OpenFRBR

OpenFRBR Manifesto Number One

OpenFRBR says it will build a complete free implementation of FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records).

OpenFRBR says, "Everyone FRBRize everything."

OpenFRBR says that the entities, the relationships, and the user tasks are all equally important.

OpenFRBR says that both people and machines need good interfaces.

OpenFRBR says it will borrow the algorithms it can and invent the ones it must.

OpenFRBR says it is not an integrated library system. OpenFRBR says, "That which is not FRBR belongs to that which is not OpenFRBR."

OpenFRBR says it is under the MIT License.

OpenFRBR looks at FRAR (Functional Requirements for Authority Records) and says, "Everyone FRARize everything." When FRSAR (Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Records) is ready, OpenFRBR will look at it and say, "Everyone FRSARize everything." Everything that OpenFRBR says about FRBR it says about FRAR and FRSAR.

— William Denton <wtd@pobox.com> (1 November 2006)

Questions and Answers

What is FRBR? It's a conceptual model for organizing anything you might find in a library: books, recorded music, movies, maps, magazines, and so on. There are links on the FRBR Blog that will explain it better.

Can I try out OpenFRBR right here? Not just yet. You'll have to download it and run it locally. Soon OpenFRBR will run here and anyone can try it.

How do I do download and install it?

What do you mean, "everyone FRBRize everything"? OpenFRBR wants FRBR to be applied to the entire bibliographic universe. That's a big job — too big for just librarians, even if they have good automatic FRBRization tools. It will require widespread collaboration. OpenFRBR will start by trying to FRBRize all of the Harry Potter bibliographic universe, as well as an interesting musical work or works and a serial (that is, a magazine or newspaper or journal). What is learned doing those, especially involving algorithms, user interfaces, and collaboration, can be extended and applied to other things, and retested.

What might this look like in a few months? A person grabs a book off the shelf and enters the ISBN into OpenFRBR. OpenFRBR checks all available sources and figures out what is known about the book, what work it is, what expression it is, what other entities are involved, and how they are related. The user will be able to confirm what is right, change what is wrong, and add what else is known. The resulting arrangement of information will be available in a standard format for other systems to use. Everything will be searchable.

What programming language is used? Ruby. OpenFRBR uses Ruby on Rails.

Can I get involved? Yes! Check the OpenFRBR project page at RubyForge and join one or both of the mailing lists. Join the project, grab the source, hack away. Or just help us think about what to do and how to go at it. Everyone's welcome to get involved at whatever level they want. If you're a librarian who wants to learn Ruby on Rails, or a Ruby on Rails programmer who wants to learn about libraries and cataloguing, this will be a good project for you. It'll involve database design, MARC records, documentation, interface design, Ajax, good development practices, and more. OpenFRBR will be fun.

This all seems pretty rudimentary. You don't have a wiki or a blog or anything that really explains what's going on. Also, I looked at the source code and wasn't too impressed. Will it get better? Yes.