RE: FRBR examples

Posting to Open-bibliography

Ben O’Steen wrote:

I think there is a mismatch between what exists and the FRBR compartmentalisation. we really have are items with multidimensional* relationships to other items that only make sense in context. Forgive my RDF-biased metaphor but I see items as being any node in a graph and that graph containing much of the information on the people, publishers, sources of data, book holdings, and so on.

I agree that “item” is readily understandable (even with these crazy mashed-up web sites!) but “work” is not a thing but just one way to arrange those items. “Expression” is a sub-arrangement of “work,” and “manifestation” is actually the public display of the “items”. This is the traditional method of the catalog. Still, it does not follow that this traditional arrangement also describes how information itself is structured, and therefore we, and everyone, must rework what we are all doing.

I think that one of the main problems with FRBR is that different communities view it in different ways. Scenario 1) sees FRBR as a model of traditional information structure, as organized and described in library catalogs. Scenario 2) takes FRBR as a broader model in more universal and philosophical terms, how information in structured and used no matter what kind of information it is, and where it resides.

Therefore, traditional library catalogers, once they begin to deal with some differences of terminology, will readily understand the FRBR datamodel because with perhaps a few exceptions, it is what they have always done.

But the other question remains: does FRBR offer a model in the universal context of scenario 2? I have never seen this demonstrated anywhere, although I have seen it expressed both openly and accepted tacitly. This basic tension between FRBR as a description of the traditional way library catalogs have been arranged and how they work vs. the broad philosophical statement that this same traditional model also describes the essence of how “information is structured” demands far more proof than I have seen. Add to this the fact that it conflicts with practical reality, and it all becomes especially important as libraries attempt to share their work more widely with other communities.

It seems as if it would be much more useful and profitable both to the library community and to those we wish to share with, if we were to concentrate on scenario 1: to make sure that others understand our traditional datamodel, what they will find there and how they can best extract it, so that when we share our information, others can take it in the best ways for their needs. But this repurposing of our work to fit into this increasingly dubious FRBR model actually seems counterproductive.

For example, for a cataloger, creating a uniform title for a book he or she is cataloging is relatively easy now, but to turn this into a separate “entity” for the work and/or the expression is a completely different matter demanding more labor, while the usefulness to our patrons remains completely unclear, and it certainly doesn’t make our catalogs any more “shareable” than right now.