Wednesday, July 15, 2009

FRBR Entities - Group 1

I've been plugging away at Robert Maxwell's FRBR: A Guide for the Perplexed for the last few weeks so that I could write a review of it in this blog. I've just finished the section on Group 1, the section with which many are most familiar: Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item. I've seen it written as WEMI which is helpful because it is very easy (for me at least) to confuse Expression and Manifestation.

FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) is not easy to understand, but I feel this book has helped me a lot. However, the book hasn't helped enough for me to explain FRBR very well to others. Or maybe FRBR is just not easily explainable. It is, after all, a conceptual model that explains relationships. Attempts at making FRBR concrete by creating diagrams can make it look even more complicated. So here's my understanding of how the Group 1 entities relate to each other.

A Work is an idea, a thought, a creation - not written, not spoken. It doesn't refer to a concrete item.

The Expression of a Work is also conceptual, not concrete. If we are ultimately talking about a book, the Work can be Expressed in English or French or Chinese or another language. Two different translations into French are two different Expressions.

With Manifestation, we approach actual things we can hold in our hands. The English language publication of a book by HarperCollins is a Manifestation. The English language publication of the same content by Bantam paperbacks is a different Manifestation. At this point, we're not talking about a single book, but the entire run. A Manifestation is what we catalog. A bibliographic record represents a Manifestation.

What I'm still confused about, is how the audiobook of this Work fits in here. Is the oral version a different Expression or a different Manifestation? Maxwell says that "... as currently written, FRBR does not deal well with genre/form relationships with Group 1 entities." Maybe that's the problem.

An Item is something we can all grasp - literally as well as figuratively. We can purchase one Item of a Manifestation. We can catalog it, classify it and put it in our library.

There's a lot more to FRBR than what I've described above. All of these entities have attributes such as title, form, date, other distinguishing characteristics. All attributes of Work are also attribute of Expression plus some additional ones. Fortunately, not all available attributes will apply to every entity.

As he explains each entity and its attributes, Maxwell sometimes points out difficulties or problems with the model. As I look at the FRBR diagrams and try to follow the relationships, I have to wonder who figured this out?

Now it's on to the Group 2 entities: Person, Corporate Body, Family. Perhaps this section with help shed some light on what I've already read,

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