Thursday, June 23, 2016

Catalog and Context Part III

Part I
Part II

In the previous two parts, I explained that much of the knowledge context that could and should be provided by the library catalog has been lost as we moved from cards to databases as the technologies for the catalog. In this part, I want to talk about the effect of keyword searching on catalog context.

KWIC and KWOC

If you weren't at least a teenager in the 1960's you probably missed the era of KWIC and KWOC (neither a children's TV show nor a folk music duo). These meant, respectively, KeyWords In Context, and KeyWords Out of Context. These were concordance-like indexes to texts, but the first done using computers. A KWOC index would be simply a list of words and pointers (such as page numbers, since hyperlinks didn't exist yet). A KWIC index showed the keywords with a few words on either side, or rotated a phrase such that each term appeared once at the beginning of the string, and then were ordered alphabetically.

If you have the phrase "KWIC is an acronym for Key Word in Context", then your KWIC index display could look like:

 KWIC is an acronym for Key Word In Context
Key Word In Context
acronym for Key Word In Context
            KWIC is an acronym for 
acronym for Key Word In Context

To us today these are unattractive and not very useful, but to the first users of computers these were an exciting introduction to the possibility that one could search by any word in a text.

It wasn't until the 1980's, however, that keyword searching could be applied to library catalogs.

Before Keywords, Headings


Before keyword searching, when users were navigating a linear, alphabetical index, they were faced with the very difficult task of deciding where to begin their entry into the catalog. Imagine someone looking for information on Lake Erie. That seems simple enough, but entering the catalog at L-A-K-E E-R-I-E would not actually yield all of the entries that might be relevant. Here are some headings with LAKE ERIE:

Boats and boating--Erie, Lake--Maps. 
Books and reading--Lake Erie region.
Lake Erie, Battle of, 1813.
Erie, Lake--Navigation

Note that the lake is entered under Erie, the battle under Lake, and some instances are fairly far down in the heading string. All of these headings follow rules that ensure a kind of consistency, but because users do not know those rules, the consistency here may not be visible. In any case, the difficulty for users was knowing with what terms to begin the search, which was done on left-anchored headings.

One might assume that finding names of people would be simple, but that is not the case either. Names can be quite complex with multiple parts that are treated differently based on a number of factors having to do with usage in different cultures:

De la Cruz, Melissa
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de


Because it was hard to know where to begin a search, see and see also references existed to guide the user from one form of a name or phrase to another. However, it would inflate a catalog beyond utility to include every possible entry point that a person might choose, not to mention that this would make the cataloger's job onerous. Other than the help of a good reference librarian, searching in the card catalog was a kind of hit or miss affair.

When we brought up the University of California online catalog in 1982, you can image how happy users were to learn that they could type in LAKE ERIE and retrieve every record with those terms in it regardless of the order of the terms or where in the heading they appeared. Searching was, or seemed, much simpler. Because it feels simpler, we all have tended to ignore some of the down side of keyword searching. First, words are just strings, and in a search strings have to match (with some possible adjustment like combining singular and plural terms). So a search on "FRANCE" for all information about France would fail to retrieve other versions of that word unless the catalog did some expansion:

Cooking, French
France--Antiquities
Alps, French (France)
French--America--History
French American literature

The next problem is that retrieval with keywords, and especially the "keyword anywhere" search which is the most popular today, entirely misses any context that the library catalog could provide. A simple keyword search on the word "darwin" brings up a wide array of subjects, authors, and titles.

Subjects:
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 – Influence
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 — Juvenile Literature
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 — Comic Books, Strips, Etc
Darwin Family
Java (Computer program language)
Rivers--Great Britain
Mystery Fiction
DNA Viruses — Fiction
Women Molecular Biologists — Fiction

Authors:
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882
Darwin, Emma Wedgwood, 1808-1896
Darwin, Ian F.
Darwin, Andrew
Teilhet, Darwin L.
Bear, Greg
Byrne, Eugene

Titles:
Darwin
Darwin; A Graphic Biography : the Really Exciting and Dramatic 
    Story of A Man Who Mostly Stayed at Home and Wrote Some Books
Darwin; Business Evolving in the Information Age
Emma Darwin, A Century of Family Letters, 1792-1896
Java Cookbook
Canals and Rivers of Britain
The Crimson Hair Murders
Darwin's Radio

It wouldn't be reasonable for us to expect a user to make sense of this, because quite honestly it does not make sense.

 In the first version of the UC catalog, we required users to select a search heading type, such as AU, TI, SU. That may have lessened the "false drops" from keyword searches, but it did not eliminate them. In this example, using a title or subject search the user still would have retrieved items with the subjects DNA Viruses — Fiction, and Women Molecular Biologists — Fiction, and an author search would have brought up both Java Cookbook and Canals and Rivers of Britain. One could see an opportunity for serendipity here, but it's not clear that it would balance out the confusion and frustration. 

You may be right now thinking "But Google uses keyword searching and the results are good." Note that Google now relies heavily on Wikipedia and other online reference books to provide relevant results. Wikipedia is a knowledge organization system, organized by people, and it often has a default answer for search that is more likely to match the user's assumptions. A search on the single word "darwin" brings up:

In fact, Google has always relied on humans to organize the web by following the hyperlinks that they create. Although the initial mechanism of the search is a keyword search, Google's forte is in massaging the raw keyword result to bring potentially relevant pages to the top. 

Keywords, Concluded

The move from headings to databases to un-typed keyword searching has all but eliminated the visibility and utility of headings in the catalog. The single search box has become the norm for library catalogs and many users have never experienced the catalog as an organized system of headings. Default displays are short and show only a few essential fields, mainly author, title and date. This means that there may even be users who are unaware that there is a system of headings in the catalog.

Recent work in cataloging, from ISBD to FRBR to RDA and BIBFRAME focus on modifications to the bibliographic record, but do nothing to model the catalog as a whole. With these efforts, the organized knowledge system that was the catalog is slipping further into the background. And yet, we have no concerted effort taking place to remedy this. 

What is most astonishing to me, though, is that catalogers continue to create headings, painstakingly, sincerely, in spite of the fact that they are not used as intended in library systems, and have not been used in that way since the first library systems were developed over 30 years ago. The headings are fodder for the keyword search, but no more so than a simple set of tags would be. The headings never perform the organizing function for which they were intended. 

Next


Part IV will look at some attempts to create knowledge context from current catalog data, and will present some questions that need to be answered if we are to address the quality of the catalog as a knowledge system.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Catalog and Context, Part II

In the previous post, I talked about book and card catalogs, and how they existed as a heading layer over the bibliographic description representing library holdings. In this post, I will talk about what changed when that same data was stored in database management systems and delivered to users on a computer screen.

Taking a very simple example, in the card catalog a single library holding with author, title and one subject becomes three separate entries, one for each heading. These are filed alphabetically in their respective places in the catalog.

In this sense, the catalog is composed of cards for headings that have attached to them the related bibliographic description. Most items in the library are represented more than once in the library catalog. The catalog is a catalog of headings.

In most computer-based catalogs, the relationship between headings and bibliographic data is reversed: the record with bibliographic and heading data, is stored once; access points, analogous to the headings of the card catalog, are extracted to indexes that all point to the single record.

This in itself could be just a minor change in the mechanism of the catalog, but in fact it turns out to be more than that.

First, the indexes of the database system are not visible to the user. This is the opposite of the card catalog where the entry points were what the user saw and navigated through. Those entry points, at their best, served as a knowledge organization system that gave the user a context for the headings. Those headings suggest topics to users once the user finds a starting point in the catalog.

When this system works well for the user, she has some understanding of where she was in the virtual library that the catalog created. This context could be a subject area or it could be a bibliographic context such as the editions of a work.

Most, if not all, online catalogs do not present the catalog as a linear, alphabetically ordered list of headings. Database management technology encourages the use of searching rather than linear browsing. Even if one searches in headings as a left-anchored string of characters a search results in a retrieved set of matching entries, not a point in an alphabetical list. There is no way to navigate to nearby entries. The bibliographic data is therefore not provided either in the context or the order of the catalog. After a search on "cat breeds" the user sees a screen-full of bibliographic records but lacking in context because most default displays do not show the user the headings or text that caused the item to be retrieved.

Although each of these items has a subject heading containing the words "Cat breeds" the order of the entries is not the subject order. The subject headings in the first few records read, in order:

  1. Cat breed
  2. Cat breeds
  3. Cat breeds - History
  4. Cat breeds - Handbooks, manuals, etc.
  5. Cat breeds
  6. Cat breeds - Thailand
  7. Cat breeds

If if the catalog uses a visible and logical order, like alphabetical by author and title, or most recent by date, there is no way from the displayed list for the user to get the sense of "where am I?" that was provided by the catalog of headings.

In the early 1980's, when I was working on the University of California's first online catalog, the catalogers immediately noted this as a problem. They would have wanted the retrieved set to be displayed as:

(Note how much this resembles the book catalog shown in Part I.) At the time, and perhaps still today, there were technical barriers to such a display, mainly because of limitations on the sorting of large retrieved sets. (Large, at that time, was anything over a few hundred items.) Another issue was that any bibliographic record could be retrieved more than once in a single retrieved set, and presenting the records more than once in the display, given the database design, would be tricky. I don't know if starting afresh today some of these features would be easier to produce, but the pattern of search and display seems not to have progressed greatly from those first catalogs.

In addition, it is in any case questionable whether a set of bibliographic items retrieved from a database on some query would reproduce the presumably coherent context of the catalog. This is especially true because of the third major difference between the card catalog and the computer catalog: the ability to search on individual words in the bibliographic record rather than being limited to seeking on full left-anchored headings. The move to keyword searching was both a boon and a bane because it was a major factor in the loss of context in the library catalog.

Keyword searching will be the main topic of Part III of this series.


Catalog and Context, Part I

This multi-part post is based on a talk I gave in June, 2016 at ELAG in Copenhagen.

Imagine that you do a search in your GPS system and are given the exact point of the address, but nothing more.

Without some context showing where on the planet the point exists, having the exact location, while accurate, is not useful.



In essence, this is what we provide to users of our catalogs. They do a search and we reply with bibliographic items that meet the letter of that search, but with no context about where those items fit into any knowledge map.

Because we present the catalog as a retrieval tool for unrelated items, users have come to see the library catalog as nothing more than a tool for known item searching. They do not see it as a place to explore topics or to find related works. The catalog wasn't always just a known item finding tool, however. To understand how it came to be one, we need a short visit to Catalogs Past.

Catalogs Past


We can't really compare the library catalog of today to the early book catalogs, since the problem that they had to solve was quite different to what we have today. However, those catalogs can show us what a library catalog was originally meant to be.
book catalog entry

A book catalog was a compendium of entry points, mainly authors but in some cases also titles and subjects. The bibliographic data was kept quite brief as every character in the catalog was a cost in terms of type-setting and page real estate. The headings dominated the catalog, and it was only through headings that a user could approach the bibliographic holdings of the library. An alphabetical author list is not much "knowledge organization", but the headings provided an ordered layer over the library's holdings, and were also the only access mechanism to them.

Some of the early card catalogs had separate cards for headings and for bibliographic data. If entries in the catalog had to be hand-written (or later typed) onto cards, the easiest thing was to slot the cards into the catalog behind the appropriate heading without adding heading data to the card itself.

Often there was only one card with a full bibliographic description, and that was the "main entry" card. All other cards were references to a point in the catalog, for example the author's name, where more information could be found.

Again, all bibliographic data was subordinate to a layer of headings that made up the catalog. We can debate how intellectually accurate or useful that heading layer was, but there is no doubt that it was the only entry to the content of the library.

The Printed Card


In 1902 the Library of Congress began printing cards that could be purchased by libraries. The idea was genius. For each item cataloged by LC a card was printed in as many copies as needed. Libraries could buy the number of catalog card "blanks" they required to create all of the entries in their catalogs. The libraries would use as many as needed of the printed cards and type (or write) the desired headings onto the top of the card. Each of these would have the full bibliographic information - an advantage for users who then would not longer need to follow "see" references from headings to the one full entry card in the catalog.


These cards introduced something else that was new: the card would have at the bottom a tracing of the headings that LC was using in its own catalog. This was a savings for the libraries as they could copy LC's practice without incurring their own catalogers' time. This card, for the first time, combined both bibliographic information and heading tracings in a single "record", with the bibliographic information on the card being an entry point to the headings.


Machine-Readable Card Printing


The MAchine Readable Cataloging (MARC) project of the Library of Congress was a major upgrade to card printing technology. By including all of the information needed for card printing in a computer-processable record, LC could take advantage of new technology to stream-line its card production process, and even move into a kind of "print on demand" model. The MARC record was designed to have all of the information needed to print the set of cards for a book; author, title, subjects, and added entries were all included in the record, as well as some additional information that could be used to generate reports such as "new acquisitions" lists.

Here again the bibliographic information and the heading information were together in a single unit, and it even followed the card printing convention of the order of the entries, with the bibliographic description at top, followed by headings. With the MARC record, it was possible to not only print sets of cards, but to actually print the headers on the cards, so that when libraries received a set they were ready to do into the catalog at their respective places.

Next, we'll look at the conversion from printed cards to catalogs using database technology.

-> Part II

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

This is what sexism looks like, # 3

I spend a lot of time in technical meetings. This is no one's fault but my own since these activities are purely voluntary. At the end of many meetings, though, I vow to never attend one again. This story is about one.

There was no ill-preparedness or bad faith on the part of either the organizers or the participants at this meeting. There is, however, reality, and no amount of good will changes that.

This took place at a working meeting that was not a library meeting but at which some librarians were present. At lunch one day, three librarians, myself and two others, all female, were sitting together. I can say that we are all well-known and well seasoned in library systems and standards. You would recognize our names. As lunch was winding down, the person across from us opened a conversation with this (all below paraphrased):

P: Libraries should get involved with the Open Access movement; they are in a position to have an effect.

us: Libraries *are* heavily involved in the OA movement, and have been for at least a decade.

P: (Going on.) If you'd join together you could fight for OA against the big publishers.

us: Libraries *have* joined together and are fighting for OA. (Beginning to get annoyed at this point.)

P: What you need to do is... [various iterations here]

us: (Visibly annoyed now) We have done that. In some cases, we have started an effort that is going forward. We have organizations dedicated to that, we hold whole conferences on these topics. You are preaching to the choir here - these aren't new ideas for us, we know all of this. You don't need to tell us.

P: (Going on, no response to what we have said.) You should set a deadline, like 2017, after which you should drop all journals that are not OA.

us: [various statements about a) setting up university-wide rules for depositing articles; b) the difference in how publishing matters in different disciplines: c) the role of tenure, etc.]

P: (Insisting) If libraries would support OA, publishers like Elsevier could not survive.

us: [oof!]

me: You are sitting here with three professionals with a combined experience in this field of well over 50 years, but you won't listen to us or believe what we say. Why not?

P: (Ignoring the question.) I'm convinced that if libraries would join in, we could win this one. You should...

At this point, I lost it. I literally head-desked and groaned out "Please stop with the mansplaining!" That was a mistake, but it wasn't wrong. This was a classic case of mansplaining. P hopped up and stalked out of the room. Twenty minutes later I am told that I have violated the "civility code" of the conference. I have become the perpetrator of abuse because I "accused him" of being sexist.

I don't know what else we could have done to stop what was going on. In spite of a good ten minutes of us replying that libraries are "on it" not one of our statements was acknowledged. Not one of P's statements was in response to what we said. At no point did P acknowledge that we know more about what libraries are doing than he does, and perhaps he could learn by listening to us or asking us questions. And we actually told him, in so many words, he wasn't listening, and that we are knowledgeable. He still didn't get it.

This, too, is a classic: Catch-22. A person who is clueless will not get the "hints" but you cannot clue them or you are in the wrong.

Thanks to the men's rights movement, standing up against sexism has become abuse of men, who are then the victims of what is almost always characterized as "false accusations". Not only did this person tell me, in the "chat" we had at his request, "I know I am not sexist" he also said, "You know that false accusations destroy men's lives." It never occurred to him that deciding true or false wasn't de facto his decision. He didn't react when I said that all three of us had experienced the encounter in the same way. The various explanations P gave were ones most women have heard before: "If I didn't listen, that's just how I am with everybody." "Did I say I wasn't listening because you are women? so how could it be sexist?" And "I have listened to you in our meetings, so how can you say I am sexist?" (Again, his experience, his decision.) During all of this I was spoken to, but no interest was shown in my experience, and I said almost nothing. I didn't even try to explain it. I was drubbed.

The only positive thing that I can say about this is that in spite of heavy pressure over 20 minutes, one on one, I did not agree to deny my experience. He wanted me to tell him that he hadn't been sexist. I just could't do that. I said that we would have to agree to disagree, but apologized for my outburst.

When I look around meeting rooms, I often think that I shouldn't be there. I often vow that the next time I walk into a meeting room and it isn't at least 50% female, I'm walking out. Unfortunately, that meeting room does not exist in the projects that I find myself in.

Not all of the experience at the meeting was bad. Much of it was quite good. But the good doesn't remove the damage of the bad. I think about the fact that in Pakistan today men are arguing that it is their right to physically abuse the women in their home and I am utterly speechless. I don't face anything like that. But the wounds from these experiences take a long time to heal. Days afterward, I'm still anxious and depressed. I know that the next time I walk into a meeting room I will feel fear; fear of further damage. I really do seriously think about hanging it all up, never going to another meeting where I try to advocate for libraries.

I'm now off to join friends and hopefully put this behind me. I wish I could know that it would never happen again. But I get that gut punch just thinking about my next meeting.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

More is more

Here's something that drives me nuts:
Library catalog entry for Origin of Species

Library catalog entry for Origin of Species

These are two library catalog displays for Charles Darwin's "The origin of species". One shows a publication date of 2015, the other a date of 2003. Believe me that neither of them anywhere lets the catalog user know that these are editions of a book first published in 1859. Nor do they anywhere explain that this book can be considered the founding text for the science of evolutionary biology. Imagine a user coming to the catalog with no prior knowledge of Darwin (*) - they might logically conclude that this is the work of a current scientist, or even a synthesis of arguments around the issue of evolution. From the second book above one could conclude that Darwin hangs with Richard Dawkins, maybe they have offices near each other in the same university.

This may seem absurd, but it is no more absurd than the paucity of information that we offer to users of our catalogs. The description of these books might be suitable to an inventory of the Amazon.com warehouse, but it's hardly what I would consider to be a knowledge organization service. The emphasis in cataloging on description of the physical item may serve librarians and a few highly knowledgeable users, but the fact that publications are not put into a knowledge context makes the catalog a dry list of uninformative items for many users. There are, however, cataloging practices that do not consider describing the physical item the primary purpose of the catalog. One only needs to look at archival finding aids to see how much more we could tell users about the collections we hold. Another area of more enlightened cataloging takes place in the non-book world.

The BIBFRAME AV Modeling Study was commissioned by the Library of Congress to look at BIBFRAME from the point of view of libraries and archives whose main holdings are not bound volumes. The difference between book cataloging and the collections covered by the study is much more than a difference in the physical form of the library's holdings. What the study revealed to me was that, at least in some cases, the curators of the audio-visual materials have a different concept of the catalog's value to the user. I'll give a few examples.

The Online Audiovisual Catalogers have a concept of primary expression, which is something like first edition for print materials. The primary expression becomes the representative of what FRBR would call the work. In the Darwin example, above, there would be a primary expression that is the first edition of Darwin's work. The AV paper says "...the approach...supports users' needs to understand important aspects of the original, such as whether the original release version was color or black and white." (p.13) In our Darwin case, including information about the primary expression would place the work historically where it belongs.

Another aspect of the AV cataloging practice that is included in the report is their recognition that there are many primary creator roles. AV catalogers recognize a wider variety of creation than standards like FRBR and RDA allow. With a film, for example, the number of creators is both large and varied: director, editor, writer, music composer, etc. The book-based standards have a division between creators and "collaborators" that not all agree with, in particular when it comes to translators and illustrators. Although some translations are relatively mundane, others could surely be elevated to a level of being creative works of their own, such as translations of poetry.

The determination of primary creative roles and roles of collaboration are not ones that can be made across the board; not all translators should necessarily be considered creators, not all sound incorporated into a film deserves to get top billing. The AV study recognizes that different collections have different needs for description of materials. This brings out the tension in the library and archives community between data sharing and local needs. We have to allow communities to create their own data variations and still embrace their data for linking and sharing. If, instead, we go forward with an inflexible data model, we will lose access to valuable collections within our own community.



(*) You, dear reader, may live in a country where the ideas of Charles Darwin are openly discussed in the classroom, but in some of the United States there are or have been in the recent past restrictions on imparting that information to school children.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sub-types in FRBR

One of the issues that plagues FRBR is the rigidity of the definitions of work, expression, and manifestation, and the "one size fits all" nature of these categories. We've seen comments (see from p. 22) from folks in the non-book community that the definitions of these entities is overly "bookish" and that some non-book materials may need a different definition of some of them. One solution to this problem would be to move from the entity-relation model, which does tend to be strict and inflexible, to an object-oriented model. In an object-oriented (OO) model one creates general types with more specific subtypes that allows the model both to extend as needed and to accommodate specifics that apply to only some members of the overall type or class. Subtypes inherit the characteristics of the super-type, whereas there is no possibility of inheritance in the E-R model. By allowing inheritance, you avoid both redundancy in your data but also the rigidity of E-R and the relational model that it supports.

This may sound radical, but the fact is the FRBR does define some subtypes. They don't appear in the three high-level diagrams, so it isn't surprising that many people aren't aware of them. They are present, however in the attributes. Here is the list of attributes for FRBR work:
title of the work
form of work
date of the work
other distinguishing characteristic
intended termination
intended audience
context for the work
medium of performance (musical work)
numeric designation (musical work)
key (musical work)
coordinates (cartographic work)
equinox (cartographic work)
I've placed in italics those that are subtypes of work. There are two: musical work, and cartographic work. I would also suggest that "intended termination" could be considered a subtype of "continuing resource", but this is subtle and possibly debatable.

Other subtypes in FRBR are:
Expression: serial, musical notation, recorded sound, cartographic object, remote sensing image, graphic or projected image
Manifestation: printed book, hand-printed book, serial, sound recording, image, microform, visual projection, electronic resource, remote access electronic resource
These are the subtypes that are present in FRBR today, but because sub-typing probably was not fully explored, there are likely to be others.

Object-oriented design was a response to the need to be able to extend a data model without breaking what is there. Adding a subtype should not interfere with the top-level type nor with other subtypes. It's a tricky act of design, but when executed well it allows you satisfy the special needs that arise in the community while maintaining compatibility of the data.

Since we seem to respond well to pictures, let me provide this idea in pictures, keeping in mind that these are simple examples just to get the idea across.


The above picture models what is in FRBR today, although using the inheritance capability of OO rather than the E-R model where inheritance is not possible. Both musical work and cartographic work have all of the attributes of work, plus their own special attributes.

If it becomes necessary to add other attributes that are specific to a single type, then another sub-type is added. This new subtype does not interfere with any code that is making use of the elements of the super-type "work". It also does not alter what the music and maps librarians must be concerned with, since they are in their own "boxes." As an example, the audio-visual community did an analysis of BIBFRAME and concluded, among other things, that the placement of duration, sound content and color content in the BIBFRAME Instance entity would not serve their needs; instead, they need those elements at the work level.*

This just shows work, and I don't know how/if it could or should be applied to the entire WEMI thread. It's possible that an analysis of this nature would lead to a different view of the bibliographic entities. However, using types and sub-types, or classes and sub-classes (which would be the common solution in RDF) would be far superior to the E-R model of FRBR. If you've read my writings on FRBR you may know that I consider FRBR to be locked into an out-of-date technology, one that was already on the wane by 1990. Object-oriented modeling, which has long replaced E-R modeling, is now being eclipsed by RDF, but there would be no harm in making the step to OO, at least in our thinking, so that we can break out of what I think is a model so rigid that it is doomed to fail.


*This is an over-simplification of what the A-V community suggested, modified for my purposes here. However, what they do suggest would be served by a more flexible inheritance model than the model currently used in BIBFRAME.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Floor wax, or dessert topping?

As promised, my book, FRBR: Before and After, is now available in PDF as open access with a CC-BY license. I'd like to set up some way that we can turn this into a discussion, so if you have a favorite hanging out place, make a suggestion.

Also, the talk I gave at SWIB2015 is now viewable on youtube: Mistakes Have Been Made. That is a much shorter (30 minutes) and less subdued explanation of what I see as the problems with FRBR. If that grabs you, some chapters of the book will give you more detail, and the bibliography should keep anyone busy for a good long time.

Let me be clear that I am not criticizing FRBR as a conceptual model of the bibliographic universe. If this view helps catalogers clarify their approach to cataloging problems, then I'm all for it. If it helps delineate areas that the cataloging rules must cover, then I'm all for it. What I object to is that implication that this mental model = a data format. Oddly, both the original FRBR document  and the recent IFLA model bringing all of the FR's together, are very ambiguous on this. I've been told, in no uncertain terms, by one of the authors of the latter document that it is not data model, it's a conceptual model. Yet the document itself says:
The intention is to produce a model definition document that presents the model concisely and clearly, principally with formatted tables and diagrams, so that the definitions can be readily transferred to the IFLA FRBR namespace for use with linked open data applications. 
 And we have the statement by Barbara Tillett (one of the developers of FRBR) that FRBR is a conceptual model only:
"FRBR is not a data model. FRBR is not a metadata scheme. FRBR is not a system design structure. It is a conceptual model of the bibliographic universe." Barbara Tillett. FRBR and Cataloging for theFuture. 2005
This feels like a variation on the old Saturday Night Live routine: "It's a floor wax. No! It's a dessert topping!" The joke being that it cannot be both. And that's how I feel about FRBR -- it's either a conceptual model, or a data model. And if it's a data model, it's an entity-relation model suitable for, say, relational databases. Or, as David C. Hay says in his 2006 book "Data Model Patterns: A Metadata Map":
Suppose you are one of those old-fashioned people who still models with entity classes and relationships.
It's not that entities and relations are useless, it's just that this particular style of data modeling, and the technology that it feeds into, has been superseded at least twice since the FRBR task group was formed: by object-oriented design, and by semantic web design. If FRBR is a conceptual model, this doesn't matter. If it's a data model -- if it is intended to be made actionable in some 21st century technology -- then a whole new analysis is going to be needed. Step one, though, is getting clear which it is: floor wax, or dessert topping.