BIBFRAME: Basics and Resources

BIBFRAME is a bibliographic framework for the description of physical and online objects to make them accessible on the Web by using a standard Linked Data model. It is a replacement for MARC.

Why the move to BIBFRAME?

The Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) standard was developed over forty years years ago to make bibliographic records usable by computers.  MARC records were the basis for online public library catalog (OPAC) records to make items searchable in library catalogs. This sufficed until the 1990s and the rise of the Internet.

However, MARC was so entrenched that it took another decade before the Library of Congress made the first move towards converting MARC to a Web standard with MARCXML.  This schema essentially reformatted the MARC record fields and subfields into an XML schema but was not an entirely new model.  MARCXML wasn’t widely adopted.

So in 2011 the Library of Congress, along with the consulting company Zepheria, set out to create a new bibliographic framework called BIBFRAME to make library records conform to Web standards. BIBFRAME is a web-first Linked Data model intended to make library records accessible to the Web at large.

The Basics

BIBFRAMEThe BIBFRAME initiative was announced in an open letter “A Bibliographic Framework for the Digital Age” (dated October 31, 2011) by Deanna Marcum from the Library of Congress. In this letter it was recognized that the MARC record was outdated and a new format was needed for the Internet age.

So BIBFRAME was developed on the RDF model using Linked Data through the Bibliographic Framework initiative.  Its current draft specification is version 2.0.

The BIBFRAME Model consists of the following core classes:

  • Creative Work – a resource reflecting a conceptual essence of the cataloging item.
  • Instance – a resource reflecting an individual, material embodiment of the Work.
  • Authority – a resource reflecting key authority concepts that have defined relationships reflected in the Work and Instance. Examples of Authority Resources include People, Places, Topics, Organizations, etc.
  • Annotation – a resource that decorates other BIBFRAME resources with additional information. Examples of such annotations include Library Holdings information, cover art and reviews.


Within the Vocabulary of BIBFRAME there is a current total of 53 classes and subclasses falling under Resource such as Work, Instance, Authority, and Annotation.  A BIBFRAME Resource can have 289 current properties such as absorbedBy, classificationLcc, doi, format, relatedInstance, title, uri, to give just a few examples.

A good explanation of BIBFRAME was given in an ALCTS webinar titled “From MARC to BIBFRAME: An Introduction” by Victoria Mueller from Zepheira and Carolyn Hansen from the University of Cincinnati.

With millions of MARC records created over the last several decades, an obvious question arises: How will MARC records be converted into BIBFRAME?  The Library of Congress addressed this need in their paper “Bibliographic Framework as a Web of Data” (see Resources below):

A key part of supporting the BIBFRAME model is in providing tools and supporting services for helping migrate from MARC to a Linked Data environment. They should provide a means of navigating the output of a declarative BIBFRAME pipeline which takes existing MARC 21 data and translates this to the BIBFRAME model.

BIBFRAME.ORG offers a MARC to BIBFRAME Transformation Service to convert MARCXML files.  There is also an experimental open source marc2bibframe XQuery utility from the Library of Congress (and a Python version by Zepheira).


Here are some great online resources to learn about BIBFRAME:

  • BIBFRAME Editor – Open source editing software downloadable from Github.
  • BIBFRAME FAQ – Frequently asked questions and answers from the Library of Congress.
  • BIBFRAME Listserv – Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative Forum.
  • BIBFRAME.ORG – Is an index site to BIBFRAME Initiative, Model & Vocabulary, and Implementation and Testing sites.
  • Bibliographic Framework Initiative – Library of Congress website with official BIBFRAME information, specifications, FAQ, tools, news, and more.
  • Zepheira – Linked Data and BIBFRAME training from the company which was consulted by the Library of Congress to develop the BIBFRAME specifications.

Here are some popular papers about BIBFRAME:

BIBFRAME AV Assessment: Technical, Structural, and Preservation Metadata by Bertram Lyons and Kara Van Malssen

BIBFRAME AV Assessment: Technical, Structural, and Preservation MetadataThis paper, undertaken on behalf of the Library of Congress, investigates how metadata of audiovisual material can be best handled using BIBFRAME.  Sections cover preservation, structural, and technical metadata.   Appendices give examples of video, audio, and film examples.  Published in 2015, revised January 4, 2016.

Access the full-text paper (PDF).

Bibliographic Framework as a Web of Data: Linked Data Model and Supporting Services by the Library of Congress

Bibliographic Framework as a Web of Data: Linked Data Model and Supporting ServicesStraight from the source, this paper is an early look into the BIBFRAME model to introduce the subject and begin discussion.  It covers the four classes (Creative Work, Instance, Authority, and Annotation) and vocabulary.  The papers covers related initiatives such as OCLC’s WorldCat,, RDA, and FRBR.  Published in 2012.

Access the full-text paper (PDF).

The Relationship between BIBFRAME and OCLC’s Linked-Data Model of Bibliographic Description: A Working Paper by Carol Jean Godby

The Relationship between BIBFRAME and OCLC’s Linked-Data Model of Bibliographic Description: A Working Paper“This document describes a proposed alignment between BIBFRAME and a model being explored by OCLC with extensions proposed by the Schema Bib Extend project, a W3C-sponsored community group tasked with enhancing to the description of library resources.”  The paper also covers FRBR and gives examples of BIBFRAME in Turtle and RDF/XML syntax.  Published in 2013.

Access the full-text paper (PDF).