Definition of FRBR

Just the other day, a person asked how to define FRBR on the cataloging listserv AUTOCAT. It was interested to follow the lively discussion that ensued. There were some excellent points that arose and continue to be debated since the conversation is still taking place.

I found some interesting points to summarize:

  1. FRBR will help with displaying records in the OPAC
  2. FRBR will take cataloging and focus it on item cataloging instead of broader perspective of the entire catalog
  3. FRBR’s user tasks either do or do not apply to users in our current information society
  4. FRBR’s ability as a model to facilitate these user tasks
  5. FRBR takes us away from a linear structure to a more complex one
  6. Do you really catalog items in hand for the most part and is FRBR prepared for this

1. Because FRBR emphasizes relationships between entities, implementing this concept of relationships in the OPAC will provide the opportunity to great and display relationships within the online catalog.

2. FRBR tries to look beyond the internal uses of a bibliographic record. A user will take the information from the bibliographic record and use it in conjunction with other resources. FRBR forces one to look at what goes into bibliographic records and think of the information as going beyond the catalog to relate to other information on the Internet. For example, seeing an biography from Wikipedia of an author of a book being displayed as one of the library holdings brings together information about an information piece from different place on the Internet.

3. FRBR’s user tasks do not apply to users in our current information society. FRBR was published some 15 years ago (1998). It is only now that libraries are talking about FRBR, a conceptual model that has not been tested. Much has happened in 15 years. It is a lack of forthought to see that what users expect from information searching and browsing is the same now as it was 15 years ago. FRBR is outdated before it has even been applied in the world of libraries.

There is another spin on FRBR’s user tasks. In reducing user tasks to a total of 4 (find, identify, select, obtain), FRBR simplifies what the user really does with information. Also, there was one suggestion that the user tasks were linear where one task lead to another. This linear model does not represent what users can and sometimes already do when searching for information. The University of Minnesota, through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, studied how academics search for information (http://www.lib.umn.edu/about/mellon/). One of their findings is represented by this impressive representational graph. Some think that FRBR user tasks only encompass a very small portion of the activities portrayed on this graph -leading to a warped view of how users manipulate information.

4. FRBR’s focus on relationships will help users get want they want from information. In being able to see, search, and browse serendipitously information, the user will form new conclusions.

5. FRBR takes us away from a linear structure to a more complex one. In linking data, there is a new level of complexity introduced. Data will no longer be estranged or isolated. It will become contextual and multi-textual.

6. FRBR is a conceptual model that relies on having an item in hand in order to distinguish it from other items. In this sense, it still keeps cataloging in the realm of the bibliographic record and not the larger scene of linked data or cloud computing for example.

These are but some of the ideas being discussed. As can be seen from my summaries, contrary arguments go head to head.

The important thing to remember is that this is a discussion. If you have time, join AUTOCAT and follow the threads!

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3 Comments

Filed under cataloging, FRBR

3 responses to “Definition of FRBR

  1. Justine

    What did you mean by the first section above? Maybe some typos or computer havoc?

    1. Because FRBR emphasizes relationships between entities, implement this concept of relationships in the OPAC will provide the opportunity to great and display relationships within the online catalog.

  2. Hi, interesting post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be coming back to your site. Keep up the good work

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