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The Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) data model holds great potential for improving access to library resources, but may not affect all libraries in the same way. The Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR, assisted by the work of its Format Variation Working Group, is exploring ways to incorporate FRBR into the next edition of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules to facilitate collocation at the level of the FRBR entity expression. Several library system vendors are also adding FRBR-based functionality to their systems. A combination of these two approaches to FRBR can provide significant benefits to users. Most FRBR entities and attributes are already present in library catalog records, and the influence of FRBR can also be seen in existing library activities. FRBR is thus not something totally foreign, but a fresh, more rigorous way of thinking about what libraries already do that provides a basis for designing new ways to improve users" access to library resources.
Recent discussions in the library community about the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) data model have generated many questions that do not seem to have easy answers. (1) How is the FRBR model likely to affect most libraries ... and when? Should cataloging managers be preparing to retrain their departments in something entirely new? Do other library staff members need to be concerned with FRBR, or is it just a cataloging thing? How can a library prepare for something that is not a new standard (and thus has no firm date of implementation) and that will not affect all libraries in the same way? Some librarians are becoming so apprehensive about FRBR that the term "FRBRphobia" comes to mind.
While the FRBR model offers great potential for influencing the way that we think about bibliographic data, we must first understand the components of the model itself well enough to make that possible. Unfortunately, discussions of FRBR sometimes make this difficult by focusing on how the most complicated bibliographic situations fit (or do not seem to fit) into FRBR's entity/attribute structure. This can give the misleading impression that the model is complex and difficult to learn. The theoretical nature of the FRBR model, which does not relate directly to any familiar data content or tagging standard, may make the possible effects of FRBR on individual libraries or library applications difficult to predict and understand. FRBR can seem very remote from daily library activities, and thus may appear to be of limited value except to cataloging theorists.
To address these concerns about FRBR, understanding some of the specific processes through which FRBR will begin to affect libraries is important. This paper will address some of these processes by first examining the effect of FRBR on cataloging through efforts to incorporate portions of the FRBR model into the Anglo American Cataloguing Rules (AACR), next by exploring the possible impact of FRBR on the development of online library systems and how libraries can respond to and participate in this effort, and, finally, by exploring possibilities for relating FRBR to other library projects. (2) Through the discussions in this paper, libraries will begin to be able to address the following questions:
* What do we need to know about FRBR in order to recognize it when it arrives?
* To prepare for its arrival, what questions should we be asking about FRBR, and to whom? and
* What are some simple and effective ways to introduce the FRBR model to others in the library community?
Incorporating FRBR into AACR: The JSC Format Variation Working Group
The Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR (JSC) is engaged in various efforts to incorporate aspects of the FRBR model within AACR. Beginning in 2001, the JSC commissioned a wholesale analysis of terminology within AACR2. (3) The JSC also embarked on an effort to examine one specific aspect of the FRBR model: the FRBR Group 1 entity expression. (4) JSC charged a special group to study and make recommendations for how this entity could be incorporated into AACR2. The JSC's Format Variation Working Group (FVWG) was active from 9,001-2004 and, when it was first charged, included members from all of the JSC's constituent countries (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia). (5) While the group had several different terms of reference requesting that it undertake various specific tasks for the JSC, all of these tasks had the common element of dealing with the FRBR entity expression. (6) Much of the group's efforts focused on proposing actual revisions to AACR2, but the group also developed a strong role in forging relationships with system vendors who are interested in implementing the FRBR data model.
Cataloging an Expression?
FVWG's first terms of reference asked the group to investigate the feasibility of creating catalog records at the level of the FRBR Group 1 entity expression, rather than at the level of the entity manifestation, as is the current practice for most library cataloging] In order to assess the practicality of such a dramatic change to current cataloging practice, the working group undertook an experiment to create catalog records for expressions that exist in multiple manifestations. (8)
Because the working group chose cataloging examples for the experiment that were sets of manifestations, each known to represent the same expression, the group's experiment did not completely simulate the experience that a library catalog department would encounter if cataloging expressions. Most libraries do not catalog a group of manifestations of the same expression all at the same time, but instead acquire one manifestation at a time. Therefore, a cataloger would not necessarily have access to all bibliographic data related to a particular expression when cataloging a manifestation. In creating a catalog record for an expression, the cataloger in a typical library catalog department also would need to determine the relationships between manifestations at the time that the first manifestation is acquired, perhaps without having access to additional manifestations or to all relevant bibliographic data about the expression. Participants in the working group's controlled experiment did not have to be concerned with this situation.
While FVWG's experiment considerably simplified what would be the real-life experience for a typical catalog department in cataloging expressions, many members of the group were still unsure where to start to create a bibliographic record for an expression. For example, what should be used as the title of the expression: the title of the earliest manifestation or of the first manifestation cataloged? Or perhaps the uniform title for the work? What should be considered the date of the expression? One member described a blurring between expression and manifestation in many elements of current catalog records, as general notes and variant titles also could not automatically be assumed to belong to either the expression or to the manifestation. (9)
Most FVWG members found the group's attempt to catalog an expression more difficult than first expected, except in some specific situations. When cataloging reproductions, creating a catalog record for an expression worked well when the bibliographic description of the reproduction did not vary from that of the original. However, participants in the experiment still questioned whether or not bibliographic data related to the original manifestation (such as the statement of responsibility) belonged to the expression, the original manifestation, or both.
In an exception to the overall difficulty of the experiment, the sound archivist on the working group reported that creating catalog records for an expression was very logical and intuitive for resources in a sound archive. He reported that his institution was already creating catalog records for expressions and linking all manifestations to that expression successfully. For sound recordings, a specific performance or event is considered an expression, so that in the sound archive all recordings of the same performance or event represent manifestations of that same expression. (10)
Based upon the results of its cataloging experiment, FVWG suggested that the process of cataloging an expression fits very logically with the way that an archivist may work with related resources within a collection and may be appealing in other situations, as well. However, the group expressed significant concern about the possibility of making expression-level cataloging the norm for all library materials. In a real situation where a library acquires one manifestation at a time, records for expressions might require frequent revision and maintenance as more information about an expression becomes available over time. The group concluded, on a practical level, that this lack of information about the expression at the time of cataloging the first manifestation has the potential to greatly complicate the process of cataloging. (11)
On a theoretical level, FVWG pointed out the …