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Hierarchical Catalog Records (19 Oct 2005)
Current online library catalog interfaces present many problems for searching. One commonly cited failure is the inability to find and collocate all versions of a distinct intellectual work that exist in a collection and the inability to take into account known variations in titles and personal names (Yee 2005). The IFLA Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) attempts to address some of these failings by introducing the concept of multiple interrelated bibliographic entities (IFLA 1998). In particular, relationships between abstract intellectual works and the various published instances of those works are divided into a four-level hierarchy of works (such as the Aeneid), expressions (Robert Fitzgerald's translation of the Aeneid), manifestations (a particular paperback edition of Robert Fitzgerald's translation of the Aeneid), and items (my copy of a particular paperback edition of Robert Fitzgerald's translation of the Aeneid). In this formulation, each level in the hierarchy "inherits" information from the preceding level.

Much of the work on FRBRized catalogs so far has focused on organizing existing records that describe individual physical books. Relatively little work has gone into rethinking what information should be in catalog records, or how the records should relate to each other. It is clear, however, that a more "native" FRBR catalog would include separate records for works, expressions, manifestations, and items. In this way, all information about a work would be centralized in one record. Records for subsequent expressions of that work would add only the information specific to each expression: Samuel Butler's translation of the Iliad does not need to repeat the fact that the work was written by Homer. This approach has certain inherent advantages for collections with many versions of the same works: new publications can be cataloged more quickly, and records can be stored and updated more efficiently.
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