Thursday, November 9th, 2006

FRBR, OpenFRBR glug glug glug


Photo by yashima on Flickr

Check out the the most recent LibraryGeeks podcast, a conversation between Daniel Chudnov and William Denton. Denton, who writes the FRBR blog, recently announced the OpenFRBR project, a incipient—very incipient—effort to create “a complete free implementation of FRBR.”

If you don’t know, FRBR is a library-science idea that can relate books, starting from something like LibraryThing’s “works” concept, but attempting to do a great deal more. Although FRBR doens’t say prescribe one way, FRBRization of library data has tended to be done algorithmically. There are just too many books out there for librarians to revisit manually, and LibraryThing’s crowdsourcing solution has not caught on elsewhere.

Denton is a FRBR dynamo and whatever comes of it, I’m sure it will be interesting. I only wish he didn’t plan to do it in Ruby on Rails. Does the library tech world need another programming language to fit all its old data formats and communication protocols to? I also have philosophical problems with FRBR, for understanding relationships in mechanical, “binary” ways. (I’ve never managed to communicate this right.) Even so, LibraryThing will be watching closely how we can both help and use the OpenFRBR project.

Dan’s interviews are wonderfully offbeat—library technology meets the Charlie Rose Show. A good part is devoted to a series of standing questions, including “What do you want to hear when you arrive in heaven?” He did it to Abby and me and he does it with William—to the limit. It was recorded at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa last month during the Access 2006 conference. Music tinkles in the background. Waitresses come and go. The conversation is deep and interesting. It’s My Dinner With Andre!

At one point wine is ordered, and is poured deliciously into a glass right next the tape machine. Don’t listen to this podcast unless you have easy access to your own wine too—it’s torture.

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