Re-Model the Model

There’s a scene in the Adventure Time episode Vault of Bones (season 5, episode 12) that really resonated with me. Finn and Flame Princess are exploring an underground dungeon and early on they encounter a locked door. Much later on, they find a key.

The following exchange occurs:


Flame Princess saying "We have to go back"
Flame Princess: We have to go back?


Finn responding, "We don't have to, we *get* to!"
Finn: We don’t have to, we get to!


Now while the episode serves an important lesson for Finn (and the audience) about the importance of listening to your partner about their likes/dislikes and not trying to control every aspect of a shared activity — taken out of that context, this exchange speaks to me in a different way.

Because I get it.

As any scientist will tell you, nothing is more exciting that finding data that doesn’t fit the your expectations or model you’ve been working from. It means that you might have an opportunity to revise the model and may even gain a better understanding of how that which you’re modeling works!

Now I’m no scientist (library science degree notwithstanding), but I like to think that I have some of that science mojo in me, that desire (and belief) that given sufficient experimentation and brains, we can learn anything about anything.

I was working on an indexing project for my final semester at Simmons and about half-way through I thought of something that would radically change the entire project. So I started over from scratch, and literally quoted the above exchange myself. We get to go back, and learn something new, find something cool, and go farther than we could if we didn’t go back.


So what does all this jazz have to do with anything? The Working Group on Aggregates’ discussion paper came out!

This now gives me an opportunity to revisit my conceptual model of how comics fit into the FRBR structure, and revisit I did! It means I get to go back a little bit, but in the end it’s actually going to save me some time.

I’ve decided to use Option C from the working group’s discussion paper, and I’ll briefly explain why:

Option A: a comprehensive description of the Aggregation Work and Expression, and the aggregating Manifestation(s).

What this would mean for a comic is a detailed description of the issue (the aggregating manifestation) but not the stories contained within. That doesn’t work for me, as I specifically want to describe the stories and give access to them.

Option B: an analytical description of one or more of the distinct Works and Expressions, and the aggregating Manifestation(s):

At first blush this seemed pretty good — I could describe the stories with as much detail as I wanted, and then describe the issue in detail. Unfortunately, because this option leaves off the aggregate (the issue) at the work and expression level, I wouldn’t be able to provide access to the editor(s) of an issue which are associated with the expression level. No good.

Option C: A hierarchical description of the Aggregation Work and Expression and the aggregating Manifestation(s), and one or more of the distinct Works and Expressions, incorporated in the aggregating Expression.

At last we’ve arrived! Option C allows me to describe the issues and  the stories at the work and expression levels.

So what’s the difference? How am I revising things and getting to go back?Previously, I was describing individual stories to the manifestation level and then using a contained-in/container-of relationship to the manifestation of the issue. This meant duplicating a lot of content because the publishers, editors, etc. were the same for that manifestation of the story as the manifestation of the issue.

I won’t be doing that anymore! Exciting times. I look forward to revising and rethinking my modeling more as the paper gets discussed and evaluated by CC:DA and friends.

Addendum to Fictitious Characters

Somehow that post really got away from me got a little bloaty. There was a significant reason I’ve been thinking about fictitious characters so much lately, and of course it’s my RIMMF-comics project. But I completely forgot to talk about how it related. This is my attempt to rectify that.


As part of this project I’ve been *gasp* reading the literature. I know, what a total professional, right? In William Fee’s “Where Is the Justice… League?: Graphic Novel Cataloging and Classification”, he mentions how Library of Pennsylvania adds local names for the characters appearing in comics and I got real excited.

Probably the most useful for a comic book cataloger is the $q, or fuller form of the name.

A 600 field allows a patron to perform a more targeted search for a particular version of a character. For example, 600 1 7 $a Blue Beetle $c III $q (Kord, Ted) $g (Fictitious character) would be the third, or Charlton/DC, version of the character (following Dan Garret and Dan Garett). For searching and display, this is much more targeted and more likely to satisfy more patrons than the following example. 650 1 0 $a Blue Beetle (Fictitious character)

600 0 7 $a Deathbird $q (Cal’syee Neramani) $g (Fictitious character) $2 local
600 0 7 $a Gladiator $q (Kallark) $g (Fictitious character) $2 local

While I quibble with some of the coding choices on display here (see below* for all my quibbles)

don’t quibble with the idea! As I stated before in both my post on fic characters and in my post on comics-characters-differentiating specifically — I think it’s great to separate out the different identities of the people behind the mask. So it’s really exciting to see someone putting this into practice (and if you browse the catalog of the State Library of Pennsylvania, you’ll see a LOT more!




  1. This is a pretty off-brand use of subfield q. It’s intended to hold “fuller form of name” true, but what is being stored there is clearly a variant name (or an alternate identity, but that’s a different discussion).  The old instructions in AACR2 (22.18), and the newer instructions in RDA (9.5) are very clear on what a “fuller form of name” is — the spelling out of an initial, abbreviation, or otherwise shortened piece of the preferred name.
  2. If using a 600 field, first indicator would mean that the first piece of data is a surname. “Blue” is not Blue Beetle’s surname.
  3. Ted Kord is the second Blue Beetle, not the third: Dan Garrett, Ted Kord, and Jaime Reyes.
  4. 650 with a subfield 1 is valid….but very very unusual, I assume that’s a copy-paste error.
  5. Fictitious character (yes! good to display this data prominently!) should be in subfield c, not g.

RMC – Expresing a Series

As you saw my template and example for series Work in the last post, lets move onto a series Expression:

Here’s my template for an Expression of a series (pre-filled elements in bold), followed by an example of the same Batman series as last time:

  • Status of identification: fully established
  • Source consulted:
  • Cataloguer’s Note:
  • Content type: Text
  • Content type: Still image
  • Date of expression:
  • Language of expression: English
  • Other distinguishing characteristic of the expression:
  • Identifier for the expression:
  • Authorized access point:
  • Variant access point:
  • Summarization of the content:
  • Language of the content: English
  • Illustrative content: illustrations
  • Colour content: color
  • Work expressed:
  • Manifestation of expression:


Status of identification — I plan to fill all these out enough to make them sufficient for use, it’s optimism!

Content type — All my comics’ content is both text and images, that’s kinda their jam.

Language of expression/content — All of my comics are in English, makes sense to put it in the template.

Illustrative content/Colour content — See above, they gots ’em

Here’s the fully fleshed out version of of the Batman series Expression record.

  • Status of identification: fully established
  • Source consulted: Batman, 1940-2011
  • Content type: Text
  • Content type: Still image
  • Date of expression: 1940-2011
  • Language of expression: English
  • Authorized access point: Batman (Series : 1940-2011). Text. Still image
  • Summarization of the content: Batman is an American comic book series featuring the DC Comics hero of the same name.
  • Language of the content: English
  • Illustrative content: illustrations
  • Colour content: color
  • Work expressed: Batman (Series : 1940-2011)
  • Manifestation of expression: Batman. Detective Comics. [1940-2011]. Volume


A few things I want to point out/discuss:

Authorized Access Point: All my AAPs for Expressions have both content types. This is because I want to highlight how intrinsically linked the content is for this Expression. DC Comics could easily release the Batman series “told in story form” and certainly novelizations of individual issues or arcs exist. Similarly an artist showcase book may highlight just the artwork without the words on the page. Those two examples: one purely textual, the other purely still images would both be Expressions of the same work. This Expression however is text and still images, I want to make that really clear in the AAP.

Colour content: Yes, the instructions at 7.17 all use the spelling ‘colour’ but the LC practice for the alternative at has us record with the spelling ‘color’ and frankly, that’s how I was taught. So much for international, Ganin!

RMC – A Series takes Work

As anyone who’s attempted serials will tell you…they take a lot of work.

In this next few bunch of posts, I’m going to be using actual examples (I know, right? It makes it so much easier to follow what the heck I’m talking about)

Let’s step out of the model for a minute and turn to an actual comic book.

This scene does not happen in the comic

Having decided to begin with my Batman issues (for no particular reason other than that Batman is near the top of the pile), I began by importing the Library of Congress record for the series into RIMMF. RIMMF does its magic business and extrapolates from the MARC record what belongs in the Work, the Expression, and the Manifestation.

Based on this, and careful consulting of RDA, I created a template for all future series-Works constructed of the elements that I was pretty sure that most of my future series’ would have (pre-filled items in bold)

  • Status of identification: fully established
  • Source consulted:
  • Cataloguer’s Note:
  • Title of the work
    • Preferred title of the work
    • Variant title for the work
  • Form of the work: Series
  • Date of work:
  • Place of origin of the work: U.S.
  • Other distinguishing characteristic of the work:
  • Identifier for the work:
  • Authorized access point:
  • Variant access point:
  • Expression of work:
  • Creator:
  • Other person, family or corporate body associated with the work:
  • Subject relationship:
  • Series container of:

The three pre-filled elements justified as follows:

Status of identification — I plan to fill all these out enough to make them sufficient for use, it’s optimism!

Form of work — As this is my template for series’ I chose ‘Series’ as my form of work. Lest it be pointed out to me, I do realize that ‘Series’ is not in LCGFT, and that the term’s meaning in LCSH is referring to a mathematical series. I know what you’re going to say: “But Netanel, the LC-PCC-PS at instructs you to prefer a controlled vocabulary!” That’s true, but this ain’t LC nor the PCC — this is RDA qua RDA. We’re following the instructions as laid out in RDA itself, and ‘Series’ is a form given in the examples at

Place of origin of work — I don’t have any comics which are created outside the United States, so that was a pretty easy one to fill out. The form here: ‘U.S.’ is taken from appendix B.11 as per the instruction at

Here again is the same template filled out with Batman data:

  • Status of identification: fully established
  • Source consulted: Batman, 1987: CIP galley (created 1939; Bat-Men)
  • Source consulted: LC data base, 6/30/87 (hdg.: Batman (Comic strip))
  • Source consulted: http:/
  • Source consulted:
  • Source consulted:
  • Title of the work
    • Preferred title for the work: Batman
    • Variant title for the work: Bat-Man
    • Variant title for the work: Batman with Robin the teen wonder
    • Variant title for the work: Bat Man
  • Form of the work: Series
  • Date of work: 1940-2011
  • Place of origin of the work: U.S.
  • Identifier for the work: LCCN n 86129114
  • Identifier for the work:
  • Identifier for the work: http:/
  • Identifier for the work:
  • Identifier for the work:
  • Authorized access point: Batman (Series : 1940-2011)
  • Variant access point: Bat-Man (Series : 1940-2011)
  • Variant access point: Bat Man (Series : 1940-2011)
  • Variant access point: Batman with Robin the teen wonder (Series : 1940-2011)
  • Expression of work: Batman (Series : 1940-2011). Text. Still image
  • Other person, family or corporate body associated with the work: DC Comics, Inc.
  • Other person, family or corporate body associated with the work: National Periodical Publications, Inc.
  • Subject (person): Robin, the Boy Wonder (Fictitious character)
  • Subject (person): Batman (Fictitious character)
  • Series container of: Batman 236 (Issue : 1971)
  • Series container of: Batman 237 (Issue : 1971)
  • Series container of: Batman 239 (Issue : 1972)


Running down the list, (excepting those given already in the template)

Source consulted — the first few are those which were on the LC record itself, the next three are ones you’ll be seeing often, they are incredibly useful sources of comic book data!

I record them as Sources consulted in every Work and Expression record, and also use them as Work identifiers.

Preferred title for the work — I chose Batman, it’s the title that the series is best known by

Variant title for the work — According to the sources consulted, early issues of the series sometimes had a space, and sometimes a hyphen in the title. I added an additional title (and Robin, the teen wonder) because it was on all three of my Items. Some of you may be saying, “hey ‘Bat-Man’ and ‘Bat Man’ normalize to the same thing and is thus redundant!” To you I say, while that’s true, normalization rules for NACO are not part of RDA itself, so I’m in the clear.

Date of work — I admit to being unclear about this. RDA doesn’t seem to have any instructions about recording a terminal date of work, only start date. I have recorded the full range as found in sources consulted, but I may check with the PCC list if they think this is allowed under RDA.

Identifier for the work — the LCCNs came through the original LC record, and the rest are my three fav sites with the unique IDs representing the series

Authorized access point — Here’s where we REALLY get to the fun stuff! You’ll note that in current RDA/MARC authority records there is no separation between the preferred title and the authorized access point. Yet, RDA instructs us separately on same. RIMMF rectifies this situation by giving you a separate field for every element, and then allowing you to tick boxes to form the AAP. As there are multiple Work entities named ‘Batman’ I added the Form of work and Date of work to distinguish it from others. Again, what I like about this aspect of RIMMF is it really helps you see that what we put in a 1XX field of MARC is the AAP, a hybrid of elements, and not a single specific element from RDA.

Variant access points — As you’ll probably note, these VAPs are just the variant titles combined with the same elements I used for the AAP. This is my consistent best practice as I like the uniformity and RDA allows variant access points more leeway in their construction.

Expression of Work — This is the AAP formed in the Expression record (more on that later)

Other person, family or corporate body associated with the work — I here gave access to both DC Comics and National Periodical Publications because without them, there would’ve been no Batman series. While Batman the character may’ve been a product of individual people (Finger/Kane), the series is not their creation, but that of the corporate bodies who gave it life. At least, that’s how I see it anyway. (For people not in the know, DC absorbed NPP, but originally they were the publisher of Batman)

Subject (Person) — These are both authorized access points for Robin and Batman. RIMMF allows you to import anything from the NAF and then create these nice links between Works/Persons/etc. Remember, under RDA fictional people are indeed Persons.

Series container of — These three are links to the Work records for the three issues of Batman I own.

Some decisions I’ve made about series work records

I initially had creator elements for Bob Kane and Bill Finger. After much soul-searching I decided (as given above in “Other person, family or corporate body associated with the work”) that no single individual (or even multiple individuals should be given a Creator relationship to a comic book series, even if it featured the character they created.




RMC – Conceptual Model

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve begun a comic-book cataloging project.

For this first details post, I want to discussion how I’m applying the conceptual FRBR model to my collection, and some problems I’ve run into doing that. It certainly won’t be the last time that I address FRBR-problems as RIMMF makes the division between WEMI entities razor rigid.

The series (Work) has an Expression (this particular expression is text/still image in English) and a Manifestation (carried in a volume). I don’t create an Item for the series.

Each issue is also a Work (with an In Series relationship to the series), each has an Expression in text/still image in English, each has a Manifestation (published by whichever company, given an identifier on the cover, etc.) and finally each issue has an Item, that single copy which I own.

Here’s where it gets trickier, so hold onto yer butts.

Each story in the issue has a Work (created by whomever), an Expression (again, text/still image in English), and a Manifestation (with a Contained in (Manifestation) relationship to the Manifestation of the issue).

Let me explain why I chose to do it this way. Another option (and thanks to Melanie Polutta for helping me in this conceptual phase) could be:

Each story could be expressed through the Manifestation of the issue. That is, rather than a stand-alone Manifestation of each story and then a Contained in/Container of relationship, that Manifestation of the issue would also serve as the Manifestation of each story.

I chose to not do it this way for a specific reason: It’s not really what FRBR and RDA want.

I read through Fee’s “Where Is the Justice… League?” in which he discusses and models cataloging comic books in a MARC environment. He opts for a formatted contents note (505) to provide individual story-access rather than related entries (7XXs). To my mind, this is similar to the alternate I mention above. It treats the stories as subordinate to the issue.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 12.52.19 PM.png
Not the easiest to read

In an all RDA environment though, where do we put a ‘formatted contents note’ I’ll wait while you run and check, I’ll give you a hint: Chapter 7 is for describing content.

Didja find it? Oh no! Well let’s run over to the MARC-to-RDA Mapping and see what it shows us:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 12.39.49 PM.png

Do you see it? With the exception of the duration element (and we’re not catting CDs over here…) all of the 505 fields map to related works. RDA has done away with contents being contained in notes, all separately identifiable contents are their own Works and have a relationship to the Work in which they’re contained.


This mostly concludes my modeling analysis for the project, I’ll be revisiting this often because I had to make many decisions about which WEMI level to recorded every element. These were often tough calls, and very subject to interpretation, so I’ll be eager to hear any and all thoughts on the matter



Works Cited

Where Is the Justice… League?: Graphic Novel Cataloging and Classification
William T.B. Fee
Serials Review
Vol. 39, Iss. 1, 2013



RIMMFing My Comics


After ALA and a vigorous RIMMFing session, I’ve become more interested than ever in having a pure RDA editor. It is frustrating to read RDA, study RDA, try to fully grok RDA and then bend and twist all the data into MARC blocks.

RIMMF allows me to practice de-coupling my catalog-brain from MARC and really hone in on the actual RDA elements that we’re supposed to be recording into bibliographic and authority records.

To this end, I wanted to take on a RIMMFing project, and I chose my comic-book collection. My mom (and her brother) were avid comic book fans in their youths and for some reason (and I certainly thank them!) they saved them. As I grew up and came into my own youth, it became my comic-book collection and I devoured them. I spent endless summer Saturdays (no electricity on Shabbat, remember) lying on the floor, lost in the adventures of Superman, Batman, the Fantastic Four and my favorite: Spider-Man.

Blah blah blah, flash-forward 25 years, and I still have those darn comics! I don’t read them as often as I used to, but attempting to RIMMF them serves two aims:

  1. It’ll be fun to revisit these old friends
  2. Comics are weird, bibliographically speaking.

They’re essentially serials, and most libraries which hold comics (with a few exceptions) catalog them as such. No individual issue is analyzed, just a record for the series, then a barcode and additional entry in the holdings for each issue.

But that’s not what I’m going to do. I’m going deeper. (And when the RSC finally finishes their work on aggregate works in RDA — I think you’ll find that it’s what is most ideal for the model)

I’m creating a Work record for each story contained in each issue, a Work record for each issue, and a Work record for the series. All of these are accompanied by Expression records and Manifestation records of course and then a single Item record (for the issue in hand)

I’ve done only two issues so far, but I’ve already started bumping up against challenging areas of interpretation where RDA hits the reality. Over the next few posts, I’ll explain some of the problems I’ve run into and how I’ve resolved them. Some are philosophical-model level problems, some are practical.

I will do my utmost best to never mention MARC, we’re talking RDA and FRBR only.

Stay tuned!


Think Twice, Cut Once

Hello y’all! I don’t want to foolishly head down a road of poor-thoughtoutness. I’ve done that. It can teach you a lot, and failure is important, but I’d much rather know were I’m headed and why I’m doing what I’m doing this time. This is what it looked like last time.

With that in mind, I’m sharing what I’m working on and requesting feedback before I keep on keeping on.

Project: Make a database/interface for my comic book collection akin to

Each comic will be encoded in RDF/XML using the Comic Book Ontology (CBO) and supplemented with other metadata schemes when that won’t satisfy. Check out more on CBO, via the creator’s thesis.

So here’s my big question (and I openly submit that as a total linked data newbie, it’s an ignorant one…)

I can put data into RDF, I can then transform it into HTML for web viewing, but then it’s not in linked triples anymore. My fundamental question is, how do you do both? Does it fulfill linked data requirements if I just have a human readable interface of HTML/CSS with RDFa attributes inside those HTML elements?

I’m genuinely asking here — This is a project intended to better help me understand how to create linked data, and then use it on the actual web. Does what I’ve laid out sound like a correct way of doing that?





Just Who IS Ms. Marvel, Anyway?

Update 2016-05-29

What an unexpected update! The May PSD meeting inadvertently answered my question about how LC prefers to handle these specific situations.

Human Torch (Fictitious characters)

The Human Torch is a fictitious character that has various human identities over time. The Human Torch himself may have changed his looks over time, but it was still the same character. It is therefore not a group of fictitious characters according to LCSH, but a single one, which should be established in the name authority file as a pseudonym used by several persons. The proposal was not approved.

I can see situations where I think it’d be good to differentiate between identities. If you had a very large comic book collection in your library and a patron asked for the issues where Bucky was Captain America, having two name headings like “Captain America (Bucky Barnes)” and “Captain America (Steve Rogers)” would be useful. I can see how that could grow untenable though.

I guess I fundamentally disagree that the Human Torch has really been  the ‘same character’ through his various iterations. I mean the first iteration of the Torch was a freakin’ robot! That’s certainly a different character than Johnny Storm.

So though I don’t agree with them that every person that uses a name should be grouped under a single heading — that’s their answer.

Next step my dear catalogers — GO FORTH and add them 400s!

The other day I was cataloging some trade paper backs of Ms. Marvel comics, and was deciding whether or not to use a 600 for the character herself (subdivided by $v Comic books, strips, etc. of course).

Hopping to the name authority file, I found Marvel, Ms. but noted that while “Danvers, Carol” is listed as a 400, “Khan, Kamala” is not.

I wasn’t sure if this identity  (in the Library of Congress I mean, not for Marvel Comics Group and their attendant industries) was intended to represent all people ever known as “Marvel, Ms.” — a sort of collective pseudonym — and therefore usable to represent Khan’s incarnation of the character.

Having posed the question on twitter (and a big thanks to SofiaDistracted and Jessica for engaging with me on this, I checked a bunch of other NARs for comic characters whose names have been adopted by multiple people. Here are some findings:

So from these 4 examples…either the catalogers making the NAR didn’t care to add ANY alter-egos (poor Batgirl and Nightwing!), or they added one for the predominant identity only, or ALL the identities! So I can’t really conclude anything. Maybe I need a larger sample, help me, more knowledgable comics people:

What other names that have been held by multiple people? (for the record, as of ‘print’ time, The Flash, Green Lantern, Venom, Ant-Man, Spider-Woman — all of whom I know off the top of my head have had different people under a single identity — are not in the NAF)

I’m not suggesting that the NAF should differentiate between every person who grabs a name and a cape for twenty minutes. But at the very least, adding in the 400s will allow people who are searching for some of those names to find the character.

To muddy the waters a bit, I did come across the FAQ on pseudonyms from NACO — while this is obviously intended to apply to creators/contributors of works, and not really to subjects, rules A1.4-A1.6 could perhaps be interpreted to apply to this situation.

Whew. I’d love to hear any thoughts anybody has on this!