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Marilyn Geller writes: \"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 (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
For additional information contact NISO Headquarters at (301) 654-2512.