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
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VTLS’s FRBRization service

Posted by: William Denton, 7 August 2008 7:45 am
Categories: Implementations,Vendors

In Galen Charlton’s ALA 2008 Conference Notes: ALCTS FRBR Interest Group from late June, he said John Espley of VTLS had talked about an online FRBRization tool, designed be software as a service.

I e-mailed Espley to ask more about this, and he explained, and I quote:

The FRBR SaaS (Software as a Service) is as you wrote “new and experimental.” In summary, the way it will work is:

  1. Non VTLS library extracts their bib records and sends them to VTLS Inc.
  2. VTLS Inc. will analyze the records for potentially FRBR records.
  3. The identified potentially FRBR records will be placed in a Virtua database and FRBRized.
  4. Using “web services” (similar to how book jackets and other media are displayed in an OPAC) there will be a link on the records in the non VTLS library’s OPAC that will redirect the user to the FRBRized records in the Virtua database.
  5. There will also be a link from the FRBRized records in the Virtua database back to the non VTLS Library’s OPAC.

This is all new, but expect to hear more about it as things develop. If you happen to be at the IFLA conference in Quebec City next week, look for the VTLS booth, where people can give a demo. How this will compare to xISBN and thingISBN will be interesting to see.

I’ll be at IFLA too, and I’m going to sit in on everything FRBR-related that I can. I’ll write about it here. I’m always glad to meet people that read this, so say hello.

ISIS FRBR Prototype Application version 2

Posted by: William Denton, 29 July 2008 12:10 pm
Categories: Implementations

Roberto Sturman sent this to the FRBR mailing list this morning:

The IFPA2 (ISIS FRBR Prototype Application – ver. 2) is now online:


(username/password for dataentry: ifpa2/demo2)

The new implementation of the prototype is based on WebLis

Its main features are:

  • new database design: relationships are managed in dedicated records, one relationship per record;
  • unlimited no. of relationships for each Entity (within the database capability);
  • creation of Entities/Relationships by hyperlinks; picklist assisted relationship management;
  • WEB based interface for all functions, data entry included;
  • pseudo-tree view of FRBR bibliographic “towers”

Please note as the user interface design is still in fluctuation and the application has still many bugs, inconsistencies, so it is not yet available for download. I hope to make it downloadable shortly.


Posted by: William Denton, 24 May 2008 7:27 am
Categories: Implementations,OCLC

Earlier this week OCLC announced xOCLCNUM, which is like xISBN except that instead of giving it an ISBN and getting back related ISBNs, you give it an OCLC number and get back related OCLC numbers.

Timothy McCormick included this in his e-mail to the code4lib mailing list about it: “ISBNs have been assigned since 1970, to most but not all books published. OCLC numbers are assigned whenever a record is added to WorldCat, OCLC’s global union catalog. These records cover a large portion of all books, old and new, held by any library in North America and, increasingly other regions worldwide (most recently, National Library of China: see http://www.oclc.org/news/releases/20085.htm). So the coverage range of OCLC numbers is, not surprisingly, far greater than that of ISBNs: in WorldCat, for example, around 100 million OCLCnums compared to about 20 million ISBNs.”

Very useful.

Shafranovich, FRBRizing Amazon’s Content

Posted by: William Denton, 26 March 2008 7:45 am
Categories: Blog Mentions,Implementations

Yakov Shafranovich’s Monday blog post FRBRizing Amazon’s Content is very interesting.

About two weeks ago I accidentally stumbled on a third public service that does something similar. When Amazon launched their Kindle eBook reader they made lots of titles available as a Kindle eBook. HOWEVER, they did not want to change the ISBN numbers for these titles. So what they did is re-organize their catalog is a way that all editions of the same work now appear to be linked to together including audio, eBook, hard cover, etc. This ability is buried in their API right here and is called RelatedItems:

He’s put up bookchaser.com, a tool to compare the results from Amazon, thingISBN, and xISBN.. Compare Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (starting with the ISBN of a Canadian manifestation): 81 results at xISBN, 105 at thingISBN, and 23 at Amazon, or, as Shafranovich calls his application, amazingISBN. On the other hand, here’s a book where Amazon knows more than the other two services.

Primo demo at Vanderbilt

Posted by: William Denton, 27 August 2007 7:32 am
Categories: Implementations

Marshall Breeding points out their test implementation of Ex Libris‘s new catalogue application, Primo: code-named Alphasearch, it is “the first time that a live Primo implementation has been made available to the general public.”

It does some manifestation grouping. Here are some search results for The Three Musketeers. Notice the link “11 versions in 3 languages published between 1893-1976.”

I find the interface awkward, especially its insistence on doing everything as a search, so I’ll leave further exploration up to you.

Coyle on merging at Open Library

Posted by: William Denton, 8 August 2007 7:58 am
Categories: Blog Mentions,Implementations,Open Library

Over at the Open Library project, Karen Coyle posted a link to a record-merging algorithm. On the mailing list where she announced this, she said, “This algorithm was designed to bring together what you would call ‘manifestations’ in FRBR-speak, and what OpenLibrary calls an edition. It can basically be summed up as ‘things you would assign the same ISBN to.'”

It may be temporary on her site (the URL implies so), but if this builds into something permanent at the Open Library then it will be very useful. Certainly the algorithm is of immediate interest to anyone grouping MARC or ONIX records.

Monte Sano FRBR Floater

Posted by: William Denton, 8 June 2007 11:57 pm
Categories: Implementations

Anyone know more about Monte Sano Associates’ FRBR Floater? It’s a subscription service that, it says, adds FRBRized views to a library’s catalogue without the library having to do anything.

Their one page PDF brochure explains:

FRBR Floater, from Monte Sano Associates, is an innovative new service that enables users to view, in an easy-to-read OPAC window, the various editions and formats owned by the library of any title searched. The user may then simply browse the list and select the one item that is most appropriate.

Libraries need not recatalog their collections or manipulate their bibliographic databases, because we use a sophisticated algorithm, based on the new international FRBR standard, to harvest the needed data from your existing MARC catalog records. As a result, libraries and their users can enjoy the benefits of FRBR without the time and expense of database analysis and re-design.

Seems to be something like LibraryThing for Libraries. Is it vapourware? I e-mailed Monte Sano a while ago but never got a reply.

Nelsonville OH gets Editions tab in Koha

Posted by: William Denton, 24 May 2007 9:51 am
Categories: Implementations

LibLime works on and sells support for the two big free and open source integrated library systems, Koha and Evergreen. In More Web Services: FRBR, xISBN, ThingISBN last week they announced that the Nelsonville Public Library added a module to their Koha installation that makes an Editions tab in their catalogue. It uses xISBN and thingISBN. (Nelsonville is a town in Ohio, in the United States.)

There’s even a nice set of system preferences to manage this new feature. They allow the library to turn the feature on/off, specify whether or not to use ThingISBN, and throttle the number of queries to the xISBN service, ensuring compliance to the terms of the free service (499 queries per day).

If you look at their entry for one of the manifestations of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and select the Editions tab you’ll see links to five other manifesations of the work (and one of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).

Congratulations to the Nelsonville Public Library and all others involved! I don’t know if this plug-in will be made available to others, but I hope it is. A mention of it may turn up on the library’s web page about Koha and their use of it.

LibraryThing for Libraries at Danbury Library

Posted by: William Denton, 19 May 2007 7:30 am
Categories: Implementations,LibraryThing

Danbury Library is the public library in Danbury, Connecticut, a city of about 80,000 people which is currently punching above its weight in the library world because it’s the first system to implement LibraryThing for Libraries, the new service offered by LibraryThing.

It looks very nice. Here are some sample pages:

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (Strangely, the book is sixth in the result list for “azkaban,” but that’s because of their catalogue’s search, nothing to do with LibraryThing.) Note the “Other editions and translation” section, which links to the movie on DVD (a related work), the book read by Jim Dale (different expression), and the Spanish translation (different expression). There’s also a link to another Harry Potter book, which is a mistake but easily corrected. This is now a semi-FRBRized catalogue! LibraryThing also supplies links to related books and tags, which you’ll want to look at.
  • They only have one item of The Hero with a Thousand Faces so there’s nothing FRBRy there.
  • They have four items that are exemplars of a particular manifestation of Pride and Prejudice, and it links to an audiobook and what seem to be literary criticism, but not the movie. As with Harry Potter, searching for “pride and prejudice” shows movie results before the books.

Those are the first three books I tried, and the FRBRization isn’t perfect, but I’m not complaining. Congratulations to the Danbury Library and LibraryThing on getting this implemented! There’s a lot more going on than just the FRBRization, of course, but I’ll leave that to others to discuss, and will just say that it’s very nice work that all other libraries will want to ponder.

Superduping an omnibus

Posted by: William Denton, 25 April 2007 7:26 am
Categories: Implementations,LibraryThing,OCLC

Before doing The Hobbit, here’s an interesting and short example of superduping an omnibus. (Omnibus editions are example of “aggregates,” an unsettled subject in the FRBR world.) It doesn’t spiral out of control, but it does, shall we say, expand beyond its borders.

I have in hand Captain Hornblower RN, which contains three of the Horatio Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester: Hornblower and the Atropos, The Happy Return, and A Ship of the Line. Penguin did all the Hornblower novels in three omnibus editions: The Young Hornblower, this one, and Admiral Hornblower. They arranged them into internal chronological order, not publishing order. My item is an exemplar of the the seventh impression of the Penguin manifestation of 1987. The ISBN is 0140081771. The copyright page says it was first published this way by Michael Joseph in 1965.

If we query thingISBN for 0140081771, we get back a cluster of four ISBNs: 0140081771, 0316288934, 2258039622, and 3548256554.

If we query xISBN for 0140081771, we get back two ISBNs: 0140081771 and 5859590202.

Let’s superdupe and group together all fragmented clusters at both services by comparing ISBNs back and forth.

The first ISBN is the one we started with, and it’s known to both services so it’s added to the superdupe array.

Super   Source  ISBN            ts      xs      Title
0       T       0140081771                      Captain Hornblower RN

The next one isn’t known at xISBN.

Super   Source  ISBN            ts      xs      Title
1       T       0316288934      3       1 + 0   Captain Horatio Hornblower
2       T       2258039622      2       1 + 2   Capitaine Hornblower (fre)

Line 2 opens up a cluster at xISBN: 2258039622 and 2258039614. They are Capitaine Hornblower, a French translation.

Super   Source  ISBN            ts      xs      Title
3       T       3548256554      1       2 + 4   Hornblower, Der Kapitän (deu)

That German edition opens up a cluster of four at xISBN: 0140008357, 0141027053, 3548024815, and 3548256554. Now that we’ve run through all of the numbers from thingISBN, we start running through the ones from xISBN and looking them up at thingISBN.

Super   Source  ISBN            ts      xs      Title
4       X       0140008357      0 + 9   5       The Happy Return

Interesting. This ISBN, which we got from xISBN in the Hornblower, Der Kapitän cluster, opened up a cluster of nine books at thingISBN. They are: 0140008357, 0141027053, 0316289329, 0523003854, 0523407351, 0523413904, 0718104692, 0736606548, 1859989969. The Happy Return is one of the novels in the omnibus, and it’s not unexpected that it would turn up. Someone wanting to the read The Happy Return could find it in Captain Hornblower RN. Someone wanting the omnibus edition would probably be as happy with the three individual novels, and perhaps all they really need is one of the three.

Things continue apace for a little while:

Super   Source  ISBN            ts      xs      Title
5       X       0141027053                      The Happy Return
6       X       2258039614      7 + 0   3       Capitaine Hornblower (fre)
7       X       3548024815      7 + 0   2       Der Kapitän (deu)
8       X       5859590202      7 + 0   1       Kapitan Khornblouer (rus)

But now we get Beat to Quarters, which thingISBN clustered with The Happy Return. Why? It’s not part of this omnibus. The LibraryThing work information page shows that people have grouped the two together as being the same work. This may be because of an older omnibus edition that does group the two novels.

Now we run through a bunch more manifestations of Beat to Quarters and a couple of The Happy Return, and something in Swedish.

Super   Source  ISBN            ts      xs      Title
9       T       0316289329      7       0 + 5   Beat to Quarters
10      T       0523003854                      Beat to Quarters
11      T       0523407351      5       3 + 0   Beat to Quarters
12      T       0523413904      4       3 + 0   Beat to Quarters
13      T       0718104692      3       3 + 0   The Happy Return
14      T       0736606548      2       3 + 0   Beat to Quarters
15      T       1859989969      1       3 + 1   Hornblower and the Happy Return (audio)
16      X       0736688986      0 + 0   3       Beat to Quarters (audio)
17      X       0736691286      0 + 0   2       Beat to Quarters (audio)
18      X       9137058126      0 + 0   1       Order Och Kontraorder (swe)

I was expecting that Hornblower and the Atropos and A Ship of the Line (the other two novels in the omnibus) would show up as individual works, but they didn’t. I didn’t do any deep investigation into this, to check how xISBN handles aggregates or what LibraryThing users do with such collections. One possible cause may be that omnibus editions are far more popular than individual ones, at least during the ISBN era.

Instead, because of what may be some overzealous grouping by a LibraryThing user Beat to Quarters came into the mix. It isn’t part of the omnibus in hand, and if we wanted to keep to just Captain Hornblower RN we’d have been better off not superduping. On the other hand, it certainly is related and of interest to the reader, so no harm is done. Perhaps it would help the user. Ideally, a catalogue would tie together all the Hornblower novels and the various omnibus editions so they are all easy to navigate.

Combining and deduping: 5
Superduping: 19 ISBNs
thingISBN: 4 at start; 8 calls; 9 ISBNs added; 6 unknown
    xISBN: 2 at start; 10 calls; 12 ISBNs added; 5 unknown

Superduping other omnibuses might show the constituent works being pulled out, but I’ll stop with this.

By the way, Forester’s Hornblower stories are all excellent and I recommend them.

I’m going to go on to some larger examples of superduping, but first I’m going to take a sidestep and bring in a new tool that will make it easier to see what’s going on.

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