Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

In the Name of the Name: RDF Literals, ER Attributes, and the Potential to Rethink the Structures and Visualizations of Catalogs

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

In the Name of the Name: RDF Literals, ER Attributes, and the Potential to Rethink the Structures and Visualizations of Catalogs

Article excerpt


The basic aim of this study is to contribute to the field of machine-processable bibliographic data. As to what constitutes "machine processable" we concur with the clarification of Antoniou and van Harmelen, who state, "In the literature the term machine-understandable is used quite often. We believe it is the wrong word because it gives the wrong impression. It is not necessary for intelligent agents to understand information; it is sufficient for them to process information effectively, which sometimes causes people to think the machine really understands." (1) Also, in the bibliography used, the term "computationally processable" is used as a synonym to "machine-processable."

With regard to machine-processable bibliographic data, we have taken into consideration both the practice and theory of Library and Information Science (LIS) and Computer Science. From LIS we have chosen the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) and the Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD) while making comparisons with the Resource Description and Access (RDA) standard. From the Computer Science domain we have chosen the Resource Description Framework (RDF) as a basic mechanism for the Semantic Web. We examine the Entity Relationship (ER) model (selected from IFLA as a "conceptual framework" for the development of FRBR), (2) as well as the potential problems that may arise as we move towards the Semantic Web. Having rejected the ER model as a conceptual framework for bibliographic data, we have built on the potential of RDF and document how its rationale affects the modeling process.

In the context of the Semantic Web and Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs), the identification process has been transformed. For this reason we have performed an analysis of appellations and names as identifiers and also explored how we could move on from an era where controlled names play the role of identifiers to one of the URI dominion: "While it is self-evident that labels and comments are important for constructing and using ontologies by humans, the OWL standard does not pay much attention to them. The standard focuses on the syntax, structure and reasoning capabilities.... If the Semantic Web is to be queried by humans, there will be no other way than dealing with the ambiguousness of human language." (3)

It is essential to build on the "library's signature service, its catalog," (4) and use it to provide addedvalue services. But to get there, first there has to be "a shift in perspective, from locked-up databases of records to open data shared on the Web." (5) This requires a transition from descriptions aimed at human readers to descriptions that put the emphasis on computational processes to escape the rationale of records being a condensed description in textual form and move towards more flexible and fruitful representations and visualizations.



The FR family has been growing for more than a decade. The first member of the family was the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), (6) the first version of which was published towards the end of the last century. Subsequently, IFLA decided to extend the model in order to cover authorities. During this process, the task of modeling the names was separated from the task of modeling the subjects. Thus two new members were added to the family; the "Functional Requirements for Authority Data: A Conceptual Model" (FRAD) and the "Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (FRSAD)." (7,8) At the same period of time, the "Resource Description and Access" (RDA) standard was established as a set of cataloging rules to replace the AACR standard. According to its creators, the alignment with the FR family was crucial. As stated, "A key element in the design of RDA is its alignment with the conceptual models for bibliographic and authority data developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA): Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records [and] Functional Requirements for Authority Data. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.