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).


November 2010
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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.)

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