Bibliographic Framework Initiative (Library of Congress)

The Library of Congress > BIBFRAME > Model & Vocabulary > Overview of the BIBFRAME Model

April 21, 2016

BIBFRAME (Bibliographic Framework) is an initiative to evolve bibliographic description standards to a linked data model, in order to make bibliographic information more useful both within and outside the library community. 

When a resource is cataloged  -- a book, for example -- the resulting description includes information elements such as the author, what the book is about, various published forms, and  information about copies of the book.
BIBFRAME 2.0 Model
BIBFRAME 2.0 organizes this information into three core levels of abstraction: Work, Instance, and Item.

  • Work.  The highest level of abstraction, a Work, in the BIBFRAME context, reflects the conceptual essence of the cataloged resource:  authors, languages, and what it is about (subjects).
  • Instance.  A Work may have one or more individual, material embodiments, for example, a particular published form. These are Instances of the Work.  An Instance reflects information such as its publisher, place and date of publication, and format.
  • Item.   An item is an actual copy (physical or electronic) of an Instance. It reflects information such as its location (physical or virtual), shelf mark, and barcode.

BIBFRAME 2.0 further defines additional key concepts that have relationships to the core classes:

  • Agents:  Agents are people, organizations, jurisdictions, etc., associated with a Work or Instance through roles such as author, editor, artist, photographer, composer, illustrator, etc.
  • Subjects:  A Work might be “about” one or more concepts. Such a concept is said to be a “subject” of the Work. Concepts that may be subjects include topics, places, temporal expressions, events, works, instances, items, agents, etc.
  • Events:  Occurrences, the recording of which may be the content of a Work.

The BIBFRAME vocabulary consists of RDF classes and properties.  Classes include the three core classes listed above as well as various additional classes, many of which are subclasses of the core classes.  Properties describe characteristics of the resource being described as well as relationships among resources. For example: one Work might be a “translation of” another Work; an Instance may be an “instance of” a particular BIBFRAME Work.  Other properties describe attributes of Works and Instances.  For example: the BIBFRAME property “subject” expresses an important attribute of a Work (what the Work is about), and the property “extent” (e.g. number) expresses an attribute of an Instance.