Here are some belated comments on these issues. Sorry to be so late. I realize this may not be the best forum for posting comments at this late date.


I agree with Bob that there can be excessive simplification in conceptual models, and I think FRBR-LRM has several.


In the message below, Bob says “I’m not sure of the utility of introducing the idea of ‘capable of’ into an entity definition.” Is an entity an “agent” before he/she/it is an agent? I don’t think so. Later in the discussions, a commenter pointed out that FRBR-LRM says: “An arbitrary sequence of signs is not a nomen until it is assigned to be an appellation for something in some context” (p. 21). Why is the case different with “agents”? I question that anything is really gained by creating this super class besides the perceived elegance of the model.


I would go further and question res as an entity. FRSAD achieved some real insight by simplifying subjects into one entity Thema, and apparently the drafters of FRBR-LRM have decided to go one step further: since most authorized access points can be subjects, why not say that the superclass of all bibliographically relevant entities is the same as subjects? Thema then becomes superfluous. But it’s not exactly true that all AAP’s can be subjects. We know that at least in LC cataloging, Ceylon can’t be a subject heading for Sri Lanka. I suppose one could argue that is only a particular “implementation” and that Ceylon could be a good subject heading in principle. But something is only a subject when it is a subject. I would retain Thema. It is a way to express the insight that most things (res) can be subjects but are not inherently subjects.


Heidrun and Thomas discussed the rather unclear statement on p. 49: "In general, the appellation relationship would be many-to-many; however, in the context of a particular library system, the intention is that each nomen is used in an unambiguous sense by being associated with a single res." I am guessing that they were only trying to say that libraries want to use controlled vocabularies so they can collocate resources by the same authors or on the same subjects. But the statement was overbroad: they probably didn’t mean to include things like 245 or 246 titles, which are nomens in the broad sense. Nomens but not controlled nomens. 
A big part of what the authors were talking about is the arbitrariness of language. Something can be a nomen for something if we agree it is. It’s not inherently a nomen. I expounded on this in my recently published C&CQ article, “FRSAD, Semiotics, and FRBR-LRM” (v. 54, no. 2, 2016). One example I used there for “non-inherentness” if not arbitrariness is the mountain on Mars that looks something like a human face. Unless you subscribe to the view that aliens built the structure to send a message to us, the mountain is not inherently a sign for the human face, but it’s capable of being one once we recognize the similarity. Nomens, or what C.S. Peirce called “symbols,” take this a step further by being arbitrary: they don’t have to look like the thing they represent or be in close proximity to it. Robert Galbraith can be a nomen for a writer of fiction but isn’t until we make it one. 
Another point I brought up in my article is that not all URI’s are nomens. At least URL’s, I think, are not. Rather than referring to something, they take you to it. 
Just my thoughts. Feel free to post this on other lists if you want, and please let me how I can continue the discussion there. 
Ted Gemberling
UAB Lister Hill Library



From: Program for Cooperative Cataloging [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Robert Maxwell
Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 7:37 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [PCCLIST] FRBR-LRM: "agent" as an entity


I’d like to bring up the issue of “agent” as entity.


Although it is true that any entity-relationship model is allowed to define its own entities, relationships, and attributes, it seems mistaken to me to define “agent” as one of the entities. Agency, to my thinking, denotes a relationship, not an entity. A person, family, or corporate body may have a relationship of agency with a work, expression, manifestation, or item; but a person, family, or corporate body may have a different kind of relationship with entities that are not relationships of agency. A person many have a relationship of “colleague” to another person (RDA K.2.1). This is not an agency relationship. A corporate body may have a “predecessor” relationship to another corporate body (RDA K.4.3). This is not an agency relationship. A family may have a “descendant family” relationship to a another family (RDA K.3.2). This is not an agency relationship. In my opinion, turning “agent” into an entity when it’s (in my opinion) more clearly a relationship stretches the limits of ER principles. It seems to me to be a flaw in the model.


I realize the definition of agent is given as “An entity capable of exercising responsibility relationships relating to works, expressions, manifestations or items” and supposedly all “real” persons are capable of exercising responsibility, so presumably there would be no “real” persons excluded from the entity “agent”, even those who never exercise that responsibility. First of all, this proposition is questionable. A one-day old baby is a person. Is this person capable of exercising responsibility? Arguably, no. A person in a vegetative state who has been so since birth is a person. Is this person capable of exercising responsibility? Arguably, no. So by the definition of “agent” (which applies to all the subentities beneath it) some persons are, strangely, excluded from the entity “person”. Second, I’m not sure of the utility of introducing the idea of “capable of” into an entity definition. Rather than “agent” the model could have something like “cook”, or “lithographer”, or the like as the over-arching entity, since theoretically any real person (or family, or corporate body) is “capable of” becoming or acting as a cook, or lithographer, so such a label could encompass all persons, families, or corporate bodies. So if the point is looking for an over-arching entity that encompasses person, family, or corporate body, why zero in on “agent”?


I do see the utility of having an over-arching entity that comprises persons, families, and corporate bodies because it simplifies the model, though simplification can be taken to unnecessary extremes. I do not see, however, the appropriateness of calling that over-arching entity “agent” and squeezing all persons, families, and corporate bodies into that role.


Without discounting any of what I said in my previous message about non-human entities in fact really being agents in the bibliographic universe, if not in the real universe, defining the overarching entity in some other way than “agent” would also simplify that problem. “Agency” is a relationship. If particular codes wish to recognize that in the bibliographic universe non-humans (or fictitious persons, families, or corporate bodies) do function as agents, why should the model insist on preventing it?


I don’t have a suggestion for what to name the over-arching entity; perhaps someone else can make a suggestion—or maybe it’s not necessary to simplify the model to this extent. I do recommend that the two narrower entities be called “individual” and “collective” or “group” (rather than “collective agent”).


I also point out that LRM-A24 (page 37), “profession/occupation”, given as an attribute of person, is also an appropriate attribute for groups such as corporate bodies or families. Groups have occupations (in the sense of “what they do”). The occupation of the Kelmscott Press is printing. The occupation of Mohawk Paper Mills is papermaking. This attribute should be raised to the general level.




Robert L. Maxwell
Ancient Languages and Special Collections Librarian
6728 Harold B. Lee Library
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602

"We should set an example for all the world, rather than confine ourselves to the course which has been heretofore pursued"--Eliza R. Snow, 1842.