Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Re: Revolution in our Minds: Seeing the World Anew

Posting to RDA-L

On 21/02/2012 16:53, Kevin M Randall wrote:
James Weinheimer wrote:
The very purpose of imagining different entities for work, expression, manifestation and item seem to me to imply that each entity displays one time. (I realize I am jumping to incredible conclusions and will probably be excoriated for it, but FRBR and its examples imply this very, very, very strongly)
I don't see any place that FRBR implies this, strongly or not. FRBR is not talking about display. At all. Anywhere. If you do see this anywhere in FRBR, then you must have an edition that I am totally unaware of.
Please cite the edition, and page(s) in that edition, where you find this.
See the examples under the manifestations and items., There are several, e.g.

J. S. Bach's Six suites for unaccompanied cello
  • e1 performances by Janos Starker recorded partly in 1963 and completed in 1965
    • m1 recordings released on 33 1/3 rpm sound discs in 1966 by Mercury
    • m2 recordings re-released on compact disc in 1991 by Mercury
  • e2 performances by Yo-Yo Ma recorded in 1983
    • m1 recordings released on 33 1/3 rpm sound discs in 1983 by CBS Records
    • m2 recordings re-released on compact disc in 1992 by CBS Records
This display shows the entities displaying one time only, with all of the related attributes displaying in the correct places and recreates the printed book display.

Again, this type of display is very strongly implied throughout FRBR. Obviously, FRBR is trying to state something, and having single entities where everything is drawn, e.g. the subjects from works and translators from expressions, etc. plus the examples, pretty strongly implies that each entity will display one time only. If information is displayed one time only, for multiple expressions and manifestations, it is difficult to conceive of any other display. I admit that I have always liked that kind of display since the differences from one resource to another are obvious, while with separate cards/records, you see the same author, title, etc. over and over and over again with only tiny differences in many cases, which is both boring and confusing to many. (This has been known since the beginning of the card catalog, by the way)

Of course, with our computers now, there are options. We could have all the entities display with each manifestation, thereby recreating the display of the records we have currently, which would be absurd of course, or all the entities could display along with each item. I have never heard of anyone suggesting this though, although if somebody wants it, why not? Still, such a display could probably be done with our current MARC records pretty simply.

I cannot imagine how everything could be clustered around expressions or works, except in some way such as is displayed here with information displayed one time only, or as we saw in Fiction Finder, which had this same type of display but interactive.

FRBR does not "mandate" displays in "thou shalt" fashion, I admit, just as ISBD does not "mandate" what is and is not a copy, but as I said, the implications exist very strongly, as we see here. In the case of FRBR, the very existence of single entities must have a purpose, and having the entities display more than once makes little sense. But yes, they could display the entities more than once, leading to records that display as they do now.

Now, if we want to consider FRBR strictly as a *conceptual* model with no genuine practical significance, that is another matter. The research suggested by Barbara Tillett and Karen Coyle, at "Mental models of the bibliographic universe" although extremely limited (30 people in Slovenia) is not enough to draw any conclusions from, (especially as it claims to be the very first one!), but at least I thought the results were not very encouraging for FRBR proponents. For instance, the initial comments were most interesting in part 1, p. 13: "Most of the participants found the task difficult or puzzling. They asked for further explanation and often expressed their dissatisfaction with the criterion or the design of the task." Therefore, the participants needed quite a bit of coaching before they could even begin.

Such a reaction makes perfect sense to me. It is very difficult to maintain that FRBR is a conceptual model for anyone besides librarians.


  1. In reading FRBR, it is very important to understand that the figures used are entity-relationship (ER) diagrams, not examples for OPAC displays. The figures illustrate the relationships between the FRBR entities, for the purpose of helping the information professional understand those relationships. (And by information professional, I don't mean the person at the desk involved in a reference interview; I mean people like those who are designing metadata schema and cataloging rules and search engines and OPAC displays.) A particular work will appear one time only in the figure because that is all that is needed to explain its relationship to the dependent expressions. This is part of the standard language of ER diagrams.

    I may be able to use a butter knife as a screwdriver in some limited circumstances. But that does not make it a screwdriver, and in most circumstances it would serve poorly as one. It would be very strange for me to complain to the manufacturer of the butter knife that they made a faulty screwdriver.

    Likewise, the FRBR diagrams do not serve well as designs for OPAC display, precisely because that is not what they are intended to do, any more than Venn diagrams in an explanation of Boolean searching imply that search results should show up to the user in interlocking circles. The diagrams serve a particular purpose, and that purpose is *not* OPAC display. It is very easy to maintain that FRBR is a conceptual model intended only for librarians (and other information professionals), because that's what it says it is, and it uses language only appropriate for that audience.

    Kevin M. Randall

  2. I apologize for the rather belated response. However, as one of the authors of the above mentioned research into mental models of the bibliogrpahic universe, I would like to clarify that there was no coaching regarding FRBR or the bibliographic universe involved.

    Jan Pisanski

  3. Thanks for your clarification. Perhaps my wording was not quite the best: a better word than "coaching" could be "training." It just seemed to me that based on the subjects' initial reactions, which seem very reasonable and valid to me, is that there are no mental models of the bibliographic universe among untrained persons.

    Also, my reply to Kevin's comment (above) is here.