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MARC PROPOSAL NO. 2009-01/3: Identifying work, expression, and manifestation records in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority formats

DATE: January 13, 2009

NAME: Identifying Work, Expression, and Manifestation records in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority formats

SOURCE: RDA/MARC Working Group

SUMMARY: This paper proposes defining a new field in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority formats to identify that the record is for a Work, Expression, or a Manifestation.

KEYWORDS: FRBR Group 1 Entities; Field 883 (BD, AD); Work; Expression; Manifestation

RELATED: 2008-DP04; 2008-DP05/1; 2008-05/2; Using MARC 21 with FRBR: Record Configurations


01/13/2009 - Made available to the MARC 21 community for discussion.

01/25/2009 - Results of the MARC Advisory Committee discussion - Rejected. Participants felt that adding the data element was not vital to the initial implementation of RDA and may make it more confusing in the current scenario 2 environment. If experimenters feel the need to indicate this explicitly a local field could be used.

02/17/2009 - Results of LC/LAC/BL review - Agreed with the MARBI decisions.

Proposal 2009-01/3: Identifying Work, Expression, and Manifestation records in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority formats


RDA was reorganized in October 2007 to attempt to better facilitate using some specific relational database models that also underlie the FRBR model. Proposal No. 2008-05/1 (Changes to the MARC 21 Formats to Encode Data using Resource Description and Access (RDA): Introduction and Principles) discusses these models and support for them in MARC. The FRBR/RDA relational models would be easier to implement if the level of the record in terms of FRBR Group 1 Entities, i.e. work, expression, manifestation, item, could be explicit in the MARC 21 format.

As is indicated in 2008-05/1, the relational database model that RDA is built on is one internal system construct, and MARC is intended as an exchange format that can carry bibliographic data between various internal models. Therefore breaking the MARC 21 record into four parts for interchange is not the point of this indication but rather to identify primarily the work vs. expression heading records (although that can also be done through examination of the subfields included in the field) and secondarily to enable more analysis of the record content.

Proposal 2008-05/2 was discussed in June 2008 and because there was not clarity about the FRBR entities and further direction was needed from the Joint Steering Committee of RDA, it was deferred. With testing of RDA beginning to take shape, the ability to have a place to designate the entity level of a record will be useful and will carry over into the use of MARC with RDA, even without clear definitions initially. Its use will assist in arriving at the preferred record models for the use of MARC with RDA.


While there are currently numerous FRBR implementations that use existing MARC 21 data to provide meaningful displays for users, it is believed that explicit coding in bibliographic and authority records to identify records for work and expression headings will help to facilitate more effective displays and support for user tasks. It will also assist with the implementation of RDA and with the RDA testing, as issues relating to the definition and differentiation of work, expression, manifestation and item “records” or elements can be better explored.

2.1 Descriptions of FRBR Group 1 Entities

In FRBR terms, works and expressions are both abstract entities of intellectual and artistic content. More specifically, the entity referred to as a work is defined as a distinct intellectual or artistic creation of a work. The entity defined as expression is the intellectual or artistic realization of a work (through a mode of expression such as language).

In FRBR terms, a manifestation is the physical embodiment of an expression of a work. When a work is realized, the resulting expression of a work may be physically contained on or in a medium such as paper, video tape, etc. In other words, a manifestation can be viewed as the container for an expression of a work.

In FRBR terms, an item is a single example of a manifestation, a concrete entity. Normally, at least for single part items, it is the same as the manifestation itself, but variations may occur for one item as a result of actions external to the intent of the producer, e.g., an author's signature on its title page.

RDA takes all of the elements of description and indicates the entity levels to which they could apply -- many elements have a “natural” level, but under certain circumstances may be descriptors for other levels. Some entity distinctions are not entirely clear, especially for unique material. Other elements may serve at multiple entity levels. For example, a book manifestation title is also its default uniform title if it is the only manifestation of the conceptual work manifested by the publication in hand.

2.2 Record Configuration

2.2.1 Current Configuration
Works and Expressions in Authority heading records

The name/title authority records and title authority records which we create today represent the FRBR entities defined as works and expressions.

In order to fully accommodate RDA works and expressions in the authority file, provision needs to be made in the authority heading record for the attributes of works and expressions covered in RDA chapter 6 and 7 (e.g., nature of content, intended audience, etc.) as well as access points for the subject of the work.

Manifestations in Bibliographic records

The bibliographic records that we create today are typically describing manifestations -- whose title is in the 245 field of the record. Name/uniform title (1XX/240) and uniform title (130) access points in these bibliographic manifestation records are used to identify the works and/or expressions related to the manifestation. These access points enable a form of collocation for bibliographic records. This referencing of the work and expression headings in a manifestation record does not, however, turn the manifestation record into a work record or an expression record. The work or expression heading records are logically carried in the appropriate authority work or expression records. (Note that in some cases, as a practical cost saving device, the appropriate authority record for the work or expression entity is not made because the work or expression entity does not need to have any cross references or citations to works consulted. Also the work or expression heading authority record does not currently provide fields for all of the descriptive data associated with those levels.)

In some cases a cataloging environment may consider that the manifestation and the item levels merge for a type of material. In this case careful consideration of whether a bibliographic record is primarily a manifestation or an item record needs to be made and reconciled with the cataloging models.

In an internal system the work or expression references may be through pointers that are other than the text string of the access point, such as record numbers or URI. This is a concept that has been used in some internal systems for many years, but in the communications record including the text strings, perhaps supplemented by other identifiers to point, supports simpler database systems.

Item information in Holdings records

Since Holdings records are generally for the item level, it may not be necessary to mark the holdings record for FRBR level. However, some holdings records that are linked to a bibliographic manifestation record may briefly describe another manifestation, a cost savings device in the current environment. It might be useful to record this information in the holdings record.

2.2.2 Alternative Configuration
Works and Expressions in Bibliographic records

An alternative to current practice would be use of the bibliographic format for work and expression records. This is currently done in some situations -- e.g., records for series, or even serials, since they do not really tie down publisher information (a hallmark of a manifestation) but use “various publisher” indications. VTLS has successfully used the bibliographic record for works and expressions in its FRBR implementation. Archival moving image cataloging also uses the bibliographic record as a hybrid expression/manifestation record. While use of the bibliographic record for work and expression records could require adjustment to the format to assure that it accommodates fully tracing reference information, fields for subject headings and work or expression level descriptive information, as indicated by RDA and FRBR, would be readily available. The tracing information could use the 730 fields with an appropriate relationship indicator.

The 2005 MARBI report Using MARC 21 with FRBR: Record Configurations was a preliminary analysis of the fields in the MARC authority and bibliographic formats that are needed for work or expression records. No specific decisions were made about which type of record would be used. The point made was that while our tradition has been to make name/uniform title and uniform title (i.e., work and expression records) as authority records, they could have been made as bibliographic records. If they were made as bibliographic records, that would not change in any way the referencing of work or expression data in a bibliographic manifestation record.

2.2.3 Manifestations that do not need independent Work or Expression records

And finally we need to consider the FRBR Type 1 entities for the records in the bibliographic file that an OCLC study found are single record manifestations, thus for which uniform titles are not needed. The study undertaken by OCLC indicated that 78% of items in WorldCat consist of a single manifestation. VTLS has had similar experience with its implementations of FRBR, with between 5% and 18% of records being represented by more than one manifestation. The point is that between 80-95% of the manifestation records in the bibliographic file will not need work or expression records.

2.3 Proposed Identification of Type 1 Entities

It is proposed that new field 883 (Entity type) be defined in the MARC 21 bibliographic, authority, and holdings formats to allow catalogers to identify explicitly the work, expression, manifestation, or item level of the majority of the information in a record. For use in testing and experimentation, the 883 field would include a note field where the cataloger can explain extenuating circumstances, such as the fact that an author autograph note on the bibliographic record or a reference to the particular copy on the bibliographic record are actually components of an item description on a manifestation record. Defining a field in both the authority and bibliographic format will provide some flexibility for experimentation with this information, although the absence of field 883 in a bibliographic record could be the default for a manifestation record. Holdings records would default to item records, but the 883 field might be used for a note on the manifestation orientation of some holdings records.

Under the current record configuration, in the authority file, the cataloger would base the indication on the data in the 1XX of the authority record -- work or expression heading -- and for the bibliographic records the cataloger would base the identification of the FRBR entity on the 245 field. Under the alternative record configuration, a work or expression bibliographic record would not contain a 245 but would contain a 130 or 240, whereas the bibliographic records with 245 fields would all be manifestation records.


In the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority formats, define the following field:


In the following examples, 4.1 examples use the Authority format for name/title and title heading records whereas the 4.2 examples use the Bibliographic format for name/title and title records. Both use the Bibliographic format for manifestation records. In 4.3, work and expression records are not needed so only a Bibliographic record is made.

4.1 Authority records for Work and Expression headings and Bibliographic records for Manifestation descriptions.

4.2 Bibliographic records for Works, Expressions, and Manifestations:

4.3 Resources that do not need work or expression records

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