Thursday, 20 November 2008


Functional requirements for bibliographic records; the conceptual model which is about to redefine the bibliographic universe. Group one entities finally give us a more precise terminology to use when dealing with reference questions; after all, 'I want to read this book' is a substantially different statement to 'I left this book on the desk a second ago but now it's disappeared.' Thus we now have a work, an expression, a manifestation and an item. We are able to draw together and cluster all results about a work. Take for example Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In accordance with the new database structures that are growing up around FRBR principles, we could have one record for the work, and then attach multiple manifestation records to that to include original text, different editions, film adaptations and even Baz Luhrman's soundtrack.
FRBR is starting to have an impact on standards, evident in RDA. RDA, designed as the next step from AACR2, is structured very closely around the principles of FRBR. FRBR looks at user tasks, namely: to find, to identify, to select and to obtain. The bibliographic record is then checked for these elements to determine the extent to which the catalogue is meeting the needs of users. Which is great. But one of the main problems, and not to sound condescending, is that quite often our users are not sure what they want until they browse the catalogue. Currently the OPAC may bring up books about Romeo and Juliet as well as the text itself. For FRBR, this is a problem. However, in the interests of serendipity, perhaps this is not such a bad thing.
With a modicum of search training, a user is able to use the OPAC sufficiently. And dates of editions are always displayed. It worries me that the FRBR model would lead us to provide new 'manifestation' link records for each reprint of a book; technically it is a new entity although the intellectual content remains identical. I can see how useful FRBR would be to literary and musical works, but the impact seems reduced within the sciences.
The other major issue concerns the impact upon MARC21. If AACR2 is seen as predating computerised cataloguing, then MARC21 can be viewed as a means of creating nothing more than a computerised catalogue card. However, despite the format's limitations in terms of data extraction, we currently have several million records in this format worldwide. Quite what will happen to them is unclear. Perhaps it is time for a new encoding set to be introduced, one with more flexibility and functionality. And yet somehow the idea of converting all those records from one format to another seems like an awfully big adventure.

1 comment:

Colin Duncan said...


The RDA Draft has an appendix which shows how RDA elements are to be used in MARC21. Since MARC21 is used worldwide by organisations such as LC and OCLC, I thing it will be around for a long time to come and any replacement would only be implented over a long period of time.

Colin Duncan
Chief Cataloguer
Inverclyde Libraries