Hi Librarians and other library-interested folk,
Is there a good universal database of published works? There are obviously ISBN numbers, but I'm looking (if it's out there) for something a little more universal; something that consolidates all published versions of the same source work under a single listing. That is, rather than a different ISBN number for all published versions of Romeo & Juliet after the institution of ISBN numbers and none before, I'd like to find something that would just have a listing for "Romeo & Juliet." Any clues?
If you care, this is the root of my question:
I run an educational software company, and I spend a lot of time making sure data people enter into our software is as organized and useful as possible; we create a network of the content users generate, so where possible we eschew plain text in favor of structured content we can link together. Think of how a social bookmarking application takes bookmarks people create individually and aggregates them together into a rating.
Among other functions, our software provides students and teachers with a way to cite or reference works used in their compositions. For example, a student who writes a paper on Romeo & Juliet would naturally include the play in a list of sources; in a text document, the logical way to do this would be in plain text according to whatever the preferred standard.
But we have an opportunity to do better--I want all compositions that cite Romeo & Juliet to be linked together in a sort of tagging system. I could use ISBN numbers, but that would only link compositions where the same version of the book was used. I could use freeform text tags, but then we'd wind up with different tags for "Romeo & Juliet" versus "Romeo and Juliet."
So are there any more universal systems, even if they're just for a specific type of work? Any clues? What about data aside from just titles, i.e. authors? There's got to be something--how does a library know how many copies of Romeo & Juliet it has when they're under different ISBNs?