Tag Archives | standards

NFAIS Releases Draft for Review and Comment

The National Federation of Advanced Information Services (NFAIS™) has posted a draft Discovery Service Code of Practice for review and comment from February 1 through March 16, 2012.

Document ReviewThey believe that discovery services have the potential to provide ease of information discovery, access, and use, benefitting not only its member organizations, but also the global community of information seekers. However, the relative newness of these services has generated questions and concerns among information providers and librarians as to how these services meet expectations with regard to issues related to traditional search and retrieval services; e.g. usage reports, ranking algorithms, content coverage, updates, product identification, etc.

This document has been developed to assist those who choose to use this new distribution channel through the provision of guidelines that will help avoid the disruption of the delicate balance of interests involved.

NFAIS is inviting all members of the information community to review the draft and submit questions and comments for consideration by the Code Development Task Force. Background information and the draft Code can be accessed at: http://info.nfais.org/info/codedraftintroduction.pdf.

NFAIS wants to hear from you. Are there other issues to be considered? Who do they impact? What solutions should be considered? All comments are welcome and can be submitted online at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RV257LM.

Alternatively a marked up document or written comments can be submitted to Bonnie Lawlor, NFAIS Executive Director, at blawlor@nfais.org.


In 2010 NFAIS was requested to gather information on the experiences and perceptions of its member organizations regarding discovery services — specifically those services that offer an alternative to the simple search capability provided by Google. A survey was conducted, but the results were inconclusive.

The respondents had not been working with discovery services long enough to gain sufficient experience with which to quantifiably determine the benefits and challenges that they presented to information providers and their users (see: http://info.nfais.org/info/Survey_Discovery_Svces.pdf).

The survey did raise questions and during the time that elapsed while answers were being sought from each of the major discovery services (EBSCO, Ex Libris, OCLC, and Serials Solutions), three facts emerged:

  1. The questions being raised by information providers overlapped significantly with those being raised in parallel within the library community; e.g. questions related to discovery service ranking algorithms, content coverage, usage reports, updates, branding, etc;
  2. Each service has their own proprietary system and unique approach to information discovery so that there is no single answer to the questions being raised
  3. A steadily growing number of librarians and information providers were entering into arrangements with discovery services with diverse expectations and without an awareness and understanding of the issues and concerns of the various players in any discovery service arrangement.


NFAISFounded in 1958, NFAIS is a membership organization of more than 60 of the world’s leading producers of databases and related information services, information technology, and library services in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, business, and the arts and humanities. Unlimited Priorities is proud to be a member of NFAIS.

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Unlimited Priorities develops a new Accessible Archives website

Unlimited Priorities has developed a new website for Accessible Archives. Like our own website, we implemented and will manage this one using a content management system (CMS). Unlimited Priorities continuously assesses the state-of-the-art in Content Management Systems for the development of websites for small and medium sized companies. For Accessible Archives, we chose WordPress, which presently drives over 59 million websites world wide, including many large organizations, like CNN, TechCrunch, NBC Sports and CBS Radio. Users also include millions of small to medium sized organizations. In fact, we use WordPress to manage our own website.

Using a CMS makes it much easier and faster to develop and manage a user and social-media friendly site that complies with all current standards and, importantly is very search-engine friendly as well. Issues that proved to be difficult, time-consuming and expensive using traditional website development methods are simple and quick when using a content management system.

An additional issue that organizations often face is the migration of large amounts of existing content. For the Accessible Archives site, the use of a CMS made this straightforward and importantly enabled us to modify the structure of existing content to comply with current web standards.

Besides being cost effective to develop, maintain and update, using a modern CMS ensures the site will remain current as new standards are developed, ensures that new technologies can be easily integrated, enables integration with popular social media, ensures that both current and future search engine standards will be followed and makes it easy to incorporate new design ideas, content areas and added functionality.

There’s more information about our approach here: Website Development, Website Analysis

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Movement on Cloud Standards

One of the issues that gives new cloud users pause is the lack of standards across different vendors. An application developed for Amazon may be very difficult to move to Rackspace. In practice, applications developed on top of platforms like the Apache Web Server, Tomcat, MySQL may not be as difficult to move as some suggest, but any progress on standards will make it easier and relieve some of the concern about vendor lock-in.

Barb Darrow, writing for Gigacom reports on the current state of standards development:

A cadre of tech companies led by IBM, and including CA Technologies, Cisco, Citrix, EMC, NetApp, Red Hat, and SAP – is throwing its weight behind a proposed standard to ensure applications can move between clouds.

The group, under the auspices of the venerable OASIS standards body (responsible for such standards as WS-Security and the OpenDocument Format), takes aim at one of the chief concerns enterprises have about cloud computing: a fear that a given cloud is like a roach motel in that they can check their apps in, but checking them out may be a whole other matter.

Unfortunately, as she goes on to report, Amazon, Rackspace and Microsoft are not on the list. Nevertheless, this group should help move the dialogue forward and perhaps get the major players to support the standards development process.

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OCLC Launches the WorldShare Platform

OCLC WorldShareOCLC, together with OCLC Global Council and members, is taking the cooperative’s ongoing strategy to help libraries operate and innovate at Webscale to a much broader level with the introduction of OCLC WorldShare, a new platform and a new brand that signals OCLC’s commitment to greater collaboration in library service delivery.

OCLC is launching the OCLC WorldShare Platform, which will enable library developers, partners and other organizations to create, configure and share a wide range of applications that deliver new functionality and value for libraries and their users.

The OCLC WorldShare Platform facilitates collaboration and app-sharing across the library community, so that libraries can combine library-built applications, partner-built applications and OCLC-built applications. This enables the benefits of each single solution to be shared broadly throughout the library community.

Over time, OCLC will bring together additional OCLC services and applications under the OCLC WorldShare name, including resource sharing, consortial borrowing, metadata management and additional applications. OCLC’s currently deployed library management solutions will continue to be maintained and enhanced in line with libraries’ ongoing requirements under their current brand names.

Much of the thinking that led to this came from the Libraries at Webscale OCLC discussion document.

From the report: Libraries at Webscale [Download from OCLC Reports]

The Web changed our ability to scope both our thinking and our actions. We are no longer limited to simply thinking globally and acting locally. We now have the capacity to think and act both globally and locally, and to do so simultaneously. Barriers have been lifted on how we can communicate, conduct commerce, conduct research, share data, create communities and deliver products.

Leaders can now apply the dimensions of geography and scope to almost every decision they make. Their organizations can tap into tools and resources, and serve communities and markets that are global, national, regional, local—and even personal.

In short, the Web scales.

The discussion document covers these topics:

  • The future is personalized
  • Creating and consuming a universe of content
  • In a flat world, there is one road to success
  • Three key challenges facing higher education and policymakers
  • Big data
  • Parabiosis and particularism: Redefining the 21st century collection
  • Big innovation requires big collaboration
  • Creating collective impact—tomorrow’s strategy for successful nonprofits
  • The shape of clouds: definitions and distinctions
  • Future challenges and opportunities for libraries

For more insight and information on this topic, read OCLC WorldShare Platform: OCLC Brands and Strengthens Its Webscale Strategy by Marshall Breeding.

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Library Linked Data Final Report from the W3C

One of the organizations that we pay attention to at Unlimited Priorities is the MIT-Based, World Wide Web Consortium (often referred to as the W3C). This is the group that oversees standards for the Web. The W3C has several incubator groups working on new and emerging standards. Their Library Linked Data Incubator Group, which includes people from OCLC, LYRASYS, the Library of Congress, Talis and several major universities, has the mission to help increase global interoperability of library data on the Web.

This group has just published a final report in which they characterize the current state of library data management, outline the potential benefits of publishing library data as Linked Data, and formulate next-step recommendations for library standards bodies, data and systems designers, librarians, archivists, and library leaders. These recommendations are focused on helping make the information that libraries create and curate more visible and re-usable outside of their original library context on the wider Web

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The Importance of Standards in Our Lives

Written for Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog.

Ebook Readers

Photo Credit: Cloned Milkmen

Everywhere you look, travel, and shop, our world is driven by standards which have been developed by organizations that are responsible for their sphere of influence. In our homes, the lighting, air-conditioning, heating, plumbing, and appliances are all built to industry standards. Years of professional contributions by engineers, users and manufacturers has made our lives more safe and comfortable.

In the information world, standards are just as important. I take for granted that when I turn on my computer, my system will boot up and take me to the location I have requested or follow my instructions. I access the world wide web and follow a URL to my favorite web site without ever considering all the standards that were developed to make this process work.

So much of my work is facilitated by the standards that have come before me, operating in the background without any effort on my part. So, given that we have all been pampered by our information world, consider the shock to the system when our world is turned upside down by either the lack of standards or lack of agreement on the future direction. Let’s take a look at the e-content world as an example. The shift from print formats to the electronic book, journal or magazine has taken the public by storm. Sales of e-books are skyrocketing, e-readers are hitting the market, and publishers are moving to publish the print and e-book at the same time.

In the scientific, technical, and medical professional education markets, the shift from the printed journal to electronic formats has been rapid and highly successful. In less than five years, the STM market publishers have developed site license agreements for their total journal output, which now represents over 60% of publishers’ revenue. The STM market is now supplying over 85% of their journal content in electronic form. Printed journal subscriptions have radically declined and many publishers are considering giving up print or shifting to print on demand.

The e-book world is following a similar pattern. Amazon’s introduction of the Kindle served as a wake-up call for the entire publishing industry. Amazon stands to generate over $1 billion from e-books sales by the end of their fiscal year. Amazon hit the market with the first e-reader and a large catalog of digital books at a price that was much cheaper than print. Other book retailers such as Barnes & Noble, with their Nook e-book reader, and Borders, which supports a group of e-readers, have joined in the digital revolution with e-book services. In April 2010, Apple hit the market with the release of their iPad with iBookstore and sold over 3,000,000 iPads in three months along with over 5,000,000 e-books downloaded in the same short time period.

The fact that the market has responded so well to the introduction of this new technology should make everyone happy. Publishers, book retailers, and readers all have something to celebrate. Sales of printed books at Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, and Borders stores have been in serious decline for several years. The old brick and mortar retailing outlet stores are losing printed books sales. The e-book is the first bright light in a declining market. Publishers are looking to the mobile market as a possible salvation for book, magazine, and newspaper sales. Mobile internet access now exceeds desktop access. Mobile computing is here to stay and developers are making sure that all their applications work in the mobile environment.

With all of this positive news, why are some still unhappy about where we are going? From my perspective as a user, publishers are not providing the market with the best choices in their e-book products. While we have the ePub standard for books, we also have Mobipocket books, PDFsupport, and a host of DRM software including Amazon’s proprietary DRM (AZW). What I want is a universal e-book format where every book bought at an e-book store could be read on every e-book reader. In simple terms, I want to take any book that I have downloaded to my iPad and share it with my wife, who is reading her books on her Kindle. It is a common practice for members of the same household to share books. Why not build the e-book market on a universal e-book format that offers interoperability between e-readers and e-book stores?

Amazon has developed apps for the iPad and a host of smartphones, so they are making progress in the right direction. Sadly though, e-books bought on the iBookstore with Apple’s Fairplay DRM cannot be read on the Kindle. Perhaps it is not the lack of standards that is at the heart of this issue. We have a range of standards, but the industry lacks the will to cooperate and select one universal standard.

This interoperability problem is perhaps more a political issue than a technical one. Kindle owns Mobipocket and the Kindle AZW file format which is used as their DRM. Both Amazon and Apple have built products on a set of their preferred standards. Each company works with the same group of publishers and offers a software developer kit. In the end, software developers do follow standards to build the various products. So what we have is not a lack of standards; it is more a lack of agreement on which standard to use. In the end the market will shake out and one universal e-book format will prevail, but not before consumers waste significant money.

While we are waiting for this confusion to clear up, the standards organizations are continuing to refine and improve the existing standards in the e-publishing world.

Many developers working on iPad book applications are working with EPUB. The EPUB standard is undergoing a major revision. The EPUB 2.1 working group has identified fourteen main problems that they intend to fix in their next release. High on the list to be implemented are enhanced global language support for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Middle Eastern languages. Support for right-to-left reading is a must if EPUB is to become the universal e-book format. In addition, other functions to be supported included rich media, interactivity, post publication annotation support, and advertising. Interactive digital textbooks and rich media magazines are going to be commonplace, and EPUB 2.1 must support these functions.

At the same time as EPUB 2.1 is undergoing development, other groups are working on HTML5. HTML5 is a standard for structuring and presenting content on the Web and incorporates features like video playback, drag-and-drop, and other features which have been dependent on third-party browser plugins. Many of the iPad applications released are supporting HTML5 features, as many parts of the standard are completed even though the standard has not been finalized. Amazon’s Kindle has also embraced the next generation of web programming, and Amazon has an upcoming release, the Kindle Previewer for HTML 5. Industry sources say that the Previewer offers complex layouts, embedded audio and video, and enhanced user interactivity.

Another related standard that impacts the user interface is CSS3. The Cascading Style Sheets style sheet language is used to describe the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language. CSS can allow the same markup page to be presented in different styles for different rendering methods, such as on screen, in print, in voice, and on Braille-based tactile devices. Developers need to pay attention to CSS for any products that are built for the US government and the college and university market where Section 508 compliance is required.

Amazon is currently being sued by various universities because the Kindle does not support Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act passed by Congress. This Federal law protects people with disabilities and requires all products bought at the Federal level to be compliant. Colleges and universities have a mandate to follow Section 508. Both the e-Readers and mobile devices such as the iPad must support Section 508. Disabled employees and users must have the same public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. The bottom line is simple and straightforward: all applications sold to colleges and universities as well as the Federal government must be accessible to people with disabilities.

What is clear to me is the unique urgency at this time for our industry to create, endorse and implement standards to take advantage of the advances in technology. The sales of our products and services are dependent on standards. Standards groups are in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. In the publishing world, industry standards for e-readers, our platforms, software tools and even the web are often produced by groups outside of our markets. Publishers and libraries also have standards groups working on their behalf. In the United States, it is ANSI that accredits some 400 organizations as national standards developers. NISO (see links below) is one of the 400 groups working on standards for libraries, publishers and information services provides.

There are two efforts underway which impact our community, and developers should be aware of these efforts. The first is the treatment of supplemental journal article materials.

How do publishers and editors deal with supplemental material in the e-journal world? That is a question that needs answering and a standard resolution. There are questions about readability, usability, preservation and reuse. Authors follow guidelines in the manuscript submission systems of publishers for the primary text of the article.

But in today’s technologically rich research community, the text is often insufficient to describe or facilitate a researcher’s result. There are data sets, background information, methodological details, and additional content that just do not fit into the printed journal. NISO is working for a number of publishers and community leaders to sort out this important problem. We need a recommended practice or best practice guideline for how to handle supplemental materials.

Another problem for the publishers and end users is journal article version control. When you find a scientific article on the web, how do you know which version you are reading? Certainly in medical research the version is a crucial factor. Authors often keep their original submitted manuscript; if Google or some other search engine can locate it on the web, one might find the page proof version, or the published version, corrected version of record, or enhanced version of record. What is important is to have a way to identify which version of an author’s work you are reading so that there is no confusion. This is another area where standards are important, and NISO is working on this problem as well.

Standards are an important part of the quality of our products and services. Standards are evolving as technology changes. Without standards, new markets would be limited and opportunity reduced. Standards are influenced by the corporations that often have the most to gain, but we should try to insure that standards are developed for the common good and not benefit one group. The e-book world sales growth has just begun to gain traction. We still have a number of hurdles to overcome, including interoperability, making sense out of DRMs, and developing rich formats, but we have come a long way in a very short period of time, even with the limitations that we see in the standards field.

We are entering a transformational time as the shift from print to e-formats is impacting all aspects of our society and our educational systems. I can not help but imagine what type of world my grandchildren will find when they begin college. Much of the print format book and journals will have been replaced. One thing is for sure: that the implementation of standards will make this new world possible.

Some related references:

About the Author

Dan Tonkery is president of Content Strategies as well as a contributor to Unlimited Priorities. He has served as founder and president of a number of library services companies and has worked nearly forty years building information products.

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