At first I thought it was the pint of cider I’d knocked back over lunch that made the discussions of the Working Group on Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records (FRSAR) difficult to follow, but I soon realized that the problem was my complete lack of knowledge about what they were discussing.
There isn’t much about FRSAR on the public web, and the IFLA web site doesn’t even list the current working group (WG) members, though it does say Marcia Lei Zeng is the chair and Athena Salaba and Maja Žumer are co-chairs. There were twelve people at the table (later joined by David Miller, making thirteen!), and I caught the names of some other others: Ed O’Neill and Diane Vizine-Goetz of OCLC, Lois Mai Chan, Jonathan Furner, Päivi Pekkarinen, and Dorothy McGarry. I apologize for missing the others.
For some background, have a look at these:
Here’s an extract from an ALCTS newsletter from February 2008 that gives the gist of it:
Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records group (FRSAR) members have had several meetings through emails, conference calls, and face-to-face meetings since May 2006. Major outcomes include the definitions of user tasks, a proposal of a new model, and a plan for the final report.
The group held three meetings on August 20 and 24, 2007 at IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Durban, and extensively discussed the proposed model and Group 3 entities. Major outcomes may be summarized as:
- FRSAR confirms what FRBR has already defined: WORK has-subject THEMA. “Thema” is the term used temporarily to refer to anything that is the subject of a work. Thema includes any FRBR entities.
- FRSAR proposes the new relationship: THEMA has the appellation NOMEN. “Nomen” is a term used temporarily to refer to any alphanumeric, sound, visual, etc. symbol or combination of symbols by which a thema is known, referred to or addressed.
- The THEMA-NOMEN relationship is consistent with what FRAD has proposed in its draft report, to separate what a thing is (the concept) from what it is known, referred to or addressed (its name, label).
- FRSAR group plans to have a draft final report available in the spring of 2008.
To turn up other stuff, search Google for frsar and keep your eye out for mentions of “thema” and “nomen” because you’ll be hearing a lot about them later this year when the FRSAR draft comes out (or so is the plan).
Glenn Patton of OCLC was at the table to discuss FRAD, he chairing the WG on that, and FRAD took up the first hour of the meeting. He said they’d made some changes to the latest draft based on comments, and part of it will be removed and made available separately.
There was some involved discussion of what is an entity, why name and controlled access point are two different entities and not the same, etc. Patton said they wanted to separate the attributes of a person, the names by which they are known, and the access points by which they are found. It seemed easiest to do this by having different entities. Person is related to name is related controlled access point. “Define your entities at least in part by what you want to do with them,” he said, which is why, for example, Family and Agency are different from Corporate Body though they’re really kinds of Corporate Body. It all got rather philosophical and detailed as did, indeed, the entire meeting.
There was discussion of Title and Other Designation as part of name or not. E.g. Jr, III, Professor, Mrs. Discussion of difference between LCCN numbers (as identifier of a record about a person) and social insurance numbers (as identifier of a person). People are unique, but their names aren’t, so we need unique identifiers. But an identifier is a kind of name!
Around 2 the Patton grilling stopped and everyone turned to their FRSAR draft, which no-one else has seen, so the five or six observers were a bit out of it.
Žumer led a discussion about just what a thema is. It’s an entity, it’s a superclass, it’s a supertype, it’s what FRAD calls “bibliographic entities” in its Diagram 2, it’s “things that can potentially enter into subject relationships” as Furner put it. Work is in a many-to-many relationship with Thema, and Thema is in a many-to-many relationship with Nomen, which is basically the name of the subject, as I understand it. (Just as a in FRAD Person and Name are different entities. The map is not the territory.)
It was all getting quite philosophical in here about the nature of a thing in itself and then how we discuss it and name it and how we represent it in our systems. I’ll be honest with you. I zoned out a bit in here. Figures 5.7 and 5.8 of the FRSAR draft were scrutinized. There was more discussion of attributes of entities, then a look at “the Italian model,” and then at 3 they took a break. I left them to it and after a quick chat with Žumer and Vizine-Goetz in the hall I obtained a strong cup of coffee.
This meeting, of a Working Group, was an interesting contrast to the FRBR Review Group. FRSAR doesn’t exist yet, so a table full of experts get togther for two four-hour meetings this month, on top of online discussions and meetings at ISKO and other conferences, and hash out drafts and discuss them and argue over fundamental issues of subject records and how to model them. It’s a slow process. The FRSAR draft should be quite interesting when it’s out, and as FRAD moves to the final version it’s all fitting together, with each of FRAD, FRSAR, and FRBR affecting the other. Slowly it’s all locking into place.