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FRBR: Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Application of the Entity-Relationship Model to Humphry Clinker

Article excerpt

The report from the IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) recommended a new approach to cataloging based on an entity-relationship model. This study examined a single work, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, to determine benefits and drawbacks associated with creating such an entity-relationship model. Humphry Clinker was selected for several reasons--it has been previously studied, it is widely held, and it is a work of mid-level complexity. In addition to analyzing the bibliographic records, many books were examined to ensure the accuracy of the resulting FRBR model. While it was possible to identify works and manifestations, identifying expressions was problematic. Reliable identification of expressions frequently necessitated the examination of the books themselves. Enhanced manifestation records where the roles of editors, illustrators, translators, and other contributors are explicitly identified may be a viable alternative to expressions. For Humphry Clinker, the enhanced record approach avoids the problem of identifying expressions while providing similar functionality. With the enhanced manifestation record, the three remaining entity-relationship structures--works, manifestations, and items--the FRBR model provides a powerful means, to improve bibliographic organization and navigation.


The report from the IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) includes a recommendation for a fundamentally new approach to cataloging (IFLA 1998, 13). It proposes an entity-relationship model, with four primary entities--work, expression, manifestation, and item--representing the products of intellectual or artistic endeavor. This shift in cataloging focus requires not simply describing the item in hand but also describing how the item relates to other members of its bibliographic family. La Boeuf recognizes that FRBR "is likely to induce profound changes in cataloguers' landscape" (2001, 15).

The FRBR model defines three distinct groups of entities (IFLA 1998, 12):

1. The products of intellectual or artistic endeavor (a publication)

2. Those responsible for the intellectual or artistic content (person or corporate body)

3. Those that serve as the subjects on intellectual or artistic endeavor (concept, object, event, and place)

This study focuses on the Group 1 entities. While these entities represent only one aspect of FRBR, they are the foundation of the model.

The FRBR model proposes four entities in Group 1: works, expressions, manifestations, and items. Figure 1, adapted from the corresponding figure in the IFLA report, illustrates the relationships between these four entities (IFLA 1998). Current cataloging practice focuses on a single bibliographic unit: the physical manifestation. The FRBR model, by contrast, proposes this four-level hierarchical bibliographic structure. Tillett (2001, 31) points out that, with the entity-relationship cataloging model, "The opportunity exists to move beyond the current 'record' structure and beyond relational and even the current object-oriented databases." However, the FRBR model requires that the bibliographic items be analyzed in greater detail to relate them to the other members of the work.


The four Group 1 entities represent two different aspects of user interest, the intellectual endeavor and the physical manifestation. The IFLA report (IFLA 1998, 12) defined each of the entities: "Work (a distinct intellectual or artistic creation) and expression (the intellectual or artistic realization of a work) reflect intellectual or artistic content. Manifestation (the physical embodiment of an expression of a work) and item (a single exemplar of a manifestation) reflect physical form."

None of the four FRBR entities are new--most have been discussed in the literature for years. …