The Name of the Res


I ran across these notes while on a research fellowship to study the history of ancient libraries. The primary focus of this fellowship was admittedly obscure: to discover what I could about the early days of the events surrounding the creation and implementation of FRBR. The notes I discovered had been written by a witness to some key events in FRBR history and consequently, I saw they were very important, since as we all know, the source documents of those events, like almost all other source documents from that period of time, were all electronic and for that reason they disappeared in an instant during the Great Electromagnetic Pulse Blunder of September 2084.

The notes I found were neither signed nor dated and were at the bottom of a box of unrelated papers.

In spite of my best efforts, I have not been able to find out who was the author. I believe it was a man who wanted to remain anonymous, but appears to be part of something longer, perhaps an autobiography. The notes are his memories of a meeting of librarians about FRBR-LRM, written after the event, perhaps long after.

This is the entirety of what I found. I had to piece some of it together, but whatever else that he may have written had crumbled into dust.

J. Blarney
April 3016

… At this stage in my life, through the vagaries of chance, it turned out that I happened to be present at one of the memorable debates about FRBR-LRM. I was as yet an apprentice librarian and understood very little, as a result, the event itself had little meaning for me at the time. The debate was between the two great opponents: the pro-Residens and the anti-Residens and took place in a grand and stately hall. There was a large audience, of which I was one.

The speaker of the Pro-Residens began: “Venerable brothers and sisters. At last we meet for this long awaited debate to put an end to the dispute that has so gravely impaired the unity of our library world. Good people throughout the community of librarians are directing their gazes at these venerable walls anxiously awaiting our answer to the vexed question:

Is the Res, or is it not, any Entity in the Universe of Discourse?

The speaker of the anti-Residens immediately stood up and challenged him angrily: “I have been charged to state that this is NOT the question! The question is: is there really such a thing as a Res or is it another name for Anything? In that case we anti-Residens hereby declare that this push for Res is in reality a grab for power by the pro-Residens, to subordinate and confuse good, honest librarians by the use of the word Res in place of the excellent and useful word Anything. We will and must resist you in any way we can. Indeed, some even say that the pro-Residens are setting up Res as something greater than the noble FRBR entities: the works, the expressions, the manif….”

Members from the pro-Residens stood up, yelling: “He blasphemes! The Res is great! Long live the Res!”

Members from the anti-Residens also stood up, yelling just as loud: “The Res is heresy! Heresy! Burn the Res! Flay it!”

The two sides began to throw their chairs at one another. I thought the debate was at an end, but at this point, the Agent stood up, boomed “Enough” in a stentorian voice, and rapped his staff on the floor twice. I hadn’t noticed him earlier but everyone immediately became silent and sat down. During the rest of the debate, he would do this several times and each time everyone immediately obeyed and sat in their seats. I didn’t understand at that time why the Agent had the power that he did, or who or what he was the Agent of.

The speaker of the pro-Residens stood up again: “Let us resume our debate. My opponent claims that the Res is the same as Anything. That is great folly. It is entirely different and has a fundamentally different essence.”

The speaker of the anti-Residens broke in: “How is it different? And what is this Universe of Discourse you mention? What lies within it? What is outside it? Whatever may lie outside this Universe of Discourse, is it unworthy in some way?”

The speaker of the pro-Residens replied: “The Res is coherent and beautiful, while Anything is chaotic and wild. Wouldn’t all agree that coherence and beauty are superior to chaos and wildness?”

At this point, the ancient Nomen, who had already become one of the most esteemed and respected figures in our library community, hobbled on his crutch into the center of the hall. All watched him silently in amazement. He had torn his clothes and was by now half naked. He opened his arms and began shouting:

“With the second trumpet… the sea became a Representative Expression.”

– And behold… here is a Representative Expression!

– The prophecy of the Apocalypse.

The Devil is here!”

The hall erupted in a rage of panic, shouts and threats. It seemed as if everyone was throwing a chair or avoiding one, only to pick it up and throw it back. Even the Agent joined in.

All except me. As I sat there, I pondered what I had heard and concluded that I must be an anti-Residen since I had my mind on a certain girl I had met the night before. It seemed to me that Chaos and Wildness do have their charms.


Of course, this is based on the late, great Italian scholar and author, Umberto Eco and his book “The Name of the Rose.” It’s a great story, especially for a librarian, and was made into one of my favorite movies. I recommend them to everyone.

Finally, I want to thank Amanda Cossham for coming up with the title and giving me the idea for the story.