola will talk about “Coping with RDA/FRBR Anxiety” and Yin Zhang and Athena Salaba will talk about “FRBRizing Existing MARC Records at Expression and Manifestation Levels.”

Also: “There will be an election of next Chair of FRBR IG at the end of the program. The winner will serve as Vice-Chair after 2011 Annual Conference and then as Chair in 2012/2013.” Go for it!

Maxwell, FRBR as a Foundation for RDA

Robert Maxwell, author of FRBR: A Guide for the Perplexed, which I recommend, is doing an ALA webinar in December: FRBR as a Foundation for RDA. “This webinar will cover the basics of FRBR, including its development and contents. Participants will leave the webinar with an understanding of the entity-relationship model on which FRBR is based, the FRBR entities and relationships, and the FRBR user tasks. The webinar will then address, through an exploration of RDA itself, how FRBR lies at the foundation of RDA’s structure, and what implications that might have on future database structures for our catalog descriptions.”

I dislike the word “webinar,” but what can you do?


Copac is a union catalogue of a lot of major libraries in the UK and Ireland. LOCAH is the Linked Open Copac Archives Hub, and a blog post there, Modelling Copac Data, talks about FRBR.

(Via Jodi Schneider.)

Ehlert, RDA: Building Blocks

RDA: Building Blocks (300 KB PDF) is part two of a three-part series about RDA by Mark Ehlert. It summarizes FRBR and FRAD. It was done for Minitex, which has nothing to do with LaTeX, which I mention just because I use it almost every day and enjoy enormously.

Weinheimer podcasts about FRBR: Return of the Bride of Son of

Part 4 of James Weinheimer’s podcasts about FRBR. “This installment continues my personal journey with the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (or FRBR). Will I finish it at last? Stay tuned!”

Last Week in FRBR #35

Posted by: William Denton, 5 November 2010 7:57 am
Categories: Last Week

Matthys, FRBR een praktijkvoorbeeld

Rosa Matthys posted FRBR een praktijkvoorbeeld, which I cannot read.

Manzanos, ¿Qué es un obra? What is a work?

Norberto Manzanos has posted his paper ¿Quién debe responder a la pregunta “qué es un obra”? Who should answer the question “what is a work?” (Revista Documentación, vol. 63-72, n. 20 (2010)). The original Spanish article is there with a full English translation.

Abstract: This article covers some of the answers that has received the question: What is a work?, from the Information Science, and from other disciplines. While it is an issue that has always been present in all these areas, it is since the arrival of IFLA FRBR model that the need for a clear answer has been pressing both to resolve practical problems -the cataloging of works- as theoretical also, i.e., the definition of work. We start with the definitions given by IFLA and other authors who have analyzed the FRBR model to demonstrate certain theoretical limitations in light of some texts produced from other knowledges such as sociology of art, semiotics, aesthetics of receptions and culture history. The article concludes that it is necessary to address a multidisciplinary study of the problem, in order to avoid errors in both theory and practice resulting from the application of the new model.

Coyle, Oliver, Hillman webinar on RDA

I watched the first session in Using RDA: Moving Into the Metadata Future, which was Karen Coyle on “New Models of Metadata.” It’s on her presentations page. Next week Chris Oliver speaks on “RDA: Designed for Current and Future Environments” and then the week after it’s Diane Hillmann on “RDA Vocabularies in the Semantic Web.”

If you follow Coyle regularly then you would have known the stuff she covered already, but from the questions she was asked it sounded like it was new to a lot of people there and they were confused and worried. I have to miss Oliver’s but I’m looking forward to Hillmann’s session.

“Scribe” was watching Coyle’s session, and posted That’s So 1998:

FRBR’s structure doesn’t jive with how we see the “future” of information relationships. Everyone is talking about how information should be a ‘web’, with everything having the same importance and availability. FRBR doesn’t do that, though. From the models I’ve seen of FRBR, it seems that the relationships only flow one way. Instead of subjects having potentially the same importance as a book itself, subjects are always subservient to bibliographic data. Afterthoughts, add-ons. I know that it’s been said that people are working on this aspect of FRBR, presumably to change it, but to me that seems to be a basic building block of how FRBR treats information.

I don’t think that’s true, as all of the RDF work that Coyle, Hillmann, and many others are doing is showing.

Hillmann, RDA Vocabulary Developments Based on FRBR

Speaking of Hillmann, here’s RDA Vocabulary Developments Based on FRBR (at Slideshare), a talk she gave at ASIST quite recently. Some day all conference talks will have audio as easily available as the slides!

Berdinka, It Is a Beautiful Thing

Susan Berdinka posted Some Thoughts About FRBR—It Is a Beautiful Thing. “ILS database design is the problem I see with how we store bibliographic information, not Marc itself.”

The AUTOCAT thread that won’t end

I think Displaying Work/Expression/Manifestation records has been going on for a month now. Phew.

As RDA comes closer there are more and more complaints about it on mailing lists. FRBR comes up in all of them.

Last Week in FRBR #34

Posted by: William Denton, 22 October 2010 7:28 am
Categories: Last Week

FRBR work-centric, faceted UI demo developer sought

There’s a short-term contract available for someone to hack on a FRBR interface for the Online Audiovisual Catalogers (OLAC), but the deadline is today. Get your name in if you’re interested. (I was away at a conference last week and didn’t do the weekly update. Sorry for the short notice, but you probably already saw this on a mailing list anyway.)

OLAC (Online Audiovisual Catalogers) has been investigating the potential of the FRBR model and a work-centric approach to improve access to moving images for some time. We are looking for someone to make a basic but functional demonstration end-user interface for moving images that is focused on FRBR works and that offers faceted navigation using sample data for 143 moving image works, 210 manifestations, and 297 items. Ideally, this will be developed with open source tools such as MySQL, Solr and Lucene. I have some ideas about what the interface might look like (see link below) and am looking for someone to put up something quick and dirty, but functional and interactive so people can get a better idea of how this might work. This may not turn out to be anything like what would work for a final user interface, but I am hoping that it will make the potential for a FRBR-based, faceted approach clear and make it easier for people to understand the kinds of searching options we want to provide.

OLAC has agreed to fund $1500 to be awarded to the individual(s) who successfully completes this project. More information on and the sample data for this project are available at http://www.olacinc.org/drupal/?q=node/437

If you are interested in taking this project on, please contact me at kelleym@uoregon.edu via email by Friday, October 22 with a list of your qualifications, a suggested timeline, and any other information you think it might be helpful for us to know. We are willing to negotiate on the timetable, but are interested in having a finished product as soon as possible. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Kelley McGrath

Lindahl, eXtensible Catalog Software Portfolio

At the Access conference in Winnipeg last week I saw David Lindahl of the eXtensible Catalog project give a talk: eXtensible Catalog Software Portfolio. It wasn’t recorded, which is too bad, because he covered some great FRBR work they’re doing.

If you look at the presentation, on slide 14 you’ll see an “XC Schema Record” that describes a Work/Expression/Manifestation: look for the work, expression, manifestation sections of the record on it and the next slide, and notice how they’re using Dublin Core, RDA, and their own vocabulary to describe things.

Slide 19 briefly describes how the FRBRizing works. They take a bunch of MARCXML records, clean them up, and parse and group them.

The source code is available in Google Code. They tagged a release of the Metadata Services Toolkit in March, and haven’t done a release since then, because the code is changing quickly. You can check out the code from the repository yourself and have a look at the current work, though, for example src/java/xc/mst/utils/XcRecordSplitter.java:

private Work buildWork(Element workElement)
                log.debug("Creating a new Work element from a work component of the record with ID " + recordId + ".");

        // Create a Work Object for the passed work element
        Work work = new Work();
        work.setService(service); // Mark the Work as being from no service since it shouldn't be output


Lovely old Java. If you’re doing FRBRization, now there’s another algorithm for you to look at. Nice work from XC!

Here’s the abstract of the talk:

The eXtensible Catalog Project has developed four open-source software toolkits that enable libraries to build and share their own web- and metadata-focused applications on top of a service-oriented architecture that incorporates Solr in Drupal, a robust metadata management platform, and OAI-PMH and NCIP-compatible tools that interact with legacy library systems in real-time. XC”s Metadata Services Toolkit allows libraries to orchestrate and sequence metadata processing services on large batches of metadata. Libraries can build their own services or choose from our initial set of metadata services that clean up and “FRBRize” MARC metadata. XC software provides an RDA metadata test bed and a Solr-based metadata “navigator.” XC”s user interface platform is the first suite of Drupal modules that treat both web content and library metadata as native Drupal nodes, allowing libraries to build web-applications that interact with metadata from library catalogs and institutional repositories as well as with library web pages. Other currently-available XC toolkits expose legacy ILS metadata, circulation, and patron functionality via web services for III, Voyager and Aleph (to date) using standard protocols (OAI-PMH and NCIP), allowing libraries to easily and regularly extract MARC data from an ILS in valid MARCXML and keep the metadata in their discovery applications “in sync” with source repositories. This presentation will showcase XC”s metadata processing services, the metadata “navigator” and the Drupal user interface platform. The presentation will also describe how libraries and their developers can get started using and contributing to the XC code.

Ross Singer and Open Library

Ross Singer posted this on Twitter on 13 October:

I just wrote an x-identifier type service for Open Library data, see: http://bit.ly/cDqqam http://bit.ly/cCuvLZ http://bit.ly/beqE3X

I’m not sure exactly how he did it, but he loaded Open Library data dumps into a Talis Platform database and then worked some magic on it.

Indiana U V/FRBR project publishes wireframes

Email sent around by Jenn Riley:

Subject: FRBRized cataloging tool designs and explanatory screencasts released

One of the greatest challenges to implementing the FRBR conceptual model (http://www.ifla.org/en/publications/functional-requirements-for-bibliographic-records) might be creating a cataloging interface that provides for efficient and effective data entry. The V/FRBR project at Indiana University (http://vfrbr.info) has released a set of design wireframes for a FRBRized cataloging interface for musical materials, and screencasts explaining these designs. These may be found online at http://vfrbr.info/projectDoc/metadata/catalogingTool. Comments and/or questions may be directed to vfrbr@dlib.indiana.edu.

If you’re interested in FRBR, also check out our FRBRized discovery interface and downloadable data, also from the V/FRBR site.

There are four screencasts, with narration and everything. Have a look. This is necessary work:

Library Linked Data use case

The W3C’s Library Linked Data Incubator Group wiki is building up a set of use cases so they have real examples of who wants to do what. Jodi Schneider pointed out Use Case: Pode, submitted by the Norwegian Pode Project. Here’s the goal; the details are on the web page.


This phase of the project consists of two tasks. Described separately:

A1. Presenting the productions of two authors grouped by FRBR entities Work and Expression, enriched with outside information about these authors and links to online fulltext versions of books.

A2: Converting FRBRized bibliographic data to RDF, and enriching these data with links to individual instances in DBpedia, VIAF and Project Gutenberg.

B1. Making an application that allows the enduser to navigate related Dewey categories by labels in several different languages, to browse the library’s collection of multilingual non-fiction documents.

B2. Converting MARC records to RDF. Creating links to Dewey categories with multilingual language labels from http://dewey.info/.

Last Week in FRBR #33

Posted by: William Denton, 8 October 2010 7:58 am
Categories: Last Week

Pisanski and Žumer, Mental Models of the Bibliographic Universe

Jan Pisanski and Maja Žumer have written a pair of articles about user testing the FRBR model. They appear in Journal of Documentation (66: 5) but preprints are available online:


Purpose – The paper aims to present the results of the first two tasks of a user study looking into mental models of the bibliographic universe and especially their comparison to the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) conceptual model, which has not yet been user tested.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper employes a combination of techniques for eliciting mental models and consisted of three tasks, two of which, card sorting and concept mapping, are presented herein. Its participants were 30 individuals residing in the general area of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Findings – Cumulative results of concept mapping show a strong resemblance to FRBR. Card sorts did not produce conclusive results. In both tasks, participants paid special attention to the original expression, indicating that a special place for it should be considered.

Research limitations/implications – The study was performed using a relatively small sample of participants living in a geographically limited space using relatively straight-forward examples.

Practical implications – Some solid evidence is provided for adoption of FRBR as the conceptual basis for cataloguing.

Originality/value – This is the first widely published user study of FRBR, applying novel methodological approaches in the field of Library and Information Science.

How can FRBR say it’s based on user needs?

Notice that line above: “This is the first widely published user study of FRBR.”

Gretchen L. Hoffman’s “Meeting Users’ Needs in Cataloging: What is the Right Thing to Do?” (Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 47: 7, October 2009) (DOI: 10.1080/01639370903111999) talks about how user-centred libraries really are regarding cataloguing. Not very, is her answer. “Cataloging must stop just ‘thinking’ about users. It must show specific behaviors that meet users’ needs. Claims that users are the highest principle of cataloging and librarianship are empty, dishonest, and unethical if not supported by behavior that helps users.”

There’s a paragraph about FRBR that highlights something often pointed out now that the FRBR is going into widespread use through RDA:

Yet, cataloging still claims to focus on users and it places itself within LIS’s user-centered paradigm. Standards and other cataloging initiatives claim to focus on users, but are not actually based on an understanding of users’ needs. For example, the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) is a “conceptual model of the bibliographic universe.” The developers claim they took “a user-focused approach” in the development of the model. Yet, the chair of the study admits, “It did not involve studies of how actual users approach and make use of bibliographic records.” How can FRBR call itself user-focused when users were not studied? This is significant, because this model is the basis of the new cataloging rules, Resource Description and Access (RDA). In this way, the idea of being user-focused is perpetuated. Cataloging standards claim to focus on users but are not based on an understanding of users’ needs that originates from empirical studies of real users.

Hoffman’s article cited one by Clare Beghtol, “Professional Values and Ethics in Knowledge Organization and Cataloging,” (Journal of Information Ethics 17: 1, Spring 2008) (DOI: 10.3172/JIE.17.1.12) . Beghtol was one of my professors at library school, so I looked it up, and what did I find but a short FRBR reference, which I include here for the sake of completeness:

Cutter enunciated three functions of the catalog in 1904. They have been preserved by a number of international conferences through the last hundred years and have been augmented by the recent adoption of the Functional Requirements of the Bibliographic Record (FRBR) (http://www.ifla.org/VII/s13/frbr/frbr.pdf. Accessed May 27, 2005). Cutter’s three basic functions of the catalog are to allow the library user to identify a known work (e.g., author/title cataloging), to discover an unknown work on a certain topic (e.g., subject headings, thesauri, classification), and to select a particular manifestation of a work from among a number of manifestations held by a library (e.g., bibliographic details and notes). To these basic functions of finding and collocating, FRBR has added the function of allowing an information seeker to find out where to obtain a copy of the work (e.g., through inter-library loan or the Internet). All these functions are implied in the core value of access to information set out by the ethical codes of the three professional bodies noted above.

Data available for download from Indiana U Variations/FRBR project

An email message that Jenn Riley of Indiana University sent out to many mailing lists:

Subject: FRBRized data available for bulk download

The Variations/FRBR [1] project at Indiana University has released bulk downloads of metadata for the sound recordings presented in our Scherzo [2] music discovery system in a FRBRized XML format. The downloadable data includes FRBR Work, Expression, Manifestation, Person, and Corporate Body records, along with the structural and responsibility relationships connecting them. While this is still an incomplete representation of FRBR and FRAD, we hope that the release of this data will aid others that are studying or working with FRBR. This XML data conforms to the “efrbr” set of XML Schemas [3] created for this project. The XML data may be downloaded from http://vfrbr.info/data/1.0/index.shtml, and comments/questions may be directed to vfrbr@dlib.indiana.edu.

One caveat to those who seek to use this data: we plan to continue improving our FRBRization algorithm into the future and have not yet implemented a way to keep entity identifiers consistent between new data loads. Therefore we cannot at this time guarantee the Work with the identifier http://vfrbr.info/work/30001, for example, will have the same identifier in the future. Therefore this data at this time should be considered highly experimental.

Many thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for funding the V/FRBR project.

Also, if you’re interested in FRBR, please do check out our experimental discovery system: . We’re very interested in your feedback!


[1] V/FRBR project home page (http://vfrbr.info); FRBR report (http://www.ifla.org/en/publications/functional-requirements-for-bibliographic-records)

[2] Scherzo (http://vfrbr.info/search)

[3] V/FRBR project XML Schemas (http://vfrbr.info/schemas/1.0/index.shtml)

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