Today I debut a new feature: Four FRBR Questions. Every now and then I’ll ask these questions of people in the FRBR world and post the answers here. There are some really interesting people doing work in this area, and this will let us get to know them better.
The first person I asked was, naturally, Patrick Le Boeuf, chair of the FRBR Review Group, keeper of the bibliography, and owner of the mailing list (see links on left). You’ve read his papers, seen the issue of Cataloging & Classification Quarterly he edited, and you may have met him at a conference. I asked for just a one-sentence answer to each of the questions — he’s a very busy man, even more so than usual with an IFLA meeting starting next week — but he was extremely generous and gave much longer answers that are fascinating reading. I thank him very much for this, and for all his FRBR work!
When did you first hear about FRBR?
From 1994 to 1998 I was a cataloguer for sound recordings at Bibliothèque nationale de France. At that time, we used to create very complete descriptions for CDs, to the level of each individual track (unfortunately, the cataloging policy of the BnF department for audiovisual materials has changed now, and CD descriptions now are so poor that they are virtually of no use). It is a habit, in sound recordings industry, to reorganize the same individual tracks into various combinations that are released and re-released over time. I went tired of cataloguing the same tracks over and over again, especially in jazz music, with various levels of precision and accuracy according to the more or less important amount of seriousness of music publishers (liner notes are sometimes very detailed, sometimes very rough, for the very same track). I began therefore to think that it would be a good idea to create some kind of authority records for sound tracks (at the conceptual level of ISRC), and to make links from bibliographic records to such authority records in order to describe the contents of sound recordings and to have that information indexed and retrievable. Then, in 1998, I changed jobs and was in charge of authority files for uniform titles for music, in a department that was headed by Nadine Boddaert (the compiler of Anonymous Classics: A List of Uniform Headings for European Literature (PDF, 1600 KB)), who was at the time a member of the IFLA Cataloguing Section’s Standing Committee. She introduced me to FRBR. It was a revelation. I immediately thought: “This is precisely what cataloguers for sound recordings urgently need!” One year later, I changed jobs again, and I entered the department for standardization. There, I was asked to translate the “FRBR Final Report” into French, which I began to do enthusiastically.
What’s your involvement with it now?
At the moment I am chair of the IFLA FRBR Review Group, but I will have to resign from that position this summer. I am also a member of the “FRBR/CIDOC CRM Harmonization Working Group,” which aims at translating the FRBR entity-relationship model into the object-oriented formalism, so that it can be “plugged” to the CIDOC CRM model developed by the museum community. I intend to go on working on that topic, even though I may have to leave the National Library of France in the near future, which may make it more difficult for me. But I am profoundly convinced that this task (converting FRBR to OO and transforming it into something closer to an actual ontology) is too important to be abandoned now.
What’s one thing you think the FRBR world needs most?
I don’t know. Perhaps, to stop discussing the “Expression” entity over and over again. Expression is not the most problematic entity in the model. Work and Manifestation pose much trickier problems. At least at a conceptual level. At the pragmatic, operational level, however, I agree that some decisions need to be made about what to include in the notion of Expression.
What’s your one-line non-librarian description of FRBR?
“What do you mean when you say ‘a book’? Do you mean the physical thing with ink-covered sheets of paper and a binding (‘to tear a book into pieces’), or a publication (‘to order a book’), or a text (‘to write a book’), or the immaterial content of a text (‘to be impressed by a book’)?” The inconvenience of that description is that, when someone simply says “I’m reading a book”, the sentence refers to all four levels at the same time…