Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

LibraryThing and FRBR?

Jeremy and I just finished writing a long post, LibraryThing dives into editions and expressions, laying out our plans to move LibraryThing to a new structure reminiscent in some ways of the FRBR system familiar to many librarians. Anyone interested in FRBR and cataloging might be interested in checking it out.

LibraryThing has long had a FRBR-like system, with three rather than four “levels,” and some differences in how the levels are conceived. The system is managed by members, and has achieved remarkable results. We believe, for example, that our ThingISBN service, produces better other-edition data for a book than OCLC’s xISBN service, which lacks user input. (Also, ours is free; they charge—but I digress.)

It’s time, however, to move to a more complex system, which can do everything members want to do. Go ahead and check out the discussion.

I posted here because I think the question should engage the larger library world. LibraryThing is a unique test-bed for ideas, and a potential source of both inspiration and actual organization for libraries.

Some questions for librarians:

1. How do you see the system agreeing with or differing from FRBR?
2. What FRBR-related ideas should we take a look at?
3. Which will happen first, RDA or LibraryThing’s new system? (joke)

Labels: cataloging, frbr


  1. I suggest keeping we librarians out of it altogether and leave LT to the collectors

  2. Its great to see that people are sharing quite profitable information with each other and now we can move our selves to a new era.

  3. Ron Murray says:

    LibraryThing is working its way towards a kind of “evolutionary” model for shared resource description. The notion of a Work is several hundred years old (check the OED), so it was just a matter of time before LT folks found it handy to describe aspects of their books in those terms.

    The idea of an Expression-level description is trickier. It helps to consider one as describing the “mode of languaging” employed to communicate. But since LT is mostly about text/print media (and not, say, sign language), Expression-level descriptions may never fully enter the LT scene.

    As long as LT folks appreciate the unfolding need and are happy to fill in the blanks as they begin to make sense, its a good thing.