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FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records)


Following the Stockholm Seminar on Bibliographic Records, an |IFLA Study Group was set up to study the functional requirements for bibliographic records. It's terms of reference were: to delineate in clearly defined terms the functions performed by the bibliographic record with respect to various media, various applications, and various user needs. For the purposes of the study the bibliographic record was defined as encompassing not only descriptive elements, but also access points (name, title, subject, etc.), other 'organizing' elements (classification, etc.) and annotations. An IFLA report on the findings of the Study Group, 'Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records', was published in 1996. The main points of the report are summarised here.

Functions of a bibliographic record

  • Using the data to find materials that correspond to the user's stated search criteria (e.g. in the context of a search for all documents on a given subject, or a search for a recording issued under a particular title).
  • Using the data retrieved to identify an entity (e.g. to confirm that the document described in the record corresponds to the document sought by the user, or to distinguish between two texts or recordings that have the same title.
  • Using the data to select an entity that is appropriate to the user's needs (e.g. to select a text in a language that the user understands, or to choose a version of a computer program that is compatible with the hardware and operating system available to the user).
  • Using the data in order to acquire or obtain access to the entity described (e.g. to place a purchase order for a publication, to submit a request for the loan of a copy of a book in a library's collection, or to access on-line an electronic document stored on a remote computer).

An entity analysis technique was used to create an entity-relationship model for bibliographic records. Entities fall into three groups.

  • The products of intellectual or artistic endeavour that are named or described in bibliographic records: works, expressions, manifestations and items.
  • Entities responsible for the intellectual or artistic content of such products: persons and corporate bodies.
  • Entities that form the subject of intellectual or artistic endeavour: concepts, objects, events and places. By extension, this group also includes entities in the other two groups that may themselves be the subject of intellectual or artistic endeavour.

For each entity a set of logical attributes has been defined. These are the data elements that appear in bibliographic records. Some attributes are only required when describing a certain types of works, expressions, manifestations or items, for example musical works or cartographic works.

The report also defines relationships between the entities; for example, a manifestation may be a reproduction of another manifestation, works may be successors to other works, or an adaptation of another work, and items may be bound with other items.

The potential of FRBR can be illustrated by imagining how a database on FRBR lines would present the outcome of a search for the work 'Lord of the Rings'. By searching for the work, user can eliminate related works (e.g. W.H. Auden's 'Good and evil in The lord of the rings') and false drops (e.g. Lord Peter rings the changes). For example, the results could show the following work level records:

The Lord of the Rings / J.R.R. Tolkein [Book]
The Lord of the Rings. Part 1. The fellowship of the ring / J.R.R. Tolkein [Book]
The Lord of the Rings. Part 2. The two towers / J.R.R. Tolkein [Book]
The Lord of the Rings. Part 3. The Return of the King / J.R.R. Tolkein [Book]
The Lord of the Rings / John Clare [Music]
The Lord of the Rings [Cards]
The Lord of the Rings. Theme / Stephen Oliver [Music]

Only 7 records are presented, enabling the searcher to choose in which direction to pursue the search. If the user is interested in different translations of the work, these may be viewed at the expression level.

The Lord of the Rings / J.R.R. Tolkein. [English]
Pán prstenu / J.R.R. Tolkein, trans. Stanislava Pošustovà. [Czech]
Ringenes herre. / J.R.R. Tolkein, trans. Ida Nyrop Ludvigsen. [Danish]
Le seigneur des anneaux / J.R.R. Tolkein, trans. Francis Ledoux. [French]
Wladca pierscieni. / J.R.R. Tolkein, trans. Maria Skibniewska. [Polish]
Sagan om ringen. J.R.R. Tolkein, trans. Åke Ohlmarks. [Swedish]

There are two manifestations of the Czech translation, a samizdat edition from the 1980s, and another published between 1990 and 1992. If the user doesn't want a specific edition, a request could be placed from the expression level record. There is also the option to go down to the item level, if one's requirements are very specific, for example an autographed copy or a copy with annotations by the author.

The power of the model is very evident when applied to non-book material which exists in multiple expressions, such as performances of classical music and transcriptions of texts and music scores into accessible formats such as Braille, Moon, spoken word recordings and large print and multiple manifestations, such as different digital formats.


An abstract entity: there is no single material object one can point to as a work. In referring to Homer's Iliad as a work, the point of reference is the intellectual creation that lies behind all the various expressions of the work.

Where the modification of a work involves a significant degree of independent intellectual or artistic effort, a new work is created.

  • Paraphrases, rewritings, adaptations for children, parodies.
  • Musical variations on a theme and free transcriptions of a musical composition.
  • Adaptations of a work from one literary or art form to another (e.g. dramatization, adaptations, etc.)
  • Abstracts, summaries and digests.

Attributes of a work are: title, form (e.g. novel, poem, play, biography, symphony, map, drawing, painting), date, other distinguishing characteristic, intended audience, context for work, medium of performance (musical work), numeric designation (musical work), key (musical work), coordinates (cartographic work) and equinox (cartographic work).


The intellectual or artistic realization of a work in the form of alpha-numeric, musical or choreographic notation, sound, image, object, movement, etc. or any combination of such forms. A work may have several expressions.

  • Variant texts incorporating revisions or updates to an earlier text.
  • Abridgements or enlargements of an existing text.
  • The addition of parts or an accompaniment to a musical composition.
  • Translations from one language to another.
  • Musical transcriptions and arrangements.
  • Dubbed or subtitled versions of films.

Attributes of an expression are: title, form, date, language, other distinguishing characteristic, extent, summarization of content, context, critical response, user restrictions, type of score, medium of performance, scale, projection, presentation technique, representation of relief, geodetic, grid and vertical measurement, recording technique, special characteristic, technique.


A manifestation is the physical embodiment of an expression of a work. This encompasses a wide range of materials, including manuscripts, books, periodicals, maps, posters, sound recordings, films, video recordings, CD-ROMs, multimedia kits, etc. A manifestation represents all the physical objects that bear the same characteristics, in respect to both intellectual content and physical form.

In some cases there may only be a single physical exemplar of the manifestation.

  • An author's manuscript
  • A tape recorded for an oral history archive
  • An original oil painting

In other cases multiple copies are produced to facilitate public dissemination or distribution. The number of copies made can vary from a few to, in the case of some books, very large print runs.

  • Print run of a book or a poster
  • Copies of a sculpture made from the same cast
  • Distribution copies of a film

A new manifestation is created when there are changes in the physical form.

  • Changes in typeface, font size and page layout
  • Changes in physical medium (from paper to microfilm)
  • Changes in container (from cassette to cartridge for a tape)
  • A change in publisher

Changes that occur to an individual copy after the production process is complete (e.g. the loss of a page or rebinding) are not considered to produce a new manifestation. That copy is considered to be an exemplar (item) of the manifestation that is defective or altered.

The attributes of a manifestation are: title, statement of responsibility, edition/issue designation, place of publication/distribution, date of publication/distribution, fabricator/manufacturer, series statement, form of carrier, extent of carrier, physical medium, recording mode, dimensions of carrier, manifestation identifier, source for acquisition or access authorization, terms of availability, access restrictions on the manifestation, typeface, type size, foliation, collation, numbering, frequency of issue, regularity of issue, playing speed, groove width, kind of cutting, tape configuration, kind of sound, special reproduction characteristic, colour, reduction ratio, polarity, generation, presentation format, system requirements, file characteristics, mode of access, access address.


An item is a single exemplar of a manifestation. It may be a single physical object or a group of physical objects.

  • A copy of a one-volume monograph
  • A single audio cassette
  • A monograph issued as two separately bound volumes
  • A book and accompanying CD-Rom
  • The components of a multimedia kit

The attributes for an item are: item identifier, provenance of the item, marks/inscriptions, exhibition history, condition, treatment history, scheduled, treatment, and access restrictions on the item.


This is an individual, either living or deceased. There are those who are involved in the creation or realization of a work (authors, composers, artists, editors, translators, directors, performers, etc.) and those who are the subject of a work (e.g. biography, autobiography, a history, etc.). The person is named and identified in a consistent way, independently of how the individual's name appears on or in a particular expression or manifestation of a work.

The attributes of a person are: name, dates, title and other designation.

Corporate bodies

These are organizations or groups of individuals and/or organizations acting as a group. They include (a) groups that are constituted as meetings, conferences, congresses, expeditions, festivals, fairs, etc., and (b) organizations that act as territorial authorities and exercise, or claim to exercise, government functions. Such bodies may be defunct or still operating. They are either involved in the creation or realization of a work or are the subject of a work. The corporate body is named and identified in a consistent way, independently of how it appears on or in a particular expression or manifestation of a work.

The attributes of a corporate body are: name, other designation associated with the body, and the number, place and date of meetings.


A concept is an abstract notion or idea, that may be broad in nature or narrowly defined, that is the subject of a work. Concepts derive from fields of knowledge, disciplines, schools of thought (philosophies, religions, political ideologies, etc.), theories, processes, techniques, practices, etc. The concept is named and identified in a consistent way, independently of how it appears on or in a particular expression or manifestation of a work.

The attribute for concept is: the term for the concept.


An object is a material thing that is the subject of a work. Objects include animate and inanimate objects occurring in nature, fixed, movable and moving objects that are the product of human creation, and object that no longer exist. The subject is named and identified in a consistent way, independently of how it appears on or in a particular expression or manifestation of a work.

The attribute for object is: the term for the object.


An event is an action or occurrence that is the subject of a work. Events include historical events, epochs, periods of time, etc. The event is named and identified in a consistent way, independently of how it appears on or in a particular expression or manifestation of a work.

The attribute for event is: the term for the event.


A place is a location that is the subject of a work. Locations include terrestrial and extra-terrestrial places, historical and contemporary places, geographic features and geo-political jurisdictions. The place is named and identified in a consistent way, independently of how it appears on or in a particular expression or manifestation of a work.

The attribute for place is: the term for the place.

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Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 08-Jun-2005
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