0.12 Relationship to FRBR

These rules refer to and adapt definitions of the entities work, expression, manifestation, and item as found in Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records or FRBR, for short. FRBR is valuable because of its attempt to define concepts that have been implicit in Anglo-American cataloging practice for several hundred years at least. Unfortunately, the tables in the back of FRBR that attempt to map the elements of the bibliographic description to these four entities (work, expression, manifestation and item) are deeply flawed. This code suggests implicitly a better mapping of these data elements to the FRBR entities.

It should be noted that in this code Principle 3, the transcription principle (see above), is applied at the expression level as well as at the manifestation level. FRBR suggests that everything above the item level is "abstract" and some have argued that this means that only the item is concrete and only the item therefore can sit on the desk in front of the cataloger and be a source of transcription. (To be exact, FRBR defines a work as being "abstract" and the boundary between work and expression as being dependent on "the bibliographic conventions established by various cultures or national groups" (FRBR, p. 16). It also discusses manifestations as being "abstractions" describing the "shared characteristics of items" (FRBR, pp. 22, 78).) Perhaps it is unfortunate that FRBR chose to use the term "abstract," since it seems to have prevented people from noticing that cataloging has always been a process of generalizing about expressions and works from evidence found on specific items being cataloged. Most cataloging is carried out on works that have been published and/or distributed in multiple copies, and the assumption has always been that an accurate description of one copy would apply to all copies and that information about manifestation, expression and work could be deduced from information found on one copy. In this code, that assumption is continued. Transcribed data elements that pertain to expression are linked to expression and transcribed data elements that pertain to manifestation are linked to manifestation. It may be necessary at times to look at all the other expressions and manifestations of a work before you know whether, for example, a particular transcribed title pertains only to this manifestation (or, as we call it here, title-manifestation), whether it pertains to all manifestations of this expression (as when the expressions of the work have had different titles), or whether, indeed, it pertains to the work (as when all expressions of the work have had the same title). See also "the principle of transcription as applied to an expression" (section 2.2).

There will undoubtedly be objections raised about asking catalogers to make these decisions about whether particular data elements pertain to work, expression or manifestation. My cataloging experience would lead me to assert that a well-trained and well-educated cataloger can nearly always do this easily. There may be times when the same element pertains to two or three of the FRBR group 1 entities and will have to be coded as such, so this approach could lead to more repetition and redundancy than we have now, but I think it is do-able. If majority opinion is that catalogers are incapable of doing this, though, that position logically implies that it will not be possible for catalogers to code records in such a way that a computer can group all of the manifestations that make up a particular expression. In other words, it will not be possible for us to solve the multiple versions problem because our personnel is inadequate to the task. I have suggested elsewhere how we could use our current records created according to current practices to better FRBR-ize catalogs by simply creating software that pays attention to the work identifiers already present in our records and uses them to build indexes and displays (Yee, Martha M. FRBRization: a Method for Turning Online Public Finding Lists Into Online Public Catalogs. Information Technology and Libraries 2005;24:2:77-95. Also available on the Web at:
http://repositories.cdlib.org/postprints/715). The users would then have to look through all of the manifestation records representing various expressions of a particular work and make a decision about which expression is desired (and which manifestations seem to represent that expression). These new rules are an attempt to solve the so-called "multiple versions" problem by enlisting the aid of catalogers in determining which manifestations represent the same expression.

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