The evolving world of digital libraries and virtual library services rests on the ability of multiple information systems to interact. This technical infrastructure provides users with new levels of access to information, library services, and resource sharing. Yet interoperability between diverse information systems in the networked environment presents complex and at times confounding challenges. The U.S. federal Institute of Museum and Library Services <http://www.imls.gov> awarded the School of Library and Information Sciences <http://www.unt.edu/slis> and the Texas Center for Digital Knowledge at University of North Texas a National Leadership Grant for a research and demonstration project to improve interoperability between online library catalogs.
The project, Realizing the Vision of Networked Access to Library Resources: An Applied Research and Demonstration Project to Establish and Operate a Z39.50 Interoperability Testbed, will design and demonstrate test methods and metrics to assess interoperability between systems using the ANSI/NISO Z39.50 standard protocol for information retrieval. The overall goal for the project is to improve Z39.50 semantic interoperability among libraries for information access and resource sharing.
Recent studies evaluating Z39.50 implementations have documented librarians' concern about the reliability of Z39.50 to provide effective search and retrieval across library catalogs. Improvements in interoperability between systems can substantially increase users' -- especially librarians' and other information professionals' -- confidence that Z39.50 products provide reliable results when searching across multiple resources. Implementors view Z39.50 as a strategic tool to provide standards-based access to a wide range of networked resources.
The Z39.50 Interoperability Testbed Project results will assist the library community (as well as other information-based communities such as museums) to improve interoperability between information systems, leading to better information access and resource sharing. Best practices for achieving Z39.50 interoperability will educate these communities and identify strategies to assist implementors. Outcomes of the project will include improvements in information retrieval system implementations and Z39.50 products. Interoperability testbeds for the networked environment are not well understood, and a "best practices guide to interoperability testing" will contribute a model for others to utilize in establishing testbeds for other protocols, resources, and applications.
Contributions from several organizations and companies will supplement the grant from the IMLS. OCLC (The Online Computer Library Center) <http://www.oclc.org>, SIRSI Corporation <http://www.sirsi.com>, and Sea Change Corporation <http://www.bookwhere.com> will provide software, hardware, expert staff, and data to assist the project team prepare the testbed.
The project is under the direction of Dr. William E. Moen, assistant professor at UNT <http://www.unt.edu/wmoen>. Moen has participated in recent state, national, and international efforts to develop Z39.50 application profiles for use by libraries. He currently serves as chair of a National Information Standards Organization committee to develop an American National Standard Z39.50 Profile for Library Applications <http://www.unt.edu/zprofile>. For additional information about the project, visit the project website <http://www.unt.edu/zinterop> or contact Dr. Moen <firstname.lastname@example.org>.