FRSAD and cataloging

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on cataloging issues — August 2014

Question: What is FRSAD?

By Carolyn J. McCallum, Wake Forest University

Previous Cataloging Q&As in 2012 and 2013 have elaborated on the highly theoretical, entity-relationship (E-R) models of FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) and FRAD (Functional Requirements for Authority Data) respectively. Concluding the triad of E-R models, all published by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), will be a discussion on FRSAD (Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data) and how this model relates to a work’s aboutness, “the relationship between a resource and its subject matter” or ofness, that which is depicted in a work (e.g. photo, painting, etc.) (Zumer, Zeng, & Salaba, 2012, p. 5).

The impetus for IFLA establishing in 2005 the Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records (FRSAR) Working Group was the need for “a clearly stated and commonly shared understanding of what the subject authority data/record/file aims to provide information about, and the expectation of what such data should achieve in terms of answering user needs (Zumer et al., 2012, p. 2).”

Similar to the previous E-R models discussed, four specific user tasks have been correlated as ones utilized by creators (e.g., catalogers) and end users (e.g., librarians and library patrons) of subject authority data. They are:

  • Find one or more subjects and/or their appellations that correspond(s) to the user’s stated criteria, using attributes and relationships;
  • Identify a subject and/or its appellation based on its attributes or relationships (i.e., to distinguish between two or more subjects or appellations with similar characteristics and to confirm that the appropriate subject or appellation has been found);
  • Select a subject and/or its appellation appropriate to the user’s needs (i.e., to choose or reject based on the user’s requirements and needs);
  • Explore relationships between subjects and/or their appellations (e.g., to explore relationships in order to understand the structure of a subject domain and its terminology) (Zumer et al., 2012, p. 18-19).

FRSAD’s model contains only two entities, nomen and thema, whereas as FRBR has 10 entities symbolizing the bibliographic universe and FRAD has 16 entities that focuses on authority data, specifically on FRBR’s Group 2 entities of person and corporate body.

Anything (e.g. person, corporate body, place, event, concept, etc.) that can be the subject of the FRBR entity work is known as a thema. “Nomen is ‘any sign or sequence of signs (alphanumeric characters, symbols, sound, etc.) by which a thema is known, referred to or addressed as (Zumer et al., 2012, p. 40).’” Each entity of FRSAD’s model is prescribed an individual set of attributes.

For example, a cataloger has received the book Beekeeping: an Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up and Maintaining a Hive to catalog for her library. After reviewing the book and its content, she discovers the book (i.e., work) not only covers bees and beekeeping but also honey extraction and pests and diseases, all of which are themas of the book. To describe her content analysis using the Library of Congress Authorities for subject headings, she assigns two Library of Congress (LC) nomens, Bees and Bee culture, to the cataloging record for the book (i.e. work). Additionally, a picture of a bee or the buzzing sound it makes would also be considered nomens for bees because they too convey meaning about that particular insect.

Further examples of nomens applicable to themas include: variant spellings of names (e.g., Boris Pasternak; LC’s authorized name heading, Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich, 1890-1960; Pasternak’s name in Cyrillic, Борис Леонидович Пастернак); longitude and latitude or zip codes for a place (e.g., Beverly Hills, CA – 34°04ʹ25ʺN 118°24ʹ01ʺW ; 90209-90213 zip code range); symbols (e.g., chemical formula for water – H2O, with H representing hydrogen and O for oxygen; ♀ and ♂ are the symbols for female and male respectively).

Many-to-many relationships exist between the entities of work and thema as well as those between the entities of thema and nomen. “This means that any work may have several themas and any thema may be a subject of several works” (Zumer et al., 2012, p. 46). Several nomens may apply to a thema. In the English language, more than one thema may share the same nomen. For example, turquoise is a blue-green mineral as well the name of a color and also the title of an Anya Seton novel. Qualifiers are used to disambiguate identically spelled nomens from one another that are included in a controlled vocabulary so as to provide clarification for each nomen’s specific meaning. Details on thema-to thema relationships and nomen-to-nomen relationships and all of their various relationship forms are documented in the 2010 report published by the FRSAR Working Group.

All three conceptual E-R models, FRBR, FRAD and FRSAD, provide the foundational structure for RDA (Resource Description and Access) cataloging standards. FRBR and FRAD assist in the identification of relationships between a work and its creators as well as a work’s various editions and formats. “The contribution of FRSAD to the bibliographic universe and beyond is its applicability for both subject and non-subject authority data that are used for expressing either aboutness or ofness of intellectual and artistic works (Zumer et al., p. 104).” The future development and creation of a multilingual controlled vocabulary where multiple nomens, whose meanings are identical, are mapped to a single record is possible using the FRSAD model (Zumer et al., p. 108). “Semantic relationships are not changed because of the vocabulary’s being in a different language environment (Zumer et al., p. 108).” In closing, restructuring the data contained in library catalogs using the E-R models discussed has the potential to improve collocation of works and in turn enhance our users’ experience in discovering and retrieving information to meet their needs.

For more detailed information on FRSAD, FRAD, and FRBR, here are a couple of suggested titles for reading:

Jin, Qiang. Demystifying FRAD: Functional Requirements for Authority Data.

Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2012. Print.

Patton, Glenn E., ed. Functional Requirements for Authority Data: A Conceptual

Model. Munich: K. G. Saur, 2009. Print.

Zhang, Yin, and Athena Salaba. Implementing FRBR in Libraries: Key Issues and Future

Directions. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2009. Print.

Zumer, Maja, Marcia Lei Zeng, and Athena Salaba. FRSAD: Conceptual Modeling of

Aboutness. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2012. Print

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