Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

FRBR, the Domain Model

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

FRBR, the Domain Model

Article excerpt


Library metadata is already well-positioned to become part of the linked data community. The creation of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), an entity-relation model for library data, is an essential first step for the transformation of the text-based catalog record into a true data model. FRBR may undergo some changes as libraries gain experience with it, but it allows experimentation with new data structures, and hopefully for a transition of library data to a linkable format. This chapter of "RDA Vocabularies for a Twenty-First Century Data Environment" explores FRBR and its significance.


The Singapore Framework for Dublin Core Application Profiles includes a community model as a foundational element for the creation of a metadata set. This model informs the development of the community's metadata and also provides a schematic explanation of the community's domain to others.

For many years, library cataloging created highly detailed metadata without articulating such a conceptual model, although the cataloging rules themselves represented a mental model that was shared by trained catalogers. There was no pressing need for an explicit model while there was little desire to share library data beyond the library catalog or beyond a group of libraries following the same cataloging rules.

Library catalog entries, as conceived in the era of book and card catalogs, were indivisible units, each one standing alone while functioning together within the catalog because of the consistency facilitated by the cataloging rules. The library catalog record is, in essence, a document, albeit a formalized and structured one.

Singapore Framework for Dublin Core Application Profiles

The Singapore Framework represents a modular view of a domain of metadata. This model promotes a view of metadata as a network of data that can interact with any other community's data. The desire to be part of a broader information network through sharing, and not just sharing whole catalog records but linking data elements, requires that one's data must be structured as individual statements that can interact in a meaningful way.

FRBR arose out of a conscious need for just such a model. The IFLA study group was formed in 1991 shortly after the 1990 Stockholm Seminar on Cataloguing. (1) The group decided to develop an entity-relationship (ER) model. An ER model consists of entities ("things") that are the main components of the data to be created, the relationships between the entities, and the attributes of the entities. Motivating these choices in the FRBR model is a statement of user tasks that library metadata must address: find, identify, select, obtain.

The final version of the FRBR model was issued in 1998. Updated versions in 2008 and 2009 made minor changes but left the primary elements of FRBR intact. (2) Following the trend set by FRBR, IFLA groups are in the process of defining similar models for authority data (FRAD) and for subject authority data (FRSAR). (3) It is likely that more work will need to be done to integrate the three submodels into a single domain view.

Entities and Relationships

The ER analysis of bibliographic data that FRBR provides does not differ conceptually from the information that has made up library cataloging for more than a century. What FRBR does, however, is make explicit the underlying structure of the bibliographic data. The entities are presented in three groups: Group 1 represents the resource being described and has four entities: work, expression, manifestation, and item; Group 2 represents agents that have relationships with the Group 1 entities: persons, corporate bodies, and families (see figure 8); and Group 3 represents entities with a topical relationship to the Group 1 entities. Group 3 adds four new entities-concept, object, place, and event-but it also includes all of the Group 1 and Group 2 entities since those can be the subjects of any resource being described. …

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