The October issue of D-Lib Magazine has an article describing an experimental FRBR implementation in the Perseus Digital Library, by David Mimno, Gregory Crane, and Alison Jones, entitled Hierarchical Catalog Records. I'm thrilled to see reports of experiments like this be shared in outlets as widely read as D-Lib. I'm also extremely happy to see this particular experiment happen outside of the MARC environment. I've been becoming more and more convinced as some experiments we're conducting with MARC records for sound recordings progress that FRBRization really is a revolution in resource description. Statistics abound estimating the small percentage of works that exist in more than one expression, and expressions that exist in more than one manifestation. While I don't doubt these numbers at all, I think they way in which they're presented minimizes the enormity of the task ahead of us to reach a true FRBR environment.
I believe the same is true of efforts to use MARC for FRBRized records. The MARC format could be adopted for this purpose. But is it in our best interests to do so? Using MARC makes the task seem less scary, that it won't be that difficult. But it is a difficult task, and we're fooling ourselves if we pretend otherwise. I wonder if we aren't better off addressing the issue head-on, admitting to a change with a new base record format. The change would be one of mind-set, rather than functionality.
I've mentioned I believe the FRBRization task is difficult. I don't believe difficult means impossible in this case, however. We don't yet have a good sense of the cost associated with such a conversion, so any claim to its value will be tempered by that uncertainty. But I am convinced of that value, and I believe studies like that of the Perseus Digital Library are vital in demonstrating it. No cost can be justified without first understanding the associated benefit. We have a great deal more work to do to reach that understanding.