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BIBFRAME: A Manual for Understanding Version 2.0 and Related Tools

A data model designed to replace the MARC 21, BIBFRAME uses linked data principles to make bibliographic data more useful both within and outside the library community. This guide provides an overview of BIBFRAME 2.0, the editor, and the database.



BIBFRAME is the foundation for the future of bibliographic description that happens on the web and in the networked world. It is designed to integrate with and engage in the wider information community and still serve the very specific needs of libraries. The BIBFRAME Initiative will bring new ways to:

  • Differentiate clearly between conceptual content and its physical/digital manifestation(s)
  • Unambiguously identify information entities (e.g., agents)
  • Leverage and expose relationships between and among entities

In a web-scale world, it is imperative to be able to cite library data in a way that differentiates the conceptual work (a title and author) from the physical details about that work's manifestation (page numbers, whether it has illustrations). It is equally important to produce library data so that it clearly identifies entities involved in the creation of a resource (authors, publishers) and the concepts (subjects) associated with a resource.

Although the BIBFRAME Initiative will instantiate a new way to represent and exchange bibliographic data – that is now provided by the Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) format – its scope is broader. As an initiative, it is investigating all aspects of bibliographic description, data creation, and data exchange. In addition to replacing the MARC format, this includes accommodating different content models and cataloging rules, exploring new methods of data entry, and evaluating current exchange protocols.


As a bibliographic description format, the MARC format focuses on catalog records that are independently understandable. MARC aggregates information about the conceptual work and its physical carrier and uses strings for identifiers such as personal names, corporate name, subjects, etc. that have value outside the record itself.

Instead of bundling everything neatly as a “record” and potentially duplicating information across multiple records, the BIBFRAME Model relies heavily on relationships between resources (Work-to-Work relationships; Work-to-Instance relationships; Work-to-Agent relationships). It manages this by using controlled identifiers for things (people, places, languages, etc). MARC employs some of these ideas already (geographic codes, language codes) but BIBFRAME seeks to make these aspects the norm rather than the exception. In short, the BIBFRAME Model is the library community’s formal entry point for becoming part of a much larger web of data, where the links between things are paramount.