NISO's Fiftieth, NCLIS's Initiative, and the Library of Congress' Dial-Up Experiment

By Nelson, Nancy | Computers in Libraries, January 1990 | Go to article overview

NISO's Fiftieth, NCLIS's Initiative, and the Library of Congress' Dial-Up Experiment


Nelson, Nancy, Computers in Libraries


NISO's Fiftieth, NCLIS's Initiative, and the Library of Congress' Dial-Up Experiment

NISO at Fifty

NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, is fifty years old and proud of it. The organization, tracing its official creation back to 1939, celebrated a golden anniversary last September with a day-long program in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress. The celebration, planned by former NISO chair Sandra Paul (president of SKP Associations and the representative to NISO of the Association of American Publishers), Henriette Avram (associate librarian for collections services at LC and the mother of MARC), and Ben Weil (a long-time contributor to NISO's work), brought together close to one hundred members of the standards community.

NISO's History

Created as its Committee Z39 by the American Standards Association (ASA) in 1939, and officially renamed in 1984, NISO was accepted for administrative leadership by the American Library Association that same year. NISO can actually trace its history back to 1935 with the adoption of Z39.1-1935 "American Recommended Practice. Reference Data for Periodicals," a standard approved by the ASA and published that year.

But NISO was born on the eve of America's entry into World War II and its early years were rocky ones. Although ALA provided the administrative support it required for its fledging years, a national emphasis on military activities in Europe and the Pacific theaters halted full development of the organization. Even though a second Z39 meeting was held in 1941 and the Z39.1 standard was revised and published in 1943, activities of the committee were suspended for several years.

In 1951, the Council of National Library Associations (CNLA) (a group that invites a recitation of its own story) accepted sponsorship of the committee. Even then, it was not until 1959 that Z39 began to makes its own impact on the development of standards for the library and information industry community.

Historical Background

In 1967 the American Standards Association was renamed the United States of American Standards Institute, a designation that was changed later to what we now know as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The present name of NISO was selected in 1984 to replace its previous name, Z39, when the organization was under the leadership of Sandra Paul.

Historically, NISO's activities have been entirely directed to the development of voluntary consensus standards that are used by libraries, information services, and plublishers. Close to fifty standards are now in place that establish foundations for:

* MARC: Bibliographic Information Interchange

* ISSN and ISBN: International Standard Serials Number (ISSN) and the International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

* Statistical information: book, microform, newspaper, and periodical publishing

* Romanization of nonroman alphabets, including Lao, Khmer, Pali, Armenian, Hebrew, Japanese, and Arabic

* Development of standardized criteria for advertisement of books and micropublications, the creation of publishers' catalogs, promotional materials, and book jackets

* Development of standardized guidelines for thesaurus structure, construction, and use

The list goes on and on.

A Membership Profile

Organizations, not individuals, join NISO and its list of voting members is an impressive one. All national library organizations participate as voting members who set standards, including the American Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, ASIS, the American Theological Library Association, the Art Libraries Society of North America, the Association of Jewish Libraries, the Medical Library Association, the Music Library Association, NCLIS, NFAIS, the Special Libraries Association, and others.

In addition, several library cooperatives are participating voters, including CAPCON (District of Columbia), INCOLSA (Indiana), CARL (Colorado), OCLC, RLG, MINITEX (Minnesota), OHIONET, PRLC (Pittsburgh), and PALINET (Pennsylvania). …

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