NISO Standard Serving Digital Reference Services Introduced Freely for Trial Use

Draft Networked Reference Standard Supports Q&A Between Library Patrons, Reference Sources

Bethesda, MD, USA (April 13, 2004) - The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) is freely making available a draft standard that defines a method and structure for data exchange between digital reference service domains. Digital reference services constitute a new but rapidly growing extension of the traditional reference offered to library patrons. While the service may be delivered via real-time chat or asynchronous e-mail, the essential characteristic of the service is the ability of the patron to submit questions and to receive answers via electronic means.
"There was strong interest in enabling localized network reference service domains to be interconnected with other collaborative reference services so questions that could not be answered in the "local" domain could be passed to another -- and this needed to be done in a totally automated, cost effective manner" noted Sally H. McCallum, Chief of the Network Development Office at the Library of Congress. "The networked reference protocol addresses this need. It specifies communications between domains for conveying questions, obtaining clarifications, returning answers, and other interactions related to this basic sequence."

"Four main categories of people have been keenly interested in developing this standard," noted Pat Harris, Executive Director of NISO. "They are the developers of digital reference services or software; the community trying to incorporate digital reference services into existing systems such as e-learning systems; groups assessing, acquiring, and specifying digital reference systems, such as government purchasing agencies; and librarians."

"With the draft freely available for trial use" Harris continued, "we hope that all interested parties will try it and contribute to its evolution." Those engaging in a trail use can discuss issues among themselves and with committee members through the committee listserv. The trial use period is set for 12 months -- April 12, 2004-April 12, 2005. The websites for downloading the draft viewing related documents, and other related information are and

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NISO, a non-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), identifies, develops, maintains, and publishes technical standards to manage information in our changing and ever-more digital environment. NISO standards apply both traditional and new technologies to the full range of information-related needs, including retrieval, re-purposing, storage, metadata, and preservation. NISO Standards, information about NISO's activities and membership are featured on the NISO website