Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

FRBR Principles Applied to a Local Online Journal Finding Aid

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

FRBR Principles Applied to a Local Online Journal Finding Aid

Article excerpt

This paper presents a case study in the development of an online journal finding aid at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), with particular emphasis on cataloging issues. Although not consciously designed according to Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) principles, the Online Research Resources (ORR) system has proved amenable to FRBR analysis. The FRBR model was helpful in examining the user tasks to be served by the system, the appropriate data structure for the system, and the feasibility of mapping the required data from existing sources. The application of the FRBR model to serial publications, however, raises important questions for the model itself, particularly concerning the treatment of work-to-work relationships.


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's (UIUC) Online Research Resources (ORR) registry ( is a database-driven, alphabetical list of online resources similar in principle to comparable lists provided by vendors such as Serials Solutions and TDNet. ORR is, in effect, an alternative or supplementary catalog for specialized access to online resources, especially electronic journals. Like other tools of its kind, it was designed partly to overcome some of the drawbacks of online catalogs in dealing with this class of material. Antelman says that such tools "are potential sources of innovation because they are amenable to experimentation in ways that our current integrated library systems are not." (1) UIUC's experience with ORR is a case study of a home-grown system built to local specifications.

ORR was not the first system of its kind developed by the UIUC library. An earlier electronic resources registry had been in existence for some years, but the acquisition of a data feed from TDNet in 2003 provided the impetus to redevelop the service. The TDNet service monitors a range of providers and notifies the library of any change either in content or location (URL, or uniform resource locator). Although TDNet normally supplies a public interface, the library chose to develop its own. The development work was undertaken by the library's systems office with the guidance of a committee comprised of staff from systems, public services, and technical services. The new version was built on a redesigned data structure capable of incorporating additional data from external sources. While the redevelopment was primarily intended to facilitate maintenance of the data by library staff, it also made possible significant improvements in the public interface.

ORR is not intended to be a comprehensive catalog of the library's electronic holdings. Its scope is limited to online article databases, journals, and reference works. The majority of electronic books were excluded on the principle that book-like objects were more appropriately represented in the library's online catalog. Each of the categories of resources covered by ORR presented its own metadata and interface design challenges. However, the most urgent--and in some ways the most complex--task for the developers of ORR was to facilitate access to online journals. Jones describes this class of publications as "the subset [of continuing resources] characterized by issues containing contributions by individual authors, the subset that is most often analyzed in abstracting and indexing services." (2) They will be the main focus of this paper.

At the time of writing, ORR listed 42,640 online journals, 1,344 reference works, and 439 article databases. These totals are for unique titles; the number of unique URLs is much higher. In each of the two years ORR has been operational, it has logged between four and five million hits, counting only links through to full-text content. ORR is a key resource for the library's patrons.

The technical and logistical aspects of ORR's development have been described by German, Shelburne, and Norman, and the reader is invited to consult their publications for additional information about this project. …

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