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Smart Libraries Q&A: BIBFRAME

Smart Libraries Newsletter [December 2018]


Are any ILS companies investing in BIBFRAME based systems?

The introduction of BIBFRAME as a possible or eventual replacement for the MARC21 standard for the description of content resources has sparked considerable discussion and development activities in the library sphere. This new standard offers new possibilities for improving the interoperability of library collections with the broader information ecosystem. Linked data, semantic web technologies, and graph databases have become widespread in many other information-oriented domains. Ongoing reliance on MARC can be seen as a barrier that impedes access to library resources in the current environment increasingly dominated by these technologies. Yet the adoption of BIBFRAME means a major overhaul of the foundation of the bibliographic ecosystem that currently provides ubiquitous interoperability among library systems, content suppliers, and end-user applications. The degree to which developers of ILSs, library services platforms, discovery systems, and bibliographic utilities support BIBFRAME will have a major impact on the timeline in which BIBFRAME can supplement or replace MARC in the library information ecosystem.[1]

The MARC family of standards has been the core of the bibliographic ecosystem for library systems for more than four decades. The standard traces its origin to the work of Henriette Avram for the Library of Congress in the 1960's. MARC21 was created in about 1999 and finds widespread use today. This record structure, though a well-established library standard, is not used by other types of organizations, leaving libraries a bit isolated relative to the broader information universe. Within the library sector, the MARC standards have been implemented ubiquitously, with many billions of records circulating among resource management systems, discovery services, and bibliographic utilities. MARC has been an effective solution to interoperability among systems, cooperative cataloging, and resource sharing for libraries.

In an effort to propel libraries out of this isolated bibliographic infrastructure and into the realm of semantic web technologies, the Library of Congress and other stakeholders developed BIBFRAME as a successor to MARC. BIBFRAME is constructed using linked data as the carrier for bibliographic data rather than MARC21. Much of the work of developing BIBFRAME was performed by Zepheira, a company that was engaged by the Library of Congress to create a replacement for MARC based on linked data principles. Specifically, the elements of a bibliographic record are broken into RDF (Resource Description Framework) triples (subject, predicate, object).

See for tools created by the Library of Congress, such as the BIBFRAME Editor and the BIBFRAME Profile Editor.

Many efforts are underway to further operationalize linked data and BIBFRAME. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, for example, recently awarded Stanford Libraries, in partnership with Cornell University, Harvard University, and the University of Iowa a $4 million grant to pursue the implementation of linked data in the library metadata ecosystem. These university libraries will partner with the Program for Cooperative Cataloging and the Library of Congress to expand involvement with linked data in the library cataloging community.[2]

The emergence of BIBFRAME has naturally caught the attention of the organizations involved in the development of ILSs, library services platforms, and other library-oriented applications. In response to this change contemplated for the core library metadata standard, each organization must plan how it will eventually adapt its products. All the major companies offering library systems have been involved to some extent in the discussions surrounding BIBFRAME. Each has developed a strategy based on their projections of the timeline in which BIBFRAME might become operationalized or how they might leverage it to add new capabilities to their products.


As a provider of cataloging services and developer of a variety of resource management systems and discovery services, OCLC has a strong interest in future developments in metadata standards. OCLC has been an active participant in the development and implementation of BIBFRAME and other linked data initiatives.

OCLC has incorporated a variety of linked data concepts into its products. The organization has worked extensively, for example, with WorldCat records include linked data expressed through syntax and vocabularies. This technique amplifies the discoverability of WorldCat records through search engines since is one of the main approaches to represent descriptive content as structured data. OCLC has published key resources such as the Virtual International Authorities File (VIAF), the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme, and the Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) as linked data.

Resources describing OCLC's approach to BIBFRAME and other linked data technologies include

  • Data Strategy
  • Data Sets and Services .en.html
  • Linked data in libraries: From disillusionment to productivity (by Andrew Pace) -from-disillusionment-to-productivity/
  • Experimental conversion of OCLC data to BIBFRAME 2.0 -alaal2018.pdf

Ex Libris

Ex Libris, the dominant provider of technology products to research and academic libraries, has a longstanding track record of building its products around established standards. The company has articulated a strategy of gradual adoption of BIBFRAME. Some of its early development will include creating APIs in Alma to deliver bibliographic works in BIBFRAME, including at the work and instance level. Any set of records in Alma can be published to external system as BIBFRAME. Currently, within the Alma interface, it is possible to select and view any given record in both MARC and BIBFRAME formats.

The first implementation of BIBFRAME in Alma was created in partnership with Harvard University in 2017.[3]

Resources related to the support of BIBFRAME in Ex Libris products include

  • Developer Network: BIBFRAME /linked_data/bibframe
  • Ex Libris Alma—Linked Data and Bibframe (video)


SirsiDynix has incorporated linked data into its product strategy more on the discovery front than within its resource management products. In partnership with Zepheira, SirsiDynix offers BLUEcloud Visibility, an implementation of the Library Link service. SirsiDynix is able to publish records from a Horizon or Symphony ILS into the Library.Link network on behalf of the library to amplify discoverability of its resources through general web searches performed via Google or other major search engines.

Related resources:

  • BLUEcloud Visibility
  • SirsiDynix Linked Data FAQ -data-faq

EBSCO Information Services

EBSCO has been involved in linked data technologies on multiple fronts. The open source FOLIO project, in which the company has been involved, has been designed to support BIBFRAME in addition to other metadata formats through its CODEX data model.[4]

EBSCO also participates in the Zepheira Library.Link service through its NoveList service.


  • BIBFRAME /tag/Bibframe
  • NoveList Amplifies the Power of Linked Data with the Release of NoveList Select for Linked Data
  • Linked data: What is it, and why should you care? -article/linked-data-what-is-it-and-why-should-you-care

Innovative Interfaces, Inc.

Innovative has embraced BIBFRAME as one of the core data models in the next generation product strategy. The company has begun to describe its next generation discovery and resource management platform, based on technology it calls the “Context Engine.” One of the initial applications built on this platform will be a new context-based discovery solution, with search results that take into consideration information about the user and other relationships to deliver tailored results. The context engine is based on platform natively based on linked data, using BIBFRAME as the central reference model. Bibliographic records within the platform may be imported as formats such as MARC or ONIX but will then be transformed into linked data statements that can interact with agent objects and other concept objects to enable new opportunities for discovery not possible through a flat record structure.

Innovative describes its next gen discovery service as following the BIBFRAME metadata model, including Works, Instances, and Items as well as Agents and Concepts. Innovative has not yet publicly announced the date in which it anticipates completion or implementation of its next generation platform and context engine.

The company has also partnered with Zepheira to offer a linked data discoverability service through the Library.Link network. Innovative offers this subscription-based service for all of its ILS products, including Sierra, Millennium, Polaris, and Virtua.[5]

A review of the public information available on the other ILSs does not reveal much support for BIBFRAME. Scouring the websites and literature of products including proprietary systems, such as Library.Solution and Carl.X from The Library Corporation, Follett Destiny, Biblionix Apollo, Auto-Graphics VERSO, Book Systems Atriuum, as well as open source projects Koha and Evergreen revealed no publicly announced strategies to adopt BIBFRAME as their bibliographic model. This lack of public information does not mean that these companies are not actively preparing for some level of adoption of BIBFRAME in the future should it become more of an operational reality.

It is not surprising to find less support in ILSs for BIBFRAME than in the newer genre of library services platforms. The traditional ILS has evolved around the MARC bibliographic, authority, and holding formats, making it difficult to provide support for BIBFRAME in the short term. More importantly, MARC continues to permeate the bibliographic ecosystem in which these systems operate. Until BIBFRAME becomes established as a reliable source for bibliographic description, the value of re-engineering existing systems to support a new bibliographic data model will be limited. Library services platforms, which were developed during the era where the concept of the bibliographic transformation was already well underway, were created with flexible metadata models allowing for support of a wide range of formats rather being hardwired for MARC.

BIBFRAME and other linked data initiatives within the library community represents an important development with the potential of better exposure and interoperability of library collections and services in the broader realm of web-based information. Some of the large academic and research libraries may pave the way toward operationalized linked data. Any wholesale transition from MARC to BIBFRAME seems distant. In the interim, ILSs will continue to operate well using MARC record interchange for collection management. Amplified discovery today is available through exporting MARC records and publishing them as linked data through services, such as Zepheira Library.Link Network. Library services platforms and other more recently developed resource management and discovery services include data models more amenable to linked data but are today operating primarily in a MARC-based bibliographic ecosystem. BIBFRAME and linked data continues to see many experimental and a few operational implementations.

For the time being, support for linked data cannot be seen as a major differentiator among the major ILS products, but is more of a potential component for new development efforts. Organizations with more developed strategies for BIBFRAME and linked data include OCLC and Ex Libris. Innovative has opted for BIBFRAME to serve as the foundation of its new next-generation development efforts. Libraries with a strong interest in incorporating linked data into their own information environments can lobby their vendor accordingly.


  1. For in-depth information related to BIBFRAME concepts and tools, see “Bibliographic Framework Initiative,” Library of Congress, accessed November 18, 2018,
  2. For more information, see Gabrielle Karampelas, “Stanford Libraries Awarded Grant to Implement Linked Data Metadata Environment,” Stanford News, July 3, 2018, https://news.stanford .edu/thedish/2018/07/03/stanford-libraries-awarded-grant-to -implement-linked-data-metadata-environment/.
  3. “Ex Libris Increases Library Connectivity with Implementation of BIBFRAME Roadmap,” Ex Libris, press release, May 8, 2017, https://
  4. Vince Bareau, “The Codex Metadata Model,” FOLIO Wiki, last modified by Hongwei Ji November 20, 2017, /pages/viewpage.action?pageId=1415393.
View Citation
Publication Year:2018
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 38 Number 12
Issue:December 2018
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Series: Smart Libraries Q&A
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Record Number:24085
Last Update:2022-12-06 21:28:39
Date Created:2019-03-06 12:31:57