RE: Is FRBR too complicated?

Posting to Open-bibliography

Dan Matei wrote:

> I’ve been trying to understand / implement FRBR and have constantly felt the domain model here is poorly thought out especially in now it relates to non-book media (e.g.

I feel that poor FRBR model needs a defendant 🙂

I agree. The more I work with FRBR, try to understand it, and consider its possible uses with organizations outside of libraries, it seems increasingly useless. I cannot imagine that anyone outside of libraries would ever consider implementing it because it bears little relation to their work and needs, and they certainly wouldn’t do it on the “authority” of librarians.

I view FRBR as a theoretical framework that attempts to continue a conception of the structure of information and how people access it, as it was seen among Anglo-centric librarians of the 19th-century. Traditionally, the “work” and “expression” were merely points of collation in the catalog, be it printed, card, or later OPAC, where people who browsed could find the records collected together in certain ways. The actual utility of e.g. the uniform title was questioned by many (how many readers need to know all of the translations in all of the languages and all of the variants of Homer’s Iliad?) and even establishing uniform titles for series was abandoned by LC a few years ago.

The expression, also merely a point of collation in the catalog, was at least seen of more use (lots of people want to know of all the different English translations of the Iliad). Still, it is important to keep in mind that what they were doing was *arranging cards* (i.e. manifestation records) in a card catalog (or in a printed catalog). They would create a card for an item (i.e. manifestation) and the cataloger had to put it into the catalog somewhere. They were not creating “work records” or “expression records”. They made records only for real things and arranged them; plus they had some additional files to help them arrange the cards. Different catalogs could be arranged in all kinds of ways. Certainly not all of them were arranged by WEMI principles.

So, one of my theoretical problems is that FRBR has taken what had been mere organizational points for cards in a traditional catalog, and transmuted them into strange things called “entities” that have all kinds of attributes. The result is a lot of extra work as we have to scurry around to create records for these things called “works” and “expressions” and find all of these attributes that are of only passing curiosity–if that.

What is even more curious is that the underlying purpose of all of this is to continue a 19th-century view of information organization and retrieval.

It just doesn’t make much sense to me. I think there are far more interesting and productive ways to go.