OCLC Experiments in FRBR and Cookbooks

FRBR, Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, is the foundational theory behind the new library cataloging code RDA (Resource Description and Access). FRBR attempts to define library materials in the context of the entity relationship model used in most databases and has a focus on users’ interaction with data. To achieve this model FRBR has basic groupings of material that divide records differently than how data is currently structured in the library catalog (see final paragraphs for more detailed information on the structure of FRBR).

There have been a lot of questions about how FRBR will translate in the current environment and what a library catalog based on FRBR might look like. OCLC, attempting to answer some of these questions, and give visual representation to a theory, has created a searchable experimental cookbook database utilizing the FRBR model located here. Searching the cookbook database for a standard like Mastering the Art of French Cooking retrieves results that comprise many differing editions under one title, or in FRBR terms, many different manifestations and expressions under one work, with a link to individual items.

This experimental database takes what would have been multiple titles, or bibliographic records in the current system, and unites them under one umbrella record (work) and displays enough detail to allow a user to select a different expression from one another then funnel down to the exact item of interest.

It’s an interesting experiment in that has the possibility of eliminating one common problem and speeding up cataloging. The duplication of records that patrons see when there are differing versions of a work has long been an issue for libraries. The FRBR model has the possibility of eliminating the decision catalogers presented with when determining if material is unique and specific enough to justify a new record. Additionally cataloging under this model would mean a decrease in the duplication of data added to the database, allowing material to be more quickly added to the database for patron use, and possibly freeing up staff time for other needs.

At its most basic level FRBR defines material into one of four categories; Works, Expressions, Manifestations, and Items: collectively referred to as WEMI. The work is the general idea and is often quite nebulous, the expression is the form the work takes when it’s realized, the manifestation is the physical embodiment of that expression, and the item is the individual copy. In general terms one expression varies from another when the intellectual content has been altered or added to in some way, but those two expressions are still of the same work.

In the cookbook example used above; the work is Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one expression would be this work translated into Russian, a second expression would be the original English edition published in 1961. The 1961 English expression has many manifestations such as the 1965 reprinting, the paperback version and the ebook.

For more information on FRBR please visit the links on the SELCO RDA/FRBR page located here. For more information on the OCLC Cookbook Finder experimental database please click here. To search the database click here. Please remember this is an experimental database from one of many vendor for testing and learning purposes, it is not meant to be a replacement of any current system or to be comprehensive.