Sunday, November 05, 2006

FRBRoo (Object-Oriented)

The folks working on the Conceptual Reference Model for museums (CIDOC) have produced an analysis of FRBR as object-oriented, to match their own OO model. The FRBR final report states that FRBR is based on a relational model, but I have always though that its hierarchical nature (at least that of Group 1 entities) lends itself better to an OO form. (I portrayed it as OO in my 2004 Library Hi-Tech article.) This allows inheritance from the Work to the Expression, etc.

An OO model forces a certain rigor on the data, and in doing their analysis the CIDOC folks found that they needed to redefine some elements of FRBR, in particular the definition of the Work.
FRBRER was flawed with some logical inconsistencies, in particular with regard to its “Group 1 of entities,” those entities that account for the content of a catalogue record. (p.9)
Their problem with the FRBRer (entity-relationship) model's definition of Work seems to be the same as has been bothering me recently, especially in the reading I have done on the difficulties of applying the FRBRer model to serials.
The Work entity such as defined in FRBRER seemed to cover various realities with distinct properties. While the main interpretation intended by the originators of FRBRER seems to have been that of a set of concepts regarded as commonly shared by a number of individual sets of signs (or “Expressions”), other interpretations were possible as well: that of the set of concepts expressed in one particular set of signs, independently of the materialisation of that set of signs; and that of the overall abstract content of a given publication. FRBROO retains the vague notion of “Work” as a superclass for the various possible ways of interpreting the FRBRER definitions: F46 Individual Work corresponds to the concepts associated to one complete set of signs (i.e., one individual instance of F20 Self-Contained Expression); F43 Publication Work comprises publishers’ intellectual contribution to a given publication; and F21 Complex Work is closer to what seems to have been the main interpretation intended in FRBRER. Additionally, a further subclass is declared for F1 Work: F48 Container Work, which provides a framework for conceptualising works that consist in gathering sets of signs, or fragments of sets of signs, of various origins (“aggregates”). (p. 9-10)

If I may paraphrase, the FRBRer Work includes both individual works of creative effort as well as publisher's containers for groups of works. The CIDOC solution is perhaps more complex than I had imagined, but the distinction between the creative output and what publishers (and editors) have chosen to place together in the same container is an important one for our user service goal, especially in the areas of journal publishing and music publishing. Their "container" is what I've been calling the "package" in discussions on the next gen catalog list.

I will think about how this analysis might help us design a bibliographic record. The diagram on page 10 of this report implies that there are two forks to the description: the author's context and the publisher's context. It seems that today's cataloging rules (and perhaps RDA as well) conflate those two, and that when those contexts differ the rules emphasize the publisher's.
In other words, descriptive cataloging is describing the published Work, not the author's Work. If we see those as separate, would our catalog look more FRBR-like?

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