Semantic Web and Libraries
26 Library Systems Seminar
Rome, 17-19 April 2002

FRBR and the revision of the Italian Author Cataloguing Rules (RICA)

  • 1. Italian Author Cataloguing Rules (RICA, Regole italiane di catalogazione per autori) and their revision
  • The Italian code of cataloguing rules (Regole italiane di catalogazione per autori, RICA), drafted by a Commission appointed by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and including representatives from various kinds of libraries, was approved by the Ministry in 1978 and published by ICCU (Istituto centrale per il catalogo unico) in 1979.

    RICA, as far as the majority of codes born, bred and educated along the guidelines of 1961 Paris Principles, have represented a national consistent set of requirements; their features, soundly based for authors’ choice and structure on such recommendations and reflecting the development of the ISBD’s guidelines in the same years, favored their viability in all kinds of libraries over the country.

    Since 1981 BNI’s (Italian National Bibliography) records are created according to RICA’s provisions. The approx. 1.400 libraries involved in SBN (Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale, the on line Italian union catalogue) are using them too. RICA can therefore be considered as a national cataloguing code, based upon international principles, of almost universal application in the country.

    In order to keep RICA updated with international developments and changes in media, publication patterns and catalogue forms and technologies, a Standing Commission for their revision and evolution was set up in 1997 by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and is hosted and supported by ICCU. More information and documentation can be found in the Commission website (

    The Standing Commission has thoroughly analyzed RICA’s text in the light of cataloguing developments in the last twenty-five years, at the international and national level, and felt the need for a new logical framework for the code, with clearer distinctions between the various steps of cataloguing (from the item level to authority work).

    From this point of view, the FRBR model seemed to provide an attractive general framework and was analyzed in depth by the Commission. The Italian code, in fact, is already providing for some of the FRBR requirements (e.g., uniform titles for the identification of anonymous works), but such provisions are largely optional and often ignored or partially applied, also in automated files where possibilities are notably more extended that in the card catalogues of the past. RICA are mainly dedicated to the choice and form of author/title headings; the new structure that we are drafting will still be dealing mainly with access points, including all kind of responsibilities linked to new materials/media. For descriptive cataloguing, the rules will continue supplying guidance only at a general level, referring for more detailed provisions to the various specialized ISBDs. Different cataloguing levels will also be proposed.

    The study on the application of the FRBR model as a general framework for a new caloguing code is still in progress, because – as resulting in the following pages – there are various areas of concern, both at the more theoretical level and from a practical point of view.

    The Standing Commission wishes to thank the Cataloguing Workgroup of the Italian Library Association (AIB) for their valuable contribution and Tom Delsey, to whom we must express our deep gratitude for the assistance, support, and consultancy supplied during the various phases of the work. The analysis of FRBR implementation problems in part 4 of this paper is heavily indebted to Delsey's suggestions. The Commission would also like to have Archives and Museums representatives involved in the process of analysis, as active parts of the information community.


  • 2. FRBR model’s innovations with regard to its application to a catalogue
  • The analysis has been mainly focused on the following points:


  • 3. Problems encountered, solutions envisaged, questions to be more widely discussed for the model’s application
  • 3.1. Redundancy and cost/benefits considerations
  • We have on one side a trend to favor minimal level descriptions, on the other the FRBR input to improve records and access points, reflecting in greater depth the relationships between entities and persons or bodies responsible for creating or realizing them. It seems that the two goals do pull in opposite directions. For this reason, each cataloguing agency has to determine how much it is prepared to invest in the cataloguing of an item. What FRBR tries to do is to provide a better understanding of the data that may be included in the catalogue record and to give some indication of the relative functional value of those data elements (or more correctly, of the attributes to which the data correspond) so that libraries, according to their tasks, users destination and resources available can make more informed decisions about where to focus their investments.

    However, at least for the first problem, concerning "unicellular families", it may be possibile to structure the database enabling the input of a single "package" of data from which users will obtain bibliographic information, actually included in the database, without duplication and without intermediate display levels offering only one expression of a given work or only a manifestation of this expression, instead of the complete set.

    It has been discussed the proposal of creating, within and besides the full scale FRBR application, a less than full model, with basic data to be incrementally enhanced when the record will be re-used in a process of cooperating activities. The proposal – reported in par. 4 of this paper – would satisfy several different needs, included that of containing costs, sharing the creation of a complete FRBR record and modulating it according to libraries’ tasks, users and resources.


  • 3.2. Entity definitions and relations
  • The FRBR study introduced a neat distinction between entities of different types, the work, the expression and the manifestation.

    The distinction between the last two entities is based on a sharp division between the text (we would consider here, for sake of simplicity, only textual works) and the graphic form (font, page layout, etc.). However, this division is not as obvious or clear-cut as it may seems at first sight. Studies in book history had persuasively argued that the forms of the "typographical enunciation" have an influence on the message and so cannot be considered as extraneous to the meaning or intellectual content of a published work. Line divisions, emphasized passages or changes of typefaces may and usually do affect intellectual content: these may be slight changes, but not slighter than many changes between words, which are included – as we will see – in modifications giving origin to a new expression. In contemporary publishing, a book is very often "built up" in the publishing house, rather than merely formatted for printing, and almost always the text prepared by the author undergoes some changes, at least as regards style conventions. In short, the published product (manifestation) appears to be a two-sided phenomenon, with content and form not really and neatly separable the one from the other, rather than a mere vehicle of a pre-existing and strictly identifiable entity (the expression). These considerations do not exclude, however, that multiple manifestations, while not strictly identical in content, could be grouped in a library catalogue as they will be equivalent for most practical purposes.

    According to FRBR "…, any change in intellectual or artistic content constitutes a change in expression [...] no matter how minor the modification may be".

    In theory, we could suppose that for each work there exist few (if not only one) versions or expressions, well distinguished and known, reproduced or reproducible without any textual variation in several manifestations. But this is not really the case. Textual criticism and analytical bibliography has demonstrated that textual variants can be found often in items belonging to the same edition (this is the rule in hand-printed books and not uncommon in modern books, at least in different printings), and a fortiori between different editions which are not explicitly presented as modified or revised.

    Therefore, if we were to check for the identity of specific words, sentences, etc. (and maybe punctuation marks, line breaks, etc.), we would exclude identity of expression for almost any set of manifestations, including sometimes also different printings and, at least for hand-printed books, different states in the same printing. This seems not only an obviously impracticable task, but a task not relevant to cataloguers and library catalogues.

    From both these lines of thought, it appears that bibliographic records and library catalogues may not be concerned with expressions as strictly defined on the basis of textual identity, but rather with substantial differences and (as far as possible) explicitly stated characteristics in manifestations. That is, with the grouping of those manifestations that, notwithstanding the fact that they could not be strictly identical in text (and generally they are not), form a recognizable subset – of interest to the users – within the larger set of manifestations embodying a specific work (e.g., unabridged editions in the original language, editions of a specific translation, etc.).

    In contemporary publishing, content differences of some consequence are usually reflected in edition statements (or in other title information and statements of responsibility), and consequently recorded in the bibliographic description of the manifestation. The information supplied in the manifestation itself is not always reliable, as we know, but it seems not feasible to check and emend it – except perhaps in the most simple cases of reprints – and expression information would mostly duplicate it. For older works, however, there is sometimes the need to distinguish between different families of texts, but is is doubtful that the same pattern could usefully be applied in both situations.

    In conclusion, some sorts of grouping of manifestations sharing significant differences in content, and so forming a subset of the manifestations of a certain work, seem to be worthwhile, but identity in content does not seem to be a proper and feasible criterion. In other words, in some situations it could be needed more than one hyerarchical level of grouping between work and manifestation (e.g. a music work, one of its written expressions and a particolar performance; and for a literary text the case of an author with many works of different nature: novels, comedies, tragedies etc.). Possibly those groupings could only be based on operational decisions taken in specific contexts, if not for specific cases (e.g., the identification of all translations, or of all recording sessions for music, etc.), and we may speculate that not a single pattern, but more than one, will be necessary to tackle the various faces of the multiple manifestations and crowded databases issue.


  • 3.3. Entity identification elements
  • Another point requiring more investigation is the standard formulation of identification data for some types of entities. In cataloguing practices, the experience is mostly limited to the definition of uniform titles for works issued in several editions bearing different titles proper, whereas FRBR model requires to examine two other areas concerning:

    1) the formulation of identifying elements for contributions, physically separated or separable from the main text (e.g., introduction, commentaries, etc.) materialized in the manifestation, which, at present, are not dealt with through uniform titles;

    2) the formulation of identifying elements for each different expression of a same work.

    The formulation of these identifying data (particularly the definition of: a structure, with its components, their sequence; as well as of the language to be used), in view of the practice of records re-use, should be agreed at international level.

    It appears unusual that an expression could be identified through a title of its own, different from that (or those) generally used in referring to the work. Even in the case of translations, we must notice that translated titles are used in ordinary language to refer to the work in general, not to versions in a specific tongue, and that the existence of more than one translation in the same language, with the same title, is not uncommon and cannot to be taken as an exception.

    What model shall we refer to in building up this heading?

    A model is offered by the uniform title, possibly with a wider range of qualifications and additions (as we are used to do in dealing with music works).

    Another one could be perhaps inspired by the ISBD outline. While we are not describing a physical object (the publication), we are as a matter of fact trying to organize informations which are mostly of the same kind of those contained in the first two areas of the ISBD: the work or works concerned, responsibilities, versions, dates, etc. Such information, in analogy with what has been done for ISBD, could be formalized and segmented, to build up a standard structure for the expression’s identification elements (in short, its "uniform title").

    Possibly a good compromise could be based on an "analytical-synthetic" approach: The uniform title of the expression would not be formulated with the amalgamation of the abovementioned elements – e.g., "Pride and prejudice, in Italian (translation by Giulio Caprin)" – but automatically formatted from a predetermined set of data elements in standard order. A tentative example (where all elements, except the first one, are optional) could be:

    [Title of the work] [kind of version] [language] [responsible for the version] [date].

    Many of these elements, if not all, are already present in a UNIMARC record and they could be retrieved and re-composed to this end. MARC formats are including also a range of qualifications related to the kind of responsibilities (author, editor, translator, etc.) which, together with other information (such as language and genre), could already permit in the majority of cases, the retrieval or selection of records related to particular expressions of a work. The characteristics of this approach requires in any case to be more deeply analyzed.


  • 4. A reduced FRBR model application
  • In order to tackle problems issued in par. 3.1 the Standing Commission formulated a proposal of creating a sort of temporary record in progress, incorporating originally uniquely the basic required data of the model. The record, provided some conditions are present, will be successively incrementally enhanced, along the outline indicated by the FRBR full frame. A tailored model to be progressively completed: a) when the evolving features of the entities, showing up, will require the opportune implementation of the full model; or when b) the task, services and users of subsequent libraries, were different from those of the originating one. The changed conditions could be related both to effective needs of filing in the catalogue successive multiple manifestations of a work; or by varied scope and performances of libraries sharing resources and re-using the record. In both cases the primary users’ needs would not be disregarded and institutions could perform their tasks according to real human and financial resources available more than to abstract, even if logical, priorities.

    A national library for example, would limit its creations in many of the above mentioned cases, to a reduced model not supplying the analytical extended map of relations and would instead reserve the full model application only to those entities represented in its catalogue by several occurrences/editions (e.g., classics).

    Nothing would impede creating the original record according to the full FRBR model, but this would occur only if the model application will result functionally effective for catalogue filing purposes or in the case of libraries having a well defined interest to satisfying their primary users needs. For all other records the library, according to the cases, could provide a reduced scale model or no model at all. To this end, the database structure should be designed in order to host and manage records that could be or be not developed in the future along the FRBR analytical completeness.

    A reasonable level of compatibility with the logic of the FRBR model can be achieved without duplicating its structure exactly in the organization of rules, the structuring of a database, or the format of records.

    We should therefore envisage to design a database structure sufficiently compatible with conventional record formats to facilitate input, output, and display following ISBD, GARR, and UNIMARC specifications while at the same time supporting a somewhat higher level of compatibility with the FRBR model.

    For purposes of display, it is possible to group records for expressions and manifestations of the same work (i.e., to reflect the relationships between the work, its expressions, and its manifestations) using data as currently structured in the UNIMARC formats for bibliographic records and authorities.

    Any redesign of cataloguing rules, database structures, and record formats aimed at a higher degree of compatibility with the FRBR model will involve tradeoffs between the ease of processing, outputting or displaying data in internationally standardized formats and efficiencies related to data creation, storage, and maintenance and clarification of relationships that could be gained by following the structure of the FRBR model.

    Although the ISBD record focuses on the manifestation, it includes data pertaining to the work and expression as well.

    Data associated with the work may be recorded in the note area (e.g., note on nature, scope, literary form, etc. of work, note on intended audience).

    Data associated with the expression may be recorded in the title and statement of responsibility area (e.g., "cartographic material" as a GMD); in the material specific area (e.g. statement of scale, statement of projection, extent of file, type of score); in the physical description area (e.g., playing time, duration); or in the note area (e.g., note on language, note relating to the date of recording, note relating to medium of performance, note describing depiction of relief).

    If data pertaining to the work and the expression were recorded in separate records from the data pertaining to the manifestation, the data would have to be re-assembled and restructured for purposes of output and display in accordance with ISBD specifications.


    Records for works

    In a modified implementation of the FRBR model, title and name-title authority records can be used as surrogates for work records.

    In order to reflect the relationship between the work and the person or body responsible for the work more directly, the name-title authority record could be designed to carry the control number for the name authority record associated with that person or body rather than (or in addition to) the name portion of the name-title heading itself. A link of that kind would also ensure consistency in the name portion of name-title headings when the person or body is responsible for more than one work.

    An enhancement to the authority record could be made for internal implementation to provide additional links from the name-title or title authority record for the work to the name authority records for other persons associated with the work (e.g., second and third joint authors, collaborators, etc.).

    The title or name-title authority record could be further enhanced for internal implementation by providing links between authority records for related works (sequels, adaptations, whole/part, etc.).

    Additional data pertaining to the work (e.g., nature, scope, literary form, etc. of the work, intended audience) could be input and stored with the associated manifestation record(s). There would be some loss of efficiency inasmuch as the data would have to be duplicated for each new manifestation of the work.


    Records for expressions

    In a modified implementation of the FRBR model, title and name-title authority records with appropriate additions to the title portion of the heading can be used as surrogates for expression records.

    For purposes of grouping expressions of the work that have one or more attributes in common, a title or name-title record can be created incorporating additions to the uniform title heading for language, version, etc.

    An enhancement of the authority record for internal implementation would be required to differentiate individual expressions within a group by means of association with a person or body responsible for the realization of the expression (translator, editor, etc.).

    A separate title or name-title authority record would have to be created for each such expression and a name authority record for each person or body responsible for the realization of the expression (translator, editor, etc.) would have to be linked to the title or name-title authority record representing the expression. The links to the name authority records could be qualified by a code indicating the role(s) played by that person or body.

    The related name authority record then be used to generate a subheading or a "guide card" under which descriptions for all the manifestations of that same expression could be grouped (e.g., all manifestations containing the Italian translation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Giulio Caprin) and separated from manifestations of the same work containing Italian translations by other translators.

    Additional data pertaining to the expression (e.g., scale, extent of file, type of score) could be input and stored with the associated manifestation record(s). There would be some loss of efficiency inasmuch as the data would have to be duplicated for each new manifestation containing the same expression of the work.


    Records for Manifestations

    In a modified implementation of the FRBR model, descriptive records in their current form can be used as surrogates for manifestation records.

    Constraints inherent in the UNIMARC format for bibliographic records and difficulties in reassembling distributed data for output or display in an ISBD structure will require "extraneous" data pertaining to the work (e.g., nature, scope, literary form, etc. of the work, intended audience) and the expression (e.g., scale, extent of file, type of score) to be stored with the manifestation record.

    Relationships to persons and bodies associated with the work (e.g., joint authors, collaborators) or with the expression (e.g. translators, editors) would also have to be stored with the manifestation record unless or until a title or name-title authority record is created or upgraded to function as an enhanced surrogate record for the work or expression.


    Aggregate Works

    The scope of aggregation and the title for the aggregate work will be determined by cataloguing rules and practices, and are not dependent on the author’s intent to aggregate his or her works or to give them a collective title.

    The need for a title or name-title authority record to serve as a surrogate record for an aggregate work will be driven largely by the content of manifestation(s) containing multiple works by the same author or multiple works that form part of a larger work. Authorities for aggregate works will not normally be created to reflect a comprehensive conceptual grouping of an author’s works but simply to serve as a grouping device for aggregations embodied in actual manifestations of the author’s works.

    Title and name-title authorities functioning as surrogates for aggregate works can be created at more than one level of aggregation (e.g., collected works, novels, short stories, plays).


    Aggregate Expressions

    Title and name-title authority records for an aggregate expression will be required to parallel each title or name-title authority record representing an aggregate work for purposes of grouping and/or differentiating expressions of the aggregate work.

    When expressions of an aggregate work are to be grouped by a common attribute (e.g., language, version), a title or name-title authority record with appropriate additions to the title for the aggregate work will be required.

    When individual expressions are to be differentiated from other expressions within the same group, an enhanced title or name-title authority with a link to the name authority record for the person or body responsible for the realization of the expression (translator, editor, etc.) will be required.


    Records for Works, Expressions and Aggregate Expressions

    It should be possible to structure the database and design applications software in such a way that the creation of a title or name-title authority record:

    - for a work by a single author could be deferred until a manifestation record is created for a subsequent manifestation of the work bearing a different title proper. If enhanced title or name-title authority records are used to link records for works to name authority records for joint authors, collaborators, etc., a record for the work will be required for works involving more than one author.

    - representing a subset of expressions of a work (e.g., Italian translations) could be deferred until a record is created for a manifestation containing an expression of the work in a different group from expressions contained in previously recorded manifestations (e.g. a French translation). If enhanced title or name-title authority records are used to differentiate individual expressions within a group, a record for the expression will be required for all expressions that are to be differentiated.

    - representing a subset of expressions of an aggregate work (e.g., the original Italian texts of the collected works of Pirandello) could be deferred until a record is created for a manifestation containing an expression of the aggregate work in a different group from expressions contained in previously recorded manifestations (e.g. an English translation of the collected works). If enhanced title or name-title authority records are used to differentiate individual expressions of an aggregate work within a group, a record for the expression will be required for all expressions of the aggregate work that are to be differentiated.



    The extent to which the database supports access to component works or to works that are considered to be subsidiary to the main work contained in a manifestation will depend on the creation of records for component and subsidiary works. Although the FRBR model recognizes component and subsidiary works as independent entities in the same way that it recognizes the main work contained in a manifestation as an entity, the model itself does not dictate that all entities be treated equally. The creation of records for component works (e.g., individual works in a compilation, etc.) or for subsidiary works (e.g., introductions, commentaries, etc.) will be determined by cataloguing policy.

    Databases can be designed to accommodate the creation of records for component and subsidiary works on a selective basis. Analytic records can also be added in the process of enhancing records originally created to support access only to the main work contained in a manifestation.


  • 5. Conclusions
  • We would therefore like to submit to a more deep examination and to a wider discussion the following points emerging from the analysis the SC had developed during the past year concerning the following main issues, in order to obtain:

    Roma 06.03.2002 Isa de Pinedo – Alberto Petrucciani




    Ideas and opinions expressed in this communication are personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of the RICA Standing Commission