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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 


64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 084-126-E
Division Number: IV.
Professional Group: Cataloguing
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 126.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

User Benefits from a New Bibliographic Model: Follow-up of the IFLA Functional Requirements Study

European Library Automation Group (ELAG) Workshop 4
Peter Noerr,
Paula Goossens,
Dan Matei,
Petra Otten,
Susanna Peruginelli,
Maria Witt

Represented by:
Dan Matei,
CIMEC Institute for Cultural Memory,
Bucarest, Romania


Peter Noerr,
EduLib, Glen Ellyn,
Illinois, USA


ELAG has been investigating Bibliographic Modelling for many years. At their last meeting they considered 4 Level bibliographic model produced by the IFLA Cataloguing Section committee on "Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records". This paper firstly outlines the 4 level model, it then discusses how the different bibliographic objects (works, authorities, copies, etc.) would appear to an end user and the benefits they could see in terms of system functionality, completeness and correctness of data and increased search functionality. It finally considers how the model could be enhanced to operate within existing ILS systems and directions of further research.


1. Introduction

This paper derives from a workshop of the authors held during the 1998 European Library Automation Group (ELAG) conference at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in Den Haag, The Netherlands. The intention was to continue discussions held for many years on bibliographic modelling [1]. This meeting was to consider how an Object Oriented approach could be used to develop an advanced bibliographic model.

The timely publication of the results of the IFLA committee on 'Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records' [2], meant that the workshop could focus on this as a de facto model and bring to bear some of the requirements and methods of Object Orientation. The varied experiences and long-term theoretical and practical interests of the members meant that the succession of examples used to examine the model was varied and complex.

2. The New Bibliographic Model

The new model considers any real world object (as represented by a description of a book or of an art object) as having up to four components. The purpose of these component 'levels' is to allow the more correct placement of information about the object.

The four levels are: Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item.

Each is an object derived of the preceding one and inherits properties from it. The most obvious example is (starting from the bottom) the Item. It is common practice that two Items (or copies) of a book, for instance, share all their bibliographic properties and differ only in their physical properties (Barcode number, placement, physical state, etc.).

The Manifestation and Expression levels formalise in a theoretical model the pragmatic decisions made in the MARC Format Integration changes, where data elements peculiar to a particular physical Manifestation became repeatable and were grouped together.

The Work level is an extension 'upwards' to allow the creation of a completely intellectual construct which is devoid from any processing or physical properties so that the unique 'absolute content' of bibliographic objects may be described.

The model is described as 'bibliographic', but it applies equally well to other objects, such as the authority records, which we model in the whole of 'bibliographic space'.

3. Benefits of the Model

The major benefit of the 4 Level model is the greater clarity for the placement of bibliographic information and data. This is the main reason for the creation of this model (and for the continuing work of the ELAG workshop). In strict modelling terms it allows information to be placed at the correct level of abstraction so that it is shared by the succeeding level objects. Thus a barcode is only of interest at the Item level whereas a Uniform Title applies to all variants (Expressions, Manifestations, Items) of the Work. This allows the placement of the data (e.g. Uniform Title) in one place (the Work).

This cleaner model is easier to maintain, has increased flexibility of representation, may be better searched and may be more accurately processed according to rule based processes. It is very much in line with the results of the analysis of the digital resources, integration of which with the "traditional" material is very important these days.

4. User benefits and possibilities

Benefits accrue to two types of user within the library: the end user and the staff member. Since the benefits are different we will look at the two classes of users separately.

5. Extensions, the Future and the Real World

The necessary work to realise the benefits of the 4LBM involve areas as diverse as Cataloguing Rules - including normalisation of index building -, an investigation of the extensibility and limits of the model, the completeness of the model, and the definition of record formats.

From the group's investigations it became clear that the theoretical framework of the new bibliographic model (dubbed 4LBM) needs to be enhanced and extended to 'connect' to the real world of library automation systems. Those systems (either existing or planned) which attempt any form of bibliographic model are rare. This reflects the overwhelming use of the MARC record as the sole database modelling foundation, despite its acknowledged inefficiencies. Thus most current systems are solely 'single record' based despite their use of database management systems.

Of the few systems which have ventured a different bibliographic model base, most have a scheme which is approximately that proposed by the 4LBM. These prove, in isolation, that the model is practical and even show some of its benefits.

To utilise the 4LBM would require changes to the database interface to the majority of existing systems. One of the projects the authors are proposing is just such an investigation of the minimal (and maximal) work needed to utilise the model and the (minimal) gains to be achieved.

With the more accurate definition of data elements in modelling terms and the whole issue of 'translation' between systems becomes an area for renewed study.

The results of this workshop are being deliberated by its members and other interested members of ELAG through a listserv and a web site. Interested groups and individuals are encouraged to subscribe and participate. The workshop members have also undertaken a search for researchers and projects attempting to use the model and are compiling a directory of these products, people and resources to help further co-ordinated development of the model. Further information can be found at
http://www.edulib.com/library/bibliographic/ or through an email to information@edulib.com


  1. Hierarchical Relationships in Bibliographic Descriptions : INTERMARC Software-Subgroup Seminar 4 : Library Systems Seminar Essen 25 March - 27 March 1981 / Mit Belträgen von E. Bonnes, B. Delbrück, P. Goossens, O. Husby, B. Jedwabski, M. Lodder, H. Meulengracht-Madsen, P. Noerr, A. Regent, J. Vanautgaerden ; Hersaugegeben von Ahmed H. Helal, Joachim W. Weiss. - Essen : Gesamthochschulbibliothek Essen, 1981

  2. Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records / IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. - K.G. Saur, 1998