Bethesda, Md., USA – (January 10, 2002) NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, has announced that a new standards committee is now being organized to develop standards that will enable interoperable, networked reference services. Digital reference services are a rapidly growing extension of the traditional "behind the desk" reference service offered by virtually all libraries. Digital reference, whether delivered via real-time chat or asynchronous e-mail, allows library patrons to submit questions and receive answers via electronic means.
A NISO-sponsored Workshop on Networked Digital Reference Services was held April 25?26, 2001 (http://www.niso.org/news/NISOinitiatives.html#digital) to explore potential areas of standardization. The workshop participants agreed that there are two general areas where standardization should be explored to support networked digital reference and possibly collaborative networked digital reference. Following on this workshop, this new standards committee will explore standards development in these two areas. They will develop a question processing transaction protocol for interchange of messages between digital reference domains. This will support processing and routing of questions and responses and packaging of other information to be exchanged. They will also build a metadata element set to identify and describe key components of both question and answer data and institutional and personal data.
The Networked Reference Services Committee (Standards Committee AZ) will be chaired by Sally H. McCallum (Library of Congress). McCallum intends to form the committee into two teams to deal with question processing transaction protocol and networked reference metadata element sets.
NISO is the only U.S. group accredited by the American National Standards Institute to develop and promote technical standards for use in information delivery services providing voluntary standards for libraries, publishers and related information technology organizations. All NISO standards are developed by consensus under the guidance of experts and practitioners in the field to meet the needs of both the information user and the producer. For information about NISO's current standardization interests and membership possibilities, please visit the NISO website at www.niso.org.