Deborah Lee

‘Documenting performance in today’s data models: positioning performance within FRBR and LRM’

Deborah Lee
CityLIS, City, University of London


Documents relating to the performing arts have proven a complex and somewhat unresolved part of the data models which fuel modern bibliographic cataloguing standards.  The model of bibliographic data known as FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), which is now superseded by LRM (IFLA Library Reference Model), underpin cataloguing standards, yet both models are highly problematic for materials relating to performance.  At the heart of the problem is the unit of measurement.  In FRBR/LRM, the “work” is at the top of the abstraction; however, it can be argued that FRBR/LRM’s “work” is based on the primacy of written communication, which is inevitably problematic for performances and their documentation.  Therefore, this paper is going to explore performance documentation within FRBR and LRM, using examples from theatre and dance as illustrations.

The paper starts by introducing FRBR and LRM, explaining their importance to current and future documentation practices.  The next part of the paper shows how traditional performance documentation, such as theatre programmes and audio-visual recordings of performances fit into the FRBR/LRM models.  This will be linked to ideas of documentation within information theory, showing how FRBR/LRM treats performances and documents as separate ideas.  The small quantity of existing literature about FRBR and performance documents will be summarised, such as a discussion about jazz performances as works (Schmidt, 2012), early explorations of FRBR and performance (Miller and Le Boeuf, 2005), alongside a recent general discussion about bibliographic models and documenting performance (Pendón Martínez and Bueno de la Fuente, 2017).  Then, the paper will discuss how a wider idea of performance documentation – for example, choreography, stage directions and set designs – fit into the LRM model, challenging LRM’s conceptions about where performance fits into models of digital data.  This paper argues that the new technologies offered by data models such as LRM, need to incorporate a world where a performance can be a document.


Riva, P., Le Boeuf, P. and Žumer, M. (2017), IFLA library reference model: a conceptual model for bibliographic information,Revised and endorsed ed., Den Haag: IFLA.

Miller, D. and Le Boeuf, P. (2005). “Such stuff as dreams are made on”: how does FRBR fit performing arts?”, Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, 39(3-4), 151-178. DOI: 10.1300/J104v39n03_10.

Pendón Martínez, A. and Bueno de la Fuente, G. (2017). “Description models for documenting performance”. In Sant, T. (Ed.), Documenting performance.  London: Bloomsbury, 29-46.

Schmidt, R. (2012), “Composing in real time: jazz performances as “works” in the FRBR model”, Cataloging and Classification Quarterly, 50(5-7), 653-669. DOI: 10.1080/01639374.2012.681601.


Dr Deborah Lee was awarded her PhD in Library and Information Science in May 2017 from City, University of London.  Her thesis, entitled “Modelling music: a theoretical approach to the classification of notated Western art music”, was supervised by Professor David Bawden and Dr Lyn Robinson.  Her research interests include music classification, the theory and aesthetics of classification schemes, music as information, music ephemera and the pedagogy of cataloguing education.  From September 2017, Deborah will be a visiting lecturer at City, University of London.  She is also the Senior Cataloguer at the Courtauld Institute of Art book library and a CILIP onsite trainer.