Resource Description and Access (RDA) has been a major topic in the library world since the early 2000s.  In more recent years, the topic of Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) has been added to the discussion.  Two recurring themes crop up on the Library.Solution listserv, in support phone calls, and at TLCU conferences:  What are catalogers going to do about RDA?  What is TLC going to do about RDA?  This latter question is actually the crux of this paper -- because often I feel what is actually being asked is “How is TLC going to leverage RDA to display FRBR-ized data?”

To introduce myself, I am the Product Owner of Cataloging at The Library Corporation.  Before coming to TLC in May 2011, I was head cataloger at Corvallis-Benton County Public Library for 10 years, where I was a customer of TLC.  I graduated from the University of Washington in 2000 with a Masters in Library and Information Science and a concentration in cataloging and authority control.  Throughout my career, I have approached cataloging first in terms of end-user goals - can people search for and access what they’re looking for? - and second, how bibliographic data supports those goals.  Dianne Coan, Product Owner of LS2 PAC, LS2 Kids, and LS2 Mobile Web also piped in on this paper in several areas, as many of these concepts directly relate to how cataloged data does, might, could, display in the PAC.

What is (and isn’t) RDA?

The first draft of RDA, published in 2003, was actually intended as a revision of AACR2 and was titled AACR3.  RDA is not a replacement of MARC; it is a set of guidelines for how to enter data into MARC records.  RDA is not in itself intended for display in online catalogs; it is an encoding standard for catalogers.  RDA is a set of standardized rules -- FRBR is a conceptual model for how those rules might support enhanced online catalog displays.

When thinking of how to describe the differences, I think about those home improvement shows on HGTV, where they are both reconstructing the space and redecorating it.  RDA is the addition or removal of walls, windows, and doors.  It is modifying the wiring and the plumbing.  It is the framing of the space with the necessary underpinnings, like walls and electricity.  FRBR is redecorating the space -- painting the walls, hanging the pictures, getting just the right furniture -- all the stuff that can’t be done without the structure in place.  If you prefer to read the more formal version, the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) for RDA (formerly the JSC for AACR2) publishes information on their site at

And what is TLC doing in support of RDA?

When the Library of Congress (LC) releases MARC updates that modify how data should be entered and where that data should be entered, TLC includes those updates in its software.  LC began including RDA fields beginning with MARC Update 9, in 2008.  To date, the difference between RDA and AACR2 consists of 14 new bibliographic fields, 29 revised bibliographic fields, 17 new authority fields and 8 updated code lists.  (You can find a description of all RDA changes here:  All of the changes are updated in the Cataloger's Reference Shelf and in Library.Solution Cataloging Help (F1).  The new MARC bibliographic fields are also displayable in PAC as part of the title details.

Wait, I thought RDA was supposed to have this cool new way of displaying?

That is RDA’s flashier cousin, FRBR (pronounced fur-burr), which stands for Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records.  It is a model for how to display bibliographic data for access and retrieval by the user.  FRBR is conceptual, it is not a set of rules.  If you want to delve deeper, a good summary of what FRBR is and is not can be found at IFLA’s FRBR Review Group’s frequently asked questions.  Conceptually, FRBR provides relationships between different editions, translations, publications, and formats of the same content.  There is a mind-boggling array of relations I could go into, but that is for another time.

Okay then, what is TLC doing about FRBR?

This is the really exciting area.  If I had my way, I would change FRBR to mean Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Relationships, because relationships between sets of bibliographic data is really what display is all about.  Think about when you are searching for something on the internet.  Is your first step always to find it?  What if what you’re looking for is not a known item?  What if you just want a good book to read?  You want to have some assurance you might actually like the book, but maybe all the information you have is other books or authors or topics you like reading.  How do commercial sites like Amazon and Netflix or library-related resources such as NoveList help the user go from wanting something to finding something?  By providing relationships.  This is what I am thinking about.  Dianne, the LS2 PAC product owner, is also thinking about this, as are others at TLC.

Just thinking, huh?

Did I mention the mind-boggling array of relations?  The views expressed here are mine.  They are not necessarily the opinions of TLC nor should they be taken as promises for future development.  Now with that disclaimer, I am going to point out a couple of places where TLC is already working in this area.

LS2 Kids Series already is using the concepts of creating relationships where we humans know they exist, but maybe there is not enough data in the local MARC record to create that relationship.  For instance, LS2 Kids includes “Series of Unfortunate Events” as one of its series.  In that series, not only are the English language books included, but also foreign language versions of the same titles, different formats (book, large print, recorded books, etc), the Jim Carey movie.  These are all related in some manner.  All of these relationships are curated by TLC at this time.

eBiblioFile also uses the concepts of creating relationships for efficient delivery of eBook records.  Using both a more formal matching algorithm and a more automated process than LS2 Kids, eBiblioFile is able to create relationships between incoming raw data and MARC records.

TLC is using MARC data to inform the relationships between formats, editions, and other elements of particular titles.  But what if we could go beyond that?  What if we could develop algorithms and APIs to reveal even more relationships and support serendipitous discovery like never before?  It may sound out there, but if you can imagine it, you can achieve it.

Anything else I need to know?

There are more terms you may hear, such as WEMI (work, entity, manifestation, item), FRAD (Functional requirements for authority data), or Linked Data, all as part of the conversation around RDA and how to use and display the data.  Institutions outside of libraries are already delving into FRBR-esque relationships using data from outside MARC records.  The biggest takeaway I can suggest from this paper is this:  TLC product owners are both excited and passionate about the opportunities with RDA, FRBR, and data relationships; in any work we do, we will blend the best of the library world’s controlled and well formed data with the best of the general software industry; we are committed to including our customers as part of the development process.  Expect to see invitations and opportunities to discuss your ideas with TLC on how you would like to see some of the concepts discussed here expressed through our software.  Hang on to your hats, it is about to get fun!


Glossary of Terms


The long name is Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative, which was launched by The Library of Congress and is a review of the bibliographic framework to better accommodate future needs.  A major focus of the initiative will be to determine a transition path for the MARC 21 exchange format in order to reap the benefits of newer technology while preserving a robust data exchange that has supported resource sharing and cataloging cost savings in recent decades.


FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Data) is the authority world’s attempt at a conceptual model for authority records based on FRBR principles to authority records.  FRAD defines names, controlled access points and other identifiers with expanded descriptions.  Linked Data (see below) may ultimately be more effective in defining these relationships.


FRBR stands for Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, which is a conceptual model for displaying relationships between bibliographic data for access and retrieval by the user.  FRBR is conceptual, it is not a set of rules.  FRBR’s relationship to RDA is not as concrete as general rhetoric in the library world can lead you to believe.  In other words, a correctly encoded RDA record does not result in a FRBR display.  FRBR was developed by IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) and they provide a good summary of what FRBR is and is not in their FRBR Review Group’s frequently asked questions.


The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is a leading international association of library organisations.  It is a global voice of the library and information profession, and its annual conference provides a venue for librarians to learn from one another.  The IFLA forum promotes international cooperation, research and development in all fields related to library activities.


JSC (Joint Steering Committee for the Development of RDA) is the governing body behind development of RDA.  This committee has final determination over what RDA fields are added to each MARC21 update.  The committee consists of members from American Library Association, Australian Committee on Cataloguing, The British Library, Canadian Committee on Cataloging, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, and Library of Congress.  http://www.rdajsc. org/members.html

Linked Data

Linked Data is about using the Web to connect related data that wasn't previously linked, or using the Web to lower the barriers to linking data currently linked using other methods.  More specifically, Wikipedia defines Linked Data as "a term used to describe a recommended best practice for exposing, sharing, and connecting pieces of data, information, and knowledge on the Semantic Web using URIs and RDF."


RDA stands for Resource Description and Access and is the successor to AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition) which was published in 1978.  The first draft of RDA, published in 2003, was actually intended as a revision of AACR2 and was titled AACR3.  Going even further back, the original concept of an American cataloging rule book dates back to 1900 when the Library of Congress was preparing to introduce printed catalog cards and needed to ensure various catalogers were recording data consistently.

User Tasks

For RDA, the JSC developed a conceptual framework defining the actions a user takes to find something was developed.  These four User Tasks are defined as:  Find resources that match the search criteria entered, Identify that the resource found corresponds to the resource sought, Select the resource that is appropriate for the user’s needs, and Obtain the actual resource.


WEMI (Work, Entity, Manifestation, Item) is an entity-relationship model (Work, Entity, Manifestation, Item).  IFLA gives the following definition of WEMI:  “The entities defined as work (a distinct intellectual or artistic creation) and expression (the intellectual or artistic realization of a work) reflect intellectual or artistic content.  The entities defined as manifestation (the physical embodiment of an expression of a work) and item (a single exemplar of a manifestation), on the other hand, reflect physical form.”  A real-world example may help clarify:  Romeo and Juliet is a work conceived of by William Shakespeare.  An illustrated edition of Romeo and Juliet written by Shakespeare is an expression of that work.  A manifestation of this expression is the 1989 Penguin edition.  The item is the actual book, sitting on the shelf, with a call number and barcode.

To return:

Further Reading on RDA:  Contents