[open-bibliography] More verbs. Electronic 'Items' (Yes, another FRBR thread)

Weinheimer Jim j.weinheimer at aur.edu
Tue Jul 13 11:23:50 BST 2010

Dan Matei wrote:
> For these sorts of reasons, I personally have major
> theoretical problems with the concept of "manifestation"
> especially with practical effects when applied generally. I
> see the "manifestation" primarily as a throwback to the
> catalog/unit card, and I think there are far better ways of
> handling them with modern tools.

Name them for this case, please.

I believe that the problem lies with the very concept of the "manifestation" which I have tried to show here and in other places, that it has always been merely a matter of *definition* and not a matter of any fact. There has always been this dichotomy in cataloging anyway, e.g. to use FRBR terminology:

Work/Expression (are abstractions. I cannot point to the *work* "Crime and Punishment* or any "Expression")
Manifestation/Item (are physical things. I can point to an Item containing "Crime and Punishment" and these items are combined into the "Manifestation")

Library practice *assumes* that specific changes in the physical item means a change in the abstraction (which has always been known to be incorrect, but otherwise, the task was impossible). What are these specific changes? What I mentioned before: changes in title page transcription, dates, and so on. Different organizations have different definitions for this, and even in AACR2/LCRI cataloging, there was a major change in recording paging practices (we stopped counting plates in many cases) so therefore, one day a book with plates was considered a different manifestation, but after this new directive, they suddenly become copies. (I remember how horrified I was!  :-)  ) As I have tried to show with the LCRI 1.0 and the ALA guidelines (plus many others out there) determining if something is a new edition or copy (or in FRBR terms manifestation or item) is both difficult to learn and to do, plus it is semi-capricious.

So, this led me to consider if there really is such a thing as a "manifestation" and if not, what is it? I have decided that the manifestation is a continuation of the hand-made catalog/unit card, which was used to summarize a collection's holdings. In reality, the "manifestation" is nothing more than a *group display of the items*. There is no single way of defining the group, and there are additional problems with manually determining manifestations, and can be very difficult to teach.

[Since I am the historian, I want to point out that in the past, there was a lot of interest to keep the number of cards to a minimum, for various reasons, and  often, there were notes leading the searcher to the "main entry card" where other editions etc. could be found. I tried to find a good example in Princeton's scanned catalog, but could only find this: http://tinyurl.com/25ms8u3 where it says, For more information see main card.]

My question is: if the manifestation is only a matter of definitions (IF title, publication information, dates etc. are all the same, then it is a duplicate; or if the date is within x number of years, it is a copy, and so on and so on) it seems as if this would be a perfect candidate for automatic sorting and display. If people (or computers) create the metadata record, they would always copy *exactly what they see* and instead of puzzling out which "manifestation" this item belongs to manually, let the machine sort out the displays.

What would this mean in reality: most information currently in the manifestation would go to the item, and then when processing the item (using xml, rdf, RDBMS or whatever) any information that is the same as in another item would be replaced with a URI to that information. As far as displays of the "group of items" goes, that could be left to the discretion of each database manager.

I think instituting something like this would make it far easier both for creating records and training, while everything would be much more accurate than what we have now.

But again, I don't think anything will change on this.

James L. Weinheimer  j.weinheimer at aur.edu
Director of Library and Information Services
The American University of Rome
Rome, Italy

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