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63rd IFLA General Conference - Conference Programme and Proceedings - August 31- September 5, 1997

IFLA Study on the Functional Requirements For Bibliographic Records Report

Olivia M.A. Madison
Parks Library,
Iowa State University,
Iowa, USA


The IFLA Study on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records is nearing completion. A six-month world-wide review for the study’s draft document was completed on 30 November 1996. The study group responsible for conducting the study received an excellent response rate from the review; forty responses were received from sixteen different countries. On 12-13 February 1997 the entire study group met in Washington, D.C. and reviewed and discussed all comments. Following the meeting, the final report was completed and being considered by the Standing Committee of the Section of Cataloguing at this conference.

In this paper I will review the charge of the study group and its membership and provide a brief background to this study. Then I will describe the scope and methodology used for the study as well as its conclusions and recommendations for a national bibliographic record. I will conclude with discussing some issues that the study group suggests would be the next logical steps (assuming the report is accepted by the standing committee). Please note that various parts of the descriptive text in the following paper comes directly from or are paraphrased from the study group report.

In 1991 the Standing Committee of the IFLA Section on Cataloguing commissioned a study on the functional requirements for bibliographic records, which was to be based on the primary functions users perform while using these records and take into account all types of materials they may need to use. The study was intended to be theoretically based, and use the entity relationship modeling technique, and to avoid bias towards any existing cataloguing codes. In addition, the study was to include recommendations for the basic requirements for national bibliographic records, which would be based on the findings of the study.

The study group members primarily represent the IFLA Section on Cataloguing with one representative from the Section on Classification and Indexing (both sections report to the IFLA Division on Bibliographic Control). The current members of the study group are: Olivia Madison (Chair), John Byrum, Jr., Thomas Delsey (consultant), Elizabeth Dulabahn (consultant), Suzanne Jouguelet, Dorothy McGarry, Elaine Svenonius (consultant), Barbara Tillett (consultant), Nancy Williamson, and Maria Witt. Previous members were Nancy John (Chair, Aug. 1993-Aug. 1995) and Ben Tucker (consultant, June 1992-June 1993). The consultants were responsible for directing the study and are the primary authors of the report.

This study evolved out of the recommendations of the Seminar on Bibliographic Records held in August 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden and sponsored by the IFLA UBCIM Programme and the IFLA Division of Bibliographic Control. The major issues that formed the backdrop to the Seminar were the following:

The seminar participants made nine recommendations and two of them were pertinent to this study:

Following the 1990 Stockholm Seminar a project was proposed to study the functional requirements for bibliographic records. The "Terms of Reference for A Study of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records" (1992-09-04) stated its purpose as follows:

The terms of reference further specified that the study should develop a framework that identifies and clearly defines the entities of interest to users of bibliographic records, the attributes of each entity, and the types of relationships that may operate between entities. The framework would serve as the basis for identifying the specific attributes and relationships required to support the various tasks that users perform when using bibliographic records.

In addition the study group was charged to propose a basic level of functionality and basic data requirements for records created by national bibliographic agencies. The criteria for deciding on this functionality and basic data requirements would draw directly from the study results. This set of recommendations could meet some of the central concerns expressed at the 1990 seminar, namely, a core-level standard for bibliographic records that could facilitate the sharing of these records, both nationally and internationally, and thereby reduce duplication of efforts and drive down the rising costs of cataloguing. Furthermore, a standard could promote better universal bibliographic control, a central goal for the IFLA Division of Bibliographic Control.

As mentioned before, in May 1996 the study group sent a draft report out for world-wide review. The majority of the international reviews generally gave the report positive reviews. The study group received many good general and specific suggestions for the report involving organization, definition of terms, clarification, and specific details. For example, reviewers suggested that more examples were needed to illustrate important points and concepts; better explanations are needed for the differences between an expression and manifestation, and work and expression (e.g., intellectual versus physical); the rules of the model should be explained more thoroughly; and that study was too oriented to books and did not adequately express the concept of seriality. At its February 1997 meeting, the study group made many changes based upon the comments it received and reaffirmed many of the study components but agreed that further explanation, rationale and/or detail was needed. Following the meeting, the revised report was submitted to the Ingrid Parent, Chair of the Standing Committee of the Section of Cataloguing, for full committee review at this conference.

A. General Description of the Study’s Methodology and Results

The study’s framework was built on the ways bibliographic records are used through a variety of user tasks, namely to find, identify, select and obtain. While the study is described as being based on user needs it did not involve studies of how actual users (whether they be public library users, researchers, acquisitions librarians, publishers, vendors, etc.) approach and make use of bibliographic records. Rather, functions that any one or more of these users perform are examined carefully. In other words, the study endeavours to define exactly what it is that the user expects to find information about in a bibliographic record and how that information is used.

Another key element of the study is that it recognizes that bibliographic records are used by a broad spectrum of users, including both clients and staff in libraries, publishers, distributors, and retailers, and by the providers and users of information services outside traditional library settings. The study also takes into account the wide range of applications in which bibliographic records are used: in the context of purchasing or acquisitions, cataloguing, inventory management, circulation, interlibrary loan, preservation, reference, and information retrieval. Recognizing the breadth of use that is made of bibliographic information, and the importance to users of aspects of both content and form of the materials described in bibliographic records, is critical to identifying in a comprehensive way the attributes and relationships that are important to users.

The study group defined a bibliographic record as the aggregate of data that are associated with entities described in library catalogues and national bibliographies. To start with, the report defines the functional requirements for bibliographic records. They are defined in terms of the generic tasks that are performed by users when searching and making use of national bibliographies and library catalogues and are as follows:

The entity relationship analysis technique that forms the basis for the methodology begins by isolating the entities that are the key objects of interests to users of bibliographic users. Three groups were defined:

  1. Work: the distinct intellectual or artistic creation. This is an abstract entity, which enables us to give a name and draw relationships to the abstract intellectual or artistic creation.

  2. Expression: the intellectual or artistic realization of a work. It encompasses the specific words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. that result from the realization or expression of a work.

  3. Manifestation: the physical embodiment of an expression of work. It represents all the physical objects that bear the same characteristics, in respect to both intellectual content and physical form.

  4. Item: a single exemplar of a manifestation. It is in many instances a single physical object.

The study then identified the characteristics or attributes associated with each entity and the relationships between entities that are most important to users. The attributes provide the means by which users formulate queries and interpret responses when seeking information about a particular entity. The attributes were expressed as they might be viewed by a user. The consultants used attributes reflected in International Standard Bibliographic Descriptions (ISBDs) and the Guidelines for Authority and Reference Entries (GARE) as their starting point.

The following are two examples of entities with their possible attributes: a manifestation and a person.

The study group then described logical relationships between the various entities and then defined the relationships associated with the four primary entities (work, expression, manifestation, and item) that operate between designated instances of entities. For example, a manifestation-to-manifestation relationship could involve a facsimile of another manifestation or volume 3 of a three-volume set of a history treatise.

In order to assess the relative value of each of the attributes and relationships associated with the various entities, the study group next focused on the importance of each attribute or relationship to the user’s efforts to find, identify, select, or obtain a particular entity or group of entities. In doing so, the study group recognized that bibliographic records are used by many different types of users, collectively needing a wide-range of applications with interests in all types and forms of materials, media, and formats. It also drew on a wide range of sources identifying data pertaining to text, cartographic, audio-visual, graphic, three-dimensional materials, film, magnetic tape, optical media, and acoustic, electric, digital, and optical recording modes.

The study group then mapped the attributes and relationships to the four user tasks: to find, identify, select and acquire/obtain. In doing so, the attributes and relationships were rated as to the importance to each user task. This was a lengthy and thorough process and was the basis of the recommendations for the essential components of a national bibliographic record. It is important to note, that at a national or institutional level, these values could change dramatically due to the mission and/or objectives of any given collection of resources.

For example, decisions regarding the importance of the attribute of title for a work, expression and manifestations varied as to the find, identify and select functions. However, in all cases the values were rated as high or moderate, and as a result these titles were treated as necessary components of a national bibliographic record. Relationships were also examined, and an example is the relationship between an expression and another expression that represents an dependent part of a whole/part relationship (e.g., a volume or issue of a serial) as found for works and expressions. The results for the find and identify functions were rated as high values, and the select function was rated as a low value. Because of the high values for the find and identify functions, the study recommends that the national level bibliographic record reflect this whole/part expression-to-expression relationship.

B. Basic Requirements for National Bibliographic Records

Based on their careful analysis, the study group recommended in its report that at a basic level, the national bibliographic record should assist the user to do the following:

Finally, the report concludes with listing the minimum data requirements for a basic national bibliographic record, which is arranged in two broad groupings: descriptive and organizing elements. For the sake of an example, the following list represents those recommended elements related to books.

Descriptive Elements

Title and statement of responsibility area

Edition area

Publication, distribution, etc. area

Physical description area

Series area

Notes area

Organizing Elements

Name headings

Title headings

Series headings

Subject headings/classification numbers

C. Areas for Future Study

In addition to the formal recommendations to national bibliographic agencies, the study group suggests that the model could be used as the basis of a number of other follow-up studies of interest to those involved with the creation, management, and use of bibliographic data. The model and the conclusions made as a result of the entity relationship analysis are deliberately general in nature and do not attempt to provide detailed applications for specific media or for the various methods of accessing and displaying bibliographic records. However, such work would benefits framers of national cataloguing codes in work to improve provisions for the specific media they cover. And, the analysis of entities, attributes and relationships reflected in the model might serve as a useful logical framework for a re-examination of the structures and conventions used to compile, store, display and communicate bibliographic data.

Clearly the study did not result in a fully-developed conceptual data model. In particular, it did not cover the relationship of bibliographic records to authority control nor did it define what should be the minimal requirements for authority control by national bibliographic agencies. While the framers of the study believed the issues related to authority control are central to the escalating costs of cataloging, they decided to focus the work on only bibliographic records--primarily because of the need to scale the project to what could be accomplished in the time span designated for the study. However, the critical issues related to authority control are seen as an essential second phase to this overall project, and the study group believes that the model should be extended to cover the additional data that are normally recorded in authority records.

Finally, another work that should be undertaken is the relationship of the study findings to the ISBD standards. Before this study began, the IFLA Section on Cataloguing’s ISBD Committee had completed draft guidelines for a concise ISBD and in 1993 it had conducted a world-wide review. The Section on Cataloguing’s standing committee deferred work on this project until the completion of the study on functional requirements for bibliographic records. In addition, another essential study is the impact of the conclusions reached and recommendations made resulting from this study on the various ISBDs as well as the MARC formats.