Bibliographic Framework Initiative (Library of Congress)

The Library of Congress > BIBFRAME > Model & Vocabulary > BIBFRAME Vocabulary: Description of Category View

This document describes the classes and properties of the BIBFRAME Vocabulary as functional groups.


The BIBFRAME model and vocabulary consider resources that are cataloged as works with corresponding instances (physical and/or electronic).  The metadata describing a work is an amalgamation of the some of the data that was formerly associated with the uniform title authority record combined with subject data that was associated with the bibliographic records. Thus each cataloging resource must have a work description, and, if the cataloging resource exists physically or electronically, one or more instance descriptions.

The following description explains the type of data that is included in this initial vocabulary in the following areas:

  • General Information
  • Cataloging Resource Category Information
  • Title Information
  • Instance Description Information
  • Identifier Information
  • Note Information
  • Subject Information
  • Subject Classification Information
  • Subject Term Information
  • Relationship Information
  • General Relationship Information
  • Agent Relationships
  • Cataloging Resource Relationships
  • Annotation Information
  • Holdings Annotation Information
  • Administrative Information

The view of the vocabulary that is organized like these categories of information is the one labeled "Category View."  It is recommended that this overview of the vocabulary be read before exploring the vocabulary in detail.

General Information

The "general" category is made of several high level RDF and BIBFRAME properties that are inherited by most of the classes and subclasses in the vocabulary, such as:

  • label  (a general property for a string value)
  • identifier  (a general property that specifies an identifier for information about a resource)
  • authorizedAccessPoint  (a string that is formulated according to description rules)

Since Authority data and Annotation data may be related to descriptions at many points, the two properties hasAuthority and hasAnnotation are also considered "general" properties.

Cataloging Resource Category Information

A set of categories for the type and content of a cataloging resource are provided as work subclasses.  These classes are roughly comparable to the MARC Type of Resource or the MODS Resource Type, e.g., Text, Audio, MovingImage.  As in MODS, multiple classes may be specified for a cataloging resource, e.g., Cartography and Dataset.  These class designations are expected to be used to cue the elements called for in various profiles and to enable various internal database or display options.  Since different applications, such as event descriptions or museum object descriptions, would usually use different high level categories for their material, other resource categories can be specified via other namespaces.   For the library community, focusing on one set will improve interchange of data.

Instances may also have basic categories that relate to the form of the instance, that are treated as instance subclasses.  They include Print, Electronic, Manuscript, Tactile, etc.  Additionally the basic subclasses for mode of issuance can be applied to cataloging resource instances:  Monograph, MultipartMonograph, Serial, and Integrating. 

Three more detailed category properties are included in the vocabulary that reflect the dichotomy currently in the RDA cataloging rules that are used in libraries.  They are contentCategory, mediaCategory, and carrierCategory which correspond for RDA content type, media type, and carrier type, respectively. 

Title Information

Instance titles

The instanceTitle is the title for the instance of the resource that is being cataloged.  It is determined by the cataloger following cataloging conventions.  For example, if using RDA conventions, the title proper for the manifestation is probably the instance title.  An instanceTitle can be parsed into 4 main parts via the Title Class:  titleValue, subtitle, partNumber, and partName.  If any other elements are needed for the instanceTitle, they are included as the property named titleAttribute.

Work titles

The workTitle is a more formal title property that is roughly comparable to the former library uniform title.  It is also composed of the same Title parts as instanceTitle, but titleAttribute is more likely to be needed for data to differentiate the title from other work titles.

The RDA cataloging rules contain a list of attributes of a title that may be used to enhance the information about the title, be affixed as a titleAttribute to a workTitle, or be used by systems to provide end users with additional information about the work.  Properties are provided for those special attributes to be used if desirable, e.g., musicKey, musicNumber, treatySignator.

Special types of titles

The title of a cataloging resource can be recorded in various ways because of the variation in cataloging conventions, variations in types of resources, etc. 

A simple title property for the title as a string is provided for when no more specificity is needed or available, such as data coming from a Dublin Core application or other simple data format.

A titleStatement property is provided for the title information that is transcribed from the principal source of information for the cataloging resource.  An example is the transcription of the title from the title page of a book.  Recording a title statement is recommended by some cataloging conventions, such as the ISBD specifications.

Two special titles are also special properties:  abbreviatedTitle and keyTitle.  These special titles may include the titleQualifier and titleSource in addition to the titleValue.

Variations on titles may also be encoded with titleVariation.  These variations are currently encoded in MARC via the Bibliographic 246 field and the Authority 4XX fields.  The variations may be parsed via the Title class, enabling the titleVariationDate to also be recorded.

And finally if a more specific indication of the type of title or title variation is needed, such as a portion of a title or a spine title, the Title Class provides a property for that purpose, titleType.

Instance Description Information

The group of properties designated as "instance description" includes the common information included in a description of a manifestation of a work.  These include information about edition, dimensions and extent, mode of issuance and frequency, and serial first and last issue.  It also includes several "statement" properties, e.g., responsibility statement, provider statement, that some conventions require be transcribed from an item.  All of the above are specified as literal strings as they, at least initially, will not be amenable to strict control.

However some instance provider information may be specified in a controlled form.  For example the publisher statement may be given as a simple literal string, or be parsed into the place, name, and date with URIs used for the values (except date which would logically be a datatyped literal string).  While four specific roles are provided in the vocabulary, publication, production, manufacture, distribution, additional or more specific provider roles can be specified with the providerRole property.

Identifier Information

There are many identifiers that are applied to information objects.  Some identify a work, e.g., ISWC, but most identify instances, e.g., ISBN.  Currently 39 identifier lists are included as separate properties, such as isbn13, ismn, upc, ansi, issn.  Additional identifiers may be included in a record using the property identifier, which may have a value of a URI or may point to a class Identifier where the scheme may be specified in addition to the value.  The class Identifier may also be pointed to by any of the specific identifiers if additional data about an identifier is needed such as the assigner, status, or qualifier.

Note Information

The properties designated as Note Information are a miscellany of information about cataloging resources that has been grouped together for this view but are a broad spectrum of facets of a cataloging resource.  They have therefore been treated in several ways:  specific properties for specific information, e.g., awardNote; classes where several elements of information can be grouped, e.g., the class IntendedAudience which brings together audience and audienceAssigner; and a general "note" property, note, for other miscellaneous information about the cataloging resource.  Other classes in this area include for example Language and Arrangement. Where possible information is specified by URIs but much of this type of miscellaneous information will by nature be strings.

Subject Information

Two types of subject information are accommodated:  classification and term.  Currently four classification schemes have their own property: LCC, DDC, UDC, and NLM.  All other schemes (of which there are over 150 listed in the MARC documentation) use the property classification. The class Classification provides the property classificationScheme to designate the scheme used for the classification valuer.  Classification values may be provided as URIs or as strings.  Any classification property, specific or general, may use the class Classification to segment and/or provide additional information about the classification value.  While the class Classification provides a property for the item number, there is a separate element in the holdings area for classification numbers used as shelf marks and the item number is more logically included there.
Subject terms are encoded through the Authority class, where they may be strings or URIs.

Relationship Information

In this section two important types of relationships are treated, cataloging resource to agent, and cataloging resource to cataloging resource.

To express a relationship between an agent and a cataloging resource, commonly called a "role", the main role properties agent (most general), creator, contributor, and relator are used.  Additionally if a specific role from another namespace is desired, it may be declared and then used.  And the relator property also enables the role to be included as a text string using the class Relator.  These roles use the property agent to point to a BIBFRAME Authority, which provides information about the agent – string/inline information about the agent or a URI pointing to the description of the agent.   See the BIBFRAME Authorities specification for a fuller explanation.

Similarly, to express a relationship between two cataloging resources, a number of relationship properties from the very general, relatedTo, to the specific, continuesInPart, are used.  They all have a range of a URI for a pointer to the work for the related cataloging resource.  As with the above, the relationship may also be expressed with a property from another name space, if that namespace is first declared.  A related resource may not be cited as a string as it is expected that the related Work or Instance description can be created even if it is very minimal.  The ultimate fallback, however, is to cite the related resource in a note. 

For relationships between cataloging resources there are currently approximately fifty specified in the vocabulary.  They may be categorized as follows:

  • very general - work to work, instance to instance, work to instance, and, a subproperty of the first, work to expression.
  • general - relationships such as hasEquivalent, hasPart, accompanies, precedes, succeeds, hasDerivative.  (These largely correspond to the RDA general categories for organizing relationships.)
  • specific - relationships that may be considered sub relationships to any of the very general or general such as supplementTo (accompanies), supersedes (precedes), continuedBy (succeeds), and translationOf  (hasDerivative).

Relationships between cataloging resources are generally specified so that they may go either direction. 

To encode the FRBR relationships that are found in RDA that would be between two BIBFRAME works, the hasExpression and expressionOf relationships are used.  RDA/FRBR relationships between manifestations and expressions or works are expressed using the hasInstance and instanceOf properties.

Annotation Information

The BIBFRAME Annotation is an important element of BIBFRAME as it enables asserting information about a work or instance such as "I hold it", "here is a review of it", etc.  At this point five key annotation types are specified in the vocabulary:  cover art, summary, review, table of contents, and holdings, although any other type of annotation may be made using the annotates property. The Annotation class vocabulary enables recording the date the assertion was made, who made the assertion, and the source of the annotation content.  For cover art, summary, review, and table of contents, subclasses carry the annotation information via a URI pointing to the content or the embedded content itself.  For example, for a review it may include the text of the review, or point to place where the review is carried or is currently stored.

Asserting holdings is richer.  It includes two subclasses relating to holdings, HeldMaterial and HeldItemHeldMaterial includes the general holdings information for a cataloging entity such as the summary enumeration and chronology in string form, retention policy, and reproduction policy.  The HeldItem class includes the shelf mark, barcode, and circulation status for one part of the holding. 

Note that even though the MARC Holdings format includes information about both the "obtain" and the "prediction" functions, this version of the vocabulary only works with the "obtain" currently.

Authority Information

Authority information is associated with agents, places and subjects that are needed to fully describe a cataloging resource.  The vocabulary assumes that current authority files are called upon for many description needs to enable use of existing authority data. 

It should be noted that the model and vocabulary employ the work description in place of the uniform title authority records that were used in the MARC environment.  Those records are therefore converted to works in a BIBFRAME environment.  The vocabulary for titles attempts to support this different configuration of that information.

BIBFRAME suggests the use of authorized forms from authority files for some elements of description that have not been treated like that before, such as providerName, providerPlace, and dissertationInstitution.  .

Administrative Information

A small amount of administrative information may be associated with a description via the properties listed under that section.  This includes general information about the description of a cataloging resource such as creationDate, changeDate, descriptionConventions, descriptionLanguage, descriptionSource.