lrts: Vol. 57 Issue 3: p. 181
Book Review: Demystifying FRAD: Functional Requirements for Authority Data
Elyssa M. Sanner

Elyssa M. Sanner, Northern Michigan University, Marquette,

The back cover of Demystifying FRAD: Functional Requirements for Authority Data describes the volume as the “first book of its kind,” a phrase that proves to be a very apt descriptor. Besides Functional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD) published by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) in 2009,1 only a few articles have been published on this topic. Now that RDA: Resource Description and Access is being adopted,2 understanding the underlying conceptual model behind authority data in conjunction with the new cataloging code is crucial for librarians who handle authority work. Jin, a librarian who specializes in and publishes about authority work, achieves her objective of offering a “basic [and accessible] explanation” (1) of the FRAD model.

The book tackles the topic in a logical manner, building the reader’s knowledge from the ground up. As the vocabulary of FRAD is similar to that of Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR),3 Jin rightly situates the discussion in this book within the larger concept of entity-relationship models, entities and attributes, and user tasks shared by both FRBR and FRAD. Jin lays foundational groundwork in the introduction to put readers on the same page with regard to identifying acronyms, the purpose of FRAD, and the context in which FRAD was created. She offers a precise yet succinct history of the development of FRBR and FRAD, and how RDA relates to these conceptual models. This background may not be new information for all readers, but the concise timeline approach and contextualization are helpful for understanding how and why the creation of FRAD was necessary.

The meat of the book consists of describing the entities, attributes, and relationships in FRAD. For each entity, Jin provides a thorough definition adapted from the aforementioned 2009 IFLA Study Group report on FRAD, and expanded for further clarity. Attributes are comprehensively explained, enhanced by examples and rationales for the importance of each attribute. For example, the entity “person” has “gender” as one of its attributes. Jin points out that assigning the value for the attribute “gender” is “especially important when two people have the same name in romanized form” (18). Rationales such as these not only establish a universal understanding for each attribute, but also take the guesswork out of determining why a librarian should take the time to assign a value for an attribute.

While the brief lesson on entity-relationship models and diagrams is informative, the diagrams included for practically every possible entity and attribute relationship are the most helpful. As Jin works through the eleven entities and their possible combinations to each other as well as various attributes, each combination is clearly displayed and explicated for the reader. These entity-relationship diagrams for each relationship and the coordinating descriptive paragraph provide practical, applicable scenarios for various entity and attribute combinations.

In the final section of the book, Jin maps the FRAD entities and attributes to RDA. While this section is the shortest, it is perhaps the most applicable as it allows the reader to see a visual demonstration of the end result of how the FRAD model informs the cataloging code. Jin is careful to point out when FRAD entities and attributes have not been mapped to RDA; this tends to occur when an entity falls into the subject chapters of RDA, which have not yet been written. Over twenty brief RDA authority records are included in this section, covering a multitude of possible entity and attribute combinations. No MARC mapping is provided, but the appendix features a FRAD-to-RDA mapping that is very helpful to locate the coordinating RDA rules for FRAD entities and attributes.

Demystifying FRAD serves as an excellent, all-in-one resource for understanding the FRAD model and its relationship to authority work under RDA. Its greatest applicability is as a “ready-reference” guide, a resource that a librarian can pull off the shelf when encountering questions about a specific situation. With very few exceptions, the book is logically organized and can be parsed for specific information via the extensive index. Librarians looking for an accessible explanation or elevator speech for their work might be interested in the manifesto included in the introduction, calling authority work “essential for effective retrieval of resources” and explaining that “because of the Internet, authority control has become even more important since users are now able to search across numerous databases” (3). Shortcomings of the book include some sections of repetitive prose that would have benefited from being presented in new and fresh ways. Also, the importance of FRAD for the “organization of information in the future” (1) is never thoroughly explained, except for RDA’s reliance on the model for authority work.

Learning about and gaining a better grasp on the underlying conceptual structure for authorities under RDA has enhanced my understanding of changes between the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules and the new code.4 This resource will be an asset for comprehending and completing authority work under RDA.

1. IFLA Study Group on Functional Requirements and Numbering of Authority Records (FRANAR), Functional Requirements for Authority Data: A Conceptual Model: Final Report (Munich: K.G. Saur, 2009)
2. RDA: Resource Description & Access (Chicago: ALA; Ottawa: Canadian Library Association; London: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, 2010)
3. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Final Report (The Hague: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 2009), accessed February 18, 2013,
4. Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd ed., 2002 rev., 2005 update (Chicago: ALA; Ottawa: Canadian Library Association; London: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, 2002)

Article Categories:
  • Library and Information Science
    • Book Reviews


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2021 ALCTS