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Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR)

Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records

Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR /ˈfɜːrbər/) is a conceptual entity-relationship model developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) that relates user tasks of retrieval and access in online library catalogs and bibliographic databases from a user’s perspective. It represents a more holistic approach to retrieval and access as the relationships between the entities provide links to navigate through the hierarchy of relationships. The model is significant because it is separate from specific cataloging standards such as Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) or International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD).


The ways that people can use FRBR data have been defined as follows: to Find entities in a search, to Identify an entity as being the correct one, to Select an entity that suits the user's needs, or to Obtain an entity (physical access or licensing). The FRBR user tasks are FRBR’s attempt to generalize why users approach catalogs, indexes, bibliographies, and other information retrieval tools. FRBR places all its findings about bibliographic metadata in the context of the user tasks; they are employed to justify the inclusion of data elements in bibliographic records.
  • Find: to locate either a single entity or a set of entities as the result of a search using an attribute or relationship of the entity. Find, the search function is the first user task. FRBR states that users approach an information retrieval tool “to find entities that correspond to the user’s stated search criteria.” If the user conducts a search in a set of bibliographic data using attributes or relationships of entities, he or she should retrieve one or more entities.  To Find what the user needs, they may search through the title, author, keyword, subject, dates, publisher, etc. Examples of the Find task might include searching for:
    • The first edition of the book Survey of emerging cataloging practices by Salman Haider.
    • Articles on cataloging and metadata published between 2005-2015.
  • Identify: to confirm that the entity described corresponds to the entity sought, or to distinguish between two or more entities with similar characteristics. Identify is the second user task, which is “using the data retrieved to identify an entity, to confirm that the document described in a record corresponds to the document sought by the user, or to distinguish between two texts or recordings that have the same title. The bibliographic record should confirm that the described entity is indeed the one sought. 
  • Select: to choose an entity that meets the user's requirements with respect to content, physical format, etc., or to reject an entity as being inappropriate to the user's needs. Select is the third task, is using the data to choose “an entity that is appropriate to the user’s needs (e.g., to select a text in a language 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). This task reflects situations in which users may need to choose one resource over another based on any one of a number of characteristics, including but not limited to genre, form, language, content, edition, location, and physical format. Information retrieval tools, again, must provide enough metadata for the user to determine which resource is most appropriate for his or her need. Examples might include selecting:
    • a translation of the book Survey of emerging cataloging practices in French rather than one in German.
  • Obtain (or Acquire): to obtain or acquire an entity through purchase, loan, etc., or to access an entity electronically through an online connection Obtain is the final FRBR user task, which “is 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 online an electronic document stored on a remote computer).” Examples of how one may obtain a resource might include:
    • using the call number to locate the book Survey of emerging cataloging practices in the stacks of a library.


FRBR comprises groups of entities:
  • Group 1 entities are work, expression, manifestation, and item (WEMI). They represent the products of intellectual or artistic endeavor.
  • Group 2 entities are person, family and corporate body, responsible for the custodianship of Group 1’s intellectual or artistic endeavor.
  • Group 3 entities are subjects of Group 1 or Group 2’s intellectual endeavor, and include concepts, objects, events, places.

Group 1 entities are the foundation of the FRBR model:
  • Work is a "distinct intellectual or artistic creation." For example, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony apart from all ways of expressing it is a work. When we say, "Beethoven's Ninth is magnificent!" we generally are referring to the work.
  • Expression is "the specific intellectual or artistic form that a work takes each time it is 'realized.'" An expression of Beethoven's Ninth might be each draft of the musical score he writes down (not the paper itself, but the music thereby expressed).
  • Manifestation is "the physical embodiment of an expression of a work. As an entity, manifestation represents all the physical objects that bear the same characteristics, in respect to both intellectual content and physical form." The performance the London Philharmonic made of the Ninth in 1996 is a manifestation. It was a physical embodiment even if not recorded, though of course manifestations are most frequently of interest when they are expressed in a persistent form such as a recording or printing. When we say, "The recording of the London Philharmonic's 1996 performance captured the essence of the Ninth," we are generally referring to a manifestation.
  • Item is "a single exemplar of a manifestation. The entity defined as item is a concrete entity." Each copy of the 1996 pressings of that 1996 recording is an item. When we say, "Both copies of the London Philharmonic's 1996 performance of the Ninth are checked out of my local library," we are generally referring to items.
Group 1 entities are not strictly hierarchical, because entities do not always inherit properties from other entities. Despite initial positive assessments of FRBR clarifying the thoughts around the conceptual underpinnings of works, there has been later disagreement about what the Group 1 entities actually mean. The distinction between Works and Expressions is also unclear in many cases.


In addition to the relationships between Group 1 and Groups 2 and 3 discussed above, there are many additional relationships covering such things as digitized editions of a work to the original text, and derivative works such as adaptations and parodies, or new texts which are critical evaluations of a pre-existing text. FRBR is built upon relationships between and among entities. "Relationships serve as the vehicle for depicting the link between one entity and another, and thus as the means of assisting the user to ‘navigate’ the universe that is represented in a bibliography, catalogue, or bibliographic database." Examples of relationship types include, but are not limited to:

Equivalence relationships

Equivalence relationships exist between exact copies of the same manifestation of a work or between an original item and reproductions of it, so long as the intellectual content and authorship are preserved. Examples include reproductions such as copies, issues, facsimiles and reprints, photocopies, and microfilms.

Derivative relationships

Derivative relationships exist between a bibliographic work and a modification based on the work. Examples include:
  • Editions, versions, translations, summaries, abstracts, and digests
  • Adaptations that become new works but are based on old works
  • Genre changes
  • New works based on the style or thematic content of the work
Descriptive relationships

Descriptive relationships exist between a bibliographic entity and a description, criticism, evaluation, or review of that entity, such as between a work and a book review describing it. Descriptive relationships also include annotated editions, casebooks, commentaries, and critiques of an existing work.


FRBR offers a structure to address user tasks, and FRBR entities and elements translate into RDA as the data elements for bibliographic description and access, and the relationships among entities. RDA combines the FRBR conceptual model with cataloging principles to provide the foundations to build cataloger judgment and better systems for the future. FRBR is not itself a cataloging code. But it demonstrates how users can benefit from a well-structured system designed around the FRBR entities and relationships.


List of questions on FRBR from Library and Information Science Questions Answers Quizzes. Please visit this collection and locate questions given below under the heading "Unit V" where you will also find their URLs. having answers and further explanations.
  • What does the acronym FRBR stand for? [(a) Functional Requirements for Better Records (b) Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (c) Functional Records for Big Research Libraries]
  • What is FRBR? [(a) A content designation tool (b) A data model (c) A cataloging code or standard (d) All of above (e) None of above]
  • How many entity groups does FRBR describe? [(a) 2 (b) 3 (c) 6 (d) 4]
  • What are the names of FRBR Group 1 entities [(a) Names, Families, and Corporate bodies (b) Entities, Attributes, and Relationships (c) Places, Events, and Concepts (d) Work, Expression, Manifestation, and Item]
  • Which entity defines a distinct intellectual or artistic creation? [(a) Manifestation (b) Work (c) Expression (d) Item]
  • What initials are used to describe the 4 elements of FRBR Group 1 entities? [(a) WEMI (b) FISO (c) FICJ]
  • The term Expression, as used in FRBR/RDA, is [(a) The arrangement of text, images, etc., in a resource (b) 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 (c) The means used to convey information or artistic content]
  • Which entity defines the physical embodiment of an expression of a work? [(a) Item (b) Expression (c) Manifestation (d) Work]
  • The term Item, as used in FRBR/RDA, is [(a) A physical medium, in which data, sound, images, etc., are stored (b) A single exemplar or instance of a manifestation (c) An exact copy of the content of a resource made by mechanical or electronic means]
  • Which of the following is defined as an "abstract" FRBR entity? [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Dataset (d) Object]
  • Which of the following is defined as a "concrete" FRBR entity? [(a) Expression (b) Item (c) Carrier (d) Work]
  • Which FRBR entity describes a French translation of: The Lord of the rings? [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Expression (d) Manifestation]
  • Which FRBR entity describes a DVD of the movie version of Gone with the Wind? [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Expression (d) Manifestation]
  • Which FRBR entity describes Lords of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien? [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Expression (d) Manifestation]
  • Fill in the blanks with the appropriate FRBR Group 1 entities [(1) When a(n) ________ is realized, the (2) resulting ________ of the (3) ________ my be physically (4) embodied in a(n) ________, in many instances as a single physical (5) object called a(n) ________.]
  • Which of these are the four FRBR User Tasks [(a) Obtain (b) Identify (c) Select (d) Find (e) Justify]
  • Which of these are three components in an entity relationship model [(a) Attributes (b) Identifiers (c) Entities (d) Relationships]
  • Attributes of relationships associated with the FRBR entities Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item are the conceptual data elements underpinning: [(a) AACR2 (b) RDA (c) ISBD (d) MARC format]
  • How is Attribute defined in FRBR model? [(a) A set of characteristics which serve as the means for users to identify a particular entity (b) A set of physical characteristics which help users identify a particular entity (c) Assigned identifiers and contextual information which help users identify a particular entity]
  • Which of the following attributes identify the FRBR entity Work? Choose one or more that apply. [(a) Title (b) Intended audience (c) Form of work (d) Date of work (e) Language]
  • Which of the following FRBR entities is identified by the attribute characterizing medium of performance for which a musical work was originally intended? [(a) Item (b) Expression (c) Work (d) Manifestation]
  • Which of the following FRBR entities is identified by the attribute characterizing coordinates for a cartographic image or object? [(a) Item (b) Expression (c) Work (d) Manifestation]
  • The language in which Pride and Prejudice was written is: [(a) An attribute of Manifestation (b) An attribute of Item (c) An attribute of Work (d) An attribute of Expression]
  • Which of the following FRBR entities is identified by the attributes characterizing regularity and frequency of issue for a serial? [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Manifestation (d) Expression]
  • A performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is an attribute of which of the following FRBR entities: [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Expression (d) Manifestation]
  • The designation of volume/issue/date of a serial (e.g., volume 1, number 1 (September 2010) identifies which of the following FRBR entities: [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Manifestation (d) Expression]
  • A Statement of Responsibility identifies which of the following FRBR entities: [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Manifestation (d) Expression]
  • An edition/issue statement (such as Voyager version 7.2) identifies which of the following FRBR entities? [(a) Manifestation (b) Work (c) Expression (d) Item]
  • Publisher/Distributor/Manufacturer are attributes of which of the following FRBR entities: [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Manifestation (d) Expression]
  • Is the webcast (physical carrier) of Barbara Tillett's presentation "FRBR: Things you should know but are afraid to ask" an attribute of the FRBR entity Expression? [(a) Yes (b) No]
  • An LC bar code as an identifier is an attribute of which of the following FRBR entities: [(a) Item (b) Work (c) Manifestation (d) Expression]
  • An autographed copy from the Library's Walt Whitman Collection identifies which of the FRBR entities: [(a) Manifestation (b) Work (c) Expression (d) Item]
  • In FRBR terms, which of the following FRBR entities represent those responsible for the intellectual or artistic content, the physical production and dissemination, or the custodianship of the entities of the Work, Expression, Manifestation or Item (Group 1 entities)? Choose one or more that apply. [(a) Person (b) Corporate Body (c) Individual (d) Organization (e) Family (f) All of the above]
  • Which of the following FRBR groups of entities describes the terms "concept, object, event, place?" [A) Group 1: Products of intellectual and artistic endeavor (B) Group 2: Those responsible for the intellectual and artistic content (C) Group 3: Subjects of works]

  • FRBR

  1. Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. Wikipedia. (Accessed September 7, 2017).
  2. Library of Congress, "FRBR Terminology Quiz," (accessed February 10, 2019).
  3. IFLA, "Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR)" (accessed February 10, 2019).
  4. Library of Congress, "FRBR: Fundamental Concepts" (accessed February 10, 2019).
  5. Daniel N. Joudrey, Arlene G. Taylor, David P. Miller, Introduction to Cataloging and Classification (Santa Barbara, California : Libraries Unlimited, 2015.



Article Title
  • Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records
Last Updated
  • 2019-07-04
Originally Published
  • 2017-09-07


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