Friday, November 30, 2007


This note from Martha Yee was posted to the FRBR discussion e-mail list.
I have written elsewhere about the fact that our rules and our cataloging data are already considerably FRBR-ized and that what is lacking for the creation of true FRBR-ized catalogs is adequate software support. ("FRBRization: a Method for Turning Online Public Finding Lists into Online Public Catalogs." Information Technology and Libraries 2005; 24:3:77-95. [also at the California Digital Library eScholarship Repository,].) We already collocate all of the expressions of a work using work identifiers (formerly known as main entries). However, it is still up to the user to look through all of the various expressions and manifestations of the work and make decisions about which one is the most useful.

With the proliferation of methods of reproduction in the 20th century, this set of all of the various manifestations and expressions of a particular work has become more and more chaotic, however. At the International Conference on the Principles & Future Development of AACR in Toronto in 1997, I thought I heard a desire to revise AACR to further FRBR-ize the rules so that catalogers went beneath work collocation and performed expression and manifestation collocation to aid users in navigating this chaos. Instead, RDA seems to be headed toward an increase in chaos by atomizing the bibliographic description into lists of data elements that are all tied to the FRBR entity manifestation. As Hal Cain so eloquently put it in his September 6, 2007, post to Autocat, "Compiled bibliographic information has greater value than just the value of the separate data."

I have been a vocal critic during this process, but it occurred to me that people might not really understand what I was talking about without a demonstration code, an alternative RDA, so to speak. Thus, with the help of many generous and intelligent friends, whom I acknowledge in the introduction, I have created such a code, which you can view at Since it is clear that we need to move toward more standard ways of coding our data within the sphere of the internet, I have made a stab at creating an RDF model of my cataloging code, as well. I'm certain that it is currently a very amateurish effort, as it is my first data model of any kind, but it might encourage more expert data modelers to help improve it as a group effort. (I should say that I have already received considerable help from the most generous topic map expert Alexander Johannesen). The data modelling process has already been valuable to me in that it has raised a number of issues that I suspect would arise in any effort to model the bibliographic universe (a discussion of these, including Alexander's comments and some from Sara Shatford Layne, can be found at:

It may well be that catalogers do not have enough information to collocate items at the expression and manifestation levels, and that the designers of our current Anglo-American cataloging practices were wiser than we seem to give them credit for these days in limiting collocation to the work level except in the case of prolific works, which get some expression collocation.It may also be that our illustrious leaders have so thoroughly deprofessionalized cataloging that there is no longer any personnel available to carry out this user service. If either or both of those propositions are the case, I would suggest that we abandon the current RDA development process and work instead on designing an effective RDF (or topic map?) model of our current cataloging rules and our millions of existing cataloging records.

The Yee rules also contain some suggestions for reforming our practices in other ways to bring our entity definitions into closer alignment both with those of our users and with those of our colleagues outside the Anglo-American world, in order to facilitate better international cooperation in creating a virtual international authority file.

So, with some trepidation, I put this forth for you all to tear apart (smile). Please send comments to the RDA, FRBR, and NGC4LIB lists, to my email address ( and/or post them to my blog at:

Thanks for your consideration!

I have added some active links.

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