Friday, August 17, 2007

New Library Standard Aims to Simplify Resource Discovery for Researchers

The information explosion of recent years, evident not only in volume but also in an ever growing variety of formats, the expectation of global access to information, and the development of international bibliographic cooperatives, such as OCLC, have motivated librarians to find simpler ways to organize and describe materials for inclusion in bibliographic databases and library catalogs.
The goal is to facilitate discovery of information resources for the student and researcher by bringing together under one record what is essentially the same intellectual or artistic content represented in different versions, editions, or media, so that the user can easily see what is available and choose what he or she wants. This will be good news to you if, for example you have encountered any of the following circumstances:

  • You have looked for something in the library’s catalog that exists in many versions
  • You have experienced confusion over the multiple choices that you are presented with when looking in the catalog
  • You do not care if you get the paperback or the hardback of an item yet you do not want the audiobook or a foreign language translation of the item

Functional Requirements of Bibliographic Records (FRBR), popularly pronounced Ferber, is trying to end that frustration by providing the means for a better organization of displays of various versions of the same work in library catalogs. The FRBR final report was published by The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in 1997 and is available online at

FRBR is an example of the library cataloging community’s movement towards more rigorous data models and promises to hold many benefits for seekers of popular works that exist in many versions, such as Romeo and Juliet or the Harry Potter books. FRBR talks about four levels of information, view,
The Library of Congress has developed a FRBR display tool, see
Some library catalogs, such as VTLS, have begun to implement FRBR-inspired displays. Although the University Libraries’ catalog vendor SirsiDynix has not yet implemented a FRBR-based interface, some records in our catalog, such as records for architecture slides which combine access for many views from many sources of the same site or work, use principles similar to those of FRBR to increase ease of use.
The library cooperative OCLC has also worked with FRBR-based analyses of their database in order to develop a FRBR work-set algorithm that automatically clusters catalog records at the work level, This is used in their Open WorldCat,, and Fiction Finder,, interfaces to condense all the versions of a given work, such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, into a single initial display. Keep up with FRBR-related developments by reading the FRBR blog,, or subscribing to the FRBR email list,
For more information, Contact Kelley C. McGrath, Cataloging and Metadata Services Librarian (Audio/Visual), Ball State University Libraries’ Collections Resources Management,, (765) 285-3350.

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