Library Automation Standards

It has been suggested that the subject of library automation standards be presented in a humorous vein. As if there was humor in trying to wend one's way through the thicket of ISO and ANSI verbiage. As if Groucho or Karl Marx, on their best day, would be up to the task. There is little humor in standards; it's hard to recall a single Marx Brothers routine incorporating the words "interoperability", "Z39.50", "MARC", or "AACR2." Especially not "AACR2". Howwever, one can be 'amused' by the application of certain LC Subject Headings, but that's another story…

So, if library automation standards ("standards") are so decidedly un-funny, why are they so important? Because standards make it possible for us to organize and access our collections efficiently and effectively; without trying to reinvent the wheel that organizations, bigger then ours, are perfecting.

Many library automation standards, such as MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging), are already a fixture in our libraries. Others, such as the library record standard Z39.50 or the interlibrary loan standard ISO 10160/10161 are becoming part of our work lives in the next two or three years, making resource sharing easier and more affordable (for borrower and lender alike).

If you are buying, upgrading, looking at sharing existing systems, or designing local applications, look for products or systems that include the following pertinent library automation. All libraries, regardless of their size or budget, will benefit from acquiring systems that include these systems. Systems using standards, such as MARC or Z39.50, benefit big and small libraries alike. You may pay a little more (or maybe not), but your patrons will reap the benefits of your careful shopping.

Ask your vendor about these standards, or contact the Library Development Division consultants here at the Montana State Library. We are willing and ready to help you, and if not actually chuckle along with you, at least help you make sense out of library automation standards.

Standards Organizations

National Information Standards Organization (NISO) NISO is an ANSI-accredited organization that develops standards specifically for the library, information services, and publishing sectors.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI ) ANSI is the organization that facilitates development of American National Standards (ANSI) by establishing consensus among qualified groups.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO is the standards body that establishes standards for the international exchange of goods and services.

Some common standards, terms and emerging technologies for Montana libraries:

ILS ILS stands for Integrated Library System and refers to a library’s automated circulation system, which normally also includes a cataloging module and sometimes acquisitions and serial control modules. 

Cloud computing Cloud computing can be simply described as web-based applications with shared data and services. Instead of downloading and installing software on a local machine, users of the applications access these “services” via the web, in some cases contributing to their development and openly sharing developments with others.

OCLC Web-scale Management Services OCLC Web-scale Management Services offer a next-generation choice for traditional, back-office library operations by moving the regular ILS functions to the cloud environment. WMS allows library staff to shape a group of applications accessible via the Internet, including cataloging, circulation, digitization, virtual reference and, to come, acquisitions and serials control, through an open platform structure.

AACR2 & LCSH & RDA The central cataloging standard is the Anglo American Cataloging Rules version Two (AACR2), which governs how a cataloging record is constructed. Other important cataloging standards include MAchine Readable Cataloging (MARC) and Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Resource Description and Access (RDA) was designed for the digital world. It is an evolution of AACR2 and considered the newest standard for cataloging.

MARC The MARC (Machine-Readable Cataloging) format is the standard for the representation and communication of bibliographic and related information in machine-readable form. Library records on your online public catalog (OPAC) should be in full MARC format. If you have a non-MARC OPAC, as long as your records were held by WLN or, now, by OCLC, you have the capability of building a tape of MARC records, from OCLC, reflecting your library's holdings.

Dublin Core OCLC describes Dublin Core as "…a simple content description model for electronic resources". “DC” is a metadata element set intended to facilitate discovery of electronic resources. Originally conceived for author-generated description of Web resources, it is now a cataloging standard for various electronic resources, particularly when cataloging digital downloadable content.

NACO The Name Authority Cooperative (NACO) is the name authority record creation and maintenance arm of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging within the Library of Congress. A NACO “funnel” allows regional cataloging libraries to individually create new name authority records but share a central coordinator. Members create name authority records using OCLC's Connexion cataloging tool. Records are then submitted to the Library of Congress. Montana NACO funnel members primarily create name authority records for Montana personal and corporate authors, Montana performers, Montana state agencies and Montana geographic place names. The Library of Congress web site contains a wealth of information on cataloging standards and is the overall resource in this area.

TCP/IP Data communications standards can be summed up simply: Internet Protocol, or IP. TCP/IP is an acronym for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. TCP/IP is one of several protocols (Z39.50, Z39.51, NCIP, SIP are others), that enable interoperability: the ability of disparate systems to communicate with each other.

HTML You will want your library's HTML-based web page to be readable by web browsers, be they Mozilla’s Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome or others. Your library is required to do all you can to make your page readable by those with disabilities. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is the long time standard for creating web pages.

Z39.50 The Z39.50 standard is necessary for libraries wishing to search across separate library catalog systems. Z39.50 allows libraries to look at one another's catalogs using their local system's user interface. Z39.50 is a set of formats and procedures which govern the interaction of client and server computers, enabling users to search one or more local or remote databases (at once, if desired) using their library's interface. Circulation records are not addressed by this protocol; Z39.50 addresses cross searching capabilities.

Z39.71 An associated standard is Z39.71, governing holdings statements for bibliographic items, which is of special interest because it governs the syntax of serials holdings information in MARC records.