Friday, May 2, 2008

Thoughts on FRBR and RDA

A couple of weeks ago I attended a program at CMRLS on AACR2, RDA and FRBR. It was presented by Amy Benson, formerly of NELINET and now Archivist for Digital Initiatives at the Schlesinger Library. Amy always does a very good job. She researches her topic thoroughly and presents it with lots of humor and interesting anecdotes. This presentation was no exception.

Amy spent a lot of time laying the foundation by explaining that FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) is a conceptual model that identifies entities, relationships, and attributes. A bibliographic entity has 4 attributes: Work, Expression, Manifestation (the equivalent of a bibliographic record) and Item (one specific, physical piece). A work entity has a reciprocal relationship with a person entity when the work was created by a person and the person created the work. There are a lot more details which were carefully mapped out with the aid of diagrams.

There has been lots of discussion on AUTOCAT and other electronic discussion lists about FRBR and RDA (Resource Description and Access). Listening to Amy’s presentation helped me solidify my own feelings towards these ideas. I strongly agree with the FRBR principles. While it may seem strange at first, FRBR is really the way we organize books and other works. We want to know if a movie with a particular title is related to a book with the same title or if an audio version of a book is exactly the book word-for-word or if it has been modified. I like the way AquaBrowser and Endeca make use of the FRBR relationships in our online catalogs. I also think it’s easier for patrons when they know that a library has a title and don’t care which edition they borrow.

However, I am really ambivalent about RDA which is intended to replace AACR2 using FRBR principles. As someone who has cataloged art objects and other non-book materials, I am well aware of AACR2’s shortcomings. Yet, it works really well for books and other print material. Can a one-size-fits-all product like RDA really do both books and websites justice? As things stand now, no one is happy with RDA. Some think is goes too far and others not far enough.

I wonder how this will all shake out. We’ll begin to find out in the spring of 2009 when RDA is due to be published. Stay tuned!

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