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FRBR Implementation and User Research

Yin Zhang, Imma Subirats, Athena Salaba, Claudia Nicolai, Marcia Zeng, Diane Hillmann, Maja Zumer and Diane Neal

(Submission #75)


The IFLA Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) conceptual model, published in 1998, focuses on the representation of the bibliographic universe, using an entity-relationship model [1]. It has direct and great impact to the whole area of knowledge organization, especially the description, access, and sharing of bibliographic resources. As a conceptual model, FRBR is subject to various interpretations and implementations. This panel will focus on practical aspects of FRBR and related user studies: FRBR model validation, FRBR user research, FRBR/FAO model implementation and benefits, and RDA vocabulary developments based on FRBR.

FRBR, FRAD, FRSAD, RDA, user study, FRBR implementation

The presenters in this panel have been directly involved in FRBR development and research. Their short biographies and presentation descriptions are listed below, arranged in presentation order. 

1. FRBR Family Models and an FRBR Model Validation User Study

Maja Žumer, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Short biography: Maja Žumer is Professor of Information Science at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). Her research interests include design and evaluation of information retrieval systems, end-user interfaces, and conceptual modeling. She has been involved in IFLA working groups, NISO committees, and several EU projects. She has received several international and national research grants. She is a member of IFLA FRBR Review Group, chair of the IFLA Working Group for Guidelines for National Bibliographies in the Digital Age and co-chair of IFLA Working Group on the Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records (FRSAR).

Presentation description: Maja Zumer will first report on the recent developments of FRBR family models, including FRBR[1], Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD)[2], and Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (FRSAD)[3]. She will then present a user study of FRBR conducted at the University of Ljubljana. The research focused on non-librarians' mental models of the bibliographic universe and compared them with the FRBR model. While FRBR is declaratively user-oriented, no user studies were performed during its development. The study presented is the first verification of the model. Three different methods of mental model elicitation were used: card sorting, concept mapping and direct comparison of pairs of publications. The results confirm that users have different mental models, which also develop over time, but on average they are similar to FRBR. This study offers empirical evidence that the FRBR model is appropriate for end-users. 

2. FRBR User Research and a User Study on Evaluating FRBR Based Catalogs

Yin Zhang and Athena Salaba, School of Library and Information Science, Kent State University

Short biographies: Dr. Yin Zhang is a Professor at the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University. Her research and teaching areas include user information-seeking behavior, information systems, and information organization. Her articles have appeared in a variety of journals, including Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, Library Quarterly, and Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology. She and Dr. Salaba have been working on the FRBR research project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The research project addresses the crucial need for developing effective tools in general and effective library catalogs in particular that support user tasks in the electronic environment. They recently published a book on implementing FRBR in libraries. 

Athena Salaba is an Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University. Her research interests include organization of information, knowledge organization systems, and information-seeking behavior. She teaches courses in Organization of Information, Cataloging & Classification, Metadata, and Digital Libraries. Dr. Salaba has a number of publications and presentations on FRBR, FRSAD, subject access to information, and knowledge organization systems (controlled vocabularies). She and Dr. Yin Zhang have received a three-year IMLS Research Grant for FRBR Research and Development. She is serving as the Co-chair and Secretary of the IFLA Working Group on the Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records (FRSAR). 

Presentation description: FRBR user research and evaluation is essential to a better understanding of the FRBR model and development of systems that support user information seeking. However, FRBR-related user research is the least addressed area in FRBR research and development [4]. Zhang and Salaba will report on various user studies that have been conducted in this area. In particular, they will focus on user evaluations of online catalogs based on the FRBR model and identify useful options for FRBR implementation from user perspectives, the results of which will contribute to the development of more effective online catalogs and information systems in the future. 

3. FRBR/FAO Model Implementation and Benefits 

Imma Subirats and Claudia Nicolai, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations

Short biographies: Imma Subirats has been an information and knowledge management specialist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations since 2006. She holds an MSc in History and Library and Information Science. She is responsible for the content management of the FAO Open Archive (FAO OA) project [5], leading the integration of international standards such as MODS and FRBR. She is actively involved in the promotion of open access in agriculture and related sciences, notably through the CIARD network, assuring the quality of repository content through implementing metadata standards, thesauri, and other forms of authority control. She is also the co-founder and the Executive Coordinator of E-LIS (E-prints in Library and Information Science), the largest open archive in library and information science.

Claudia Nicolai is an information management officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. She is currently responsible for the technical implementation of the FAO Open Archive (FAO OA). Her interests focus on the implementation and management of digital repositories (and the corporate workflow system that constitute their backbone), metadata and data structure.

Presentation description: Imma Subirats and Claudia Nicolai will share their implementation experience of the FRBR-based FAO Open Archive (OA) content model, focusing on the user benefits. Within the FAO OA framework, there are two types of users: those who generate information (catalogers) and those who use it (end-users). The FRBR implementation helps reduce the time consumed during cataloguing (e.g. adding subjects only to Work) and create richer relationships among documents. Given the special nature of the FAO collection, which often includes each of its publications in all six official languages, the FRBR entity Expression streamlines the creation of efficient relationships among all of the language variants. This helps end-users with enhanced searches, easier access to the documents, and better delivery of the proper content in the proper language. The FAO OA also integrates an authority control system in order to provide a more efficient management of multilingual names and support the use of hierarchical and historical relationships for corporate bodies, conferences, projects, journals and series forms. 

4. RDA Vocabulary Developments Based on FRBR

Diane Hillmann, Metadata Management Associates and Information Institute of Syracuse

Short biography: Diane Hillmann is currently Director of Metadata Initiatives at the Information Institute of Syracuse and partner in the consulting firm Metadata Management Associates. From 1977 to 2008 she was associated with Cornell University Library, as a Law cataloger and technical services manager, as well as managing authorities and maintenance processes for the Cornell Library’s database. She also participated in the Cornell portion of the National Science Digital Library Core Infrastructure as Director of Library Services and Operations between 2000-2005. Diane was a liaison to and member of MARBI from the late 1980s to 2000, specializing in the Holdings and Authorities formats, which lead to her early participation in the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. She is currently editor of "Using Dublin Core," a former member of the DCMI Usage Board and currently a member of DCMI’s Advisory Board. Hillmann edited (with Elaine Westbrooks) “Metadata in Practice,” published by ALA Editions (2004), and publishes frequently on digital library and metadata issues.

Presentation description: Hillmann will discuss the work of the DCMI/RDA Task Group[6]. The Joint Steering Committee (JSC) for the Development of RDA (Resource Description and Access) decided to align the structure of RDA more directly with the FRBR and FRAR in 2005[7]. The DCMI/RDA Task Group has been building the formalized RDA Element Sets Vocabularies under an agreement with the RDA Committee of Principals and the Joint Committee for the Development of RDA finalized in May of 2007. The Task Group, co-chaired by Hillmann and Gordon Dunsire of the University of Strathclyde, has been concerned with building vocabulary structures that will fulfill the need of libraries for a modern data structure, based on FRBR, and in addition engage the Semantic Web in finding ways to build on library experience. Despite the plethora of information made available about the RDA guidance text, not much has been available in the usual venues about the vocabularies themselves, the strategies used to provide the FRBR structure explicitly within them, and the potential they represent as the first large-scale implementation of FRBR in libraries. 

Yin Zhang, Kent State University. 
(See biography in presentations section)

Athena Salaba, Kent State University. 
(See biography in presentations section)

Marcia Zeng, Kent State University. Marcia Zeng is Professor of School of Library and Information Science of Kent State University. She currently chairs the ASIST Standards Committee and the IFLA Working Group on the Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records (FRSAR). She is a member of the Executive Board of the International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO) and the Advisory Board of Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI).

Diane Neal, University of Western Ontario. Diane Neal’s research interests include image and music tagging, online health information seeking, and user-centered design. A former information technology professional and systems librarian, she teaches courses in information organization, database systems, Web usability, and research methods. She is the Director of Prometheus-Information Science, a branch of the Sydney, Australia-based Prometheus Research Team. She currently serves as Chair of SIG CR and Past Chair of SIG VIS, and is on the Advisory Board for the Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

[1] FRBR. Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Final Report. (1998). IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. München: KG Saur. Available at: 
[2] FRAD. Functional Requirements for Authority Data - A Conceptual Model. (2009). IFLA Working Group on Functional Requirements and Numbering of Authority Records (FRANAR), ed. by Glenn E. Patton. München: K.G. Saur.
[3] FRSAD. Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data (2010). Available at:
[4] Zhang, Y. & Salaba, A. (2009). What is next for Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR)? A Delphi Study. Library Quarterly, 79(2), 233-255.
[5] The FAO Open Archive: Enhancing Access to FAO Publications Using International Standards and Exchange Protocols. Available at:
[6] DCMI/RDA Task Group. Available:
[7] Joint Steering Committee (JSC) for the Development of RDA: Resource Description and Access Available at:


Program Track:  Track 2 - Knowledge Organization
Submission Type:  Panel Proposal

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