New NISO Project To Bring Indexing Standard Up To Date

Voting Members of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) have approved a new standardization project, Criteria for Indexes. This work, intended to become an ANSI standard to replace the Z39.4 standard that was withdrawn in 1997, will provide a modern approach to guidelines for the content, organization, and presentation of indexes used for the retrieval of documents and parts of documents. NISO published TR 02-1997, a technical report entitled Guidelines for Indexes and Related Information Retrieval Devices, in 1997 as a replacement for the Z39.4 standard, Basic Criteria for Indexes, when consensus could not be reached on the standard's publication. This technical report is now quite out of date and not suited for use in many electronic environments.

It is expected that the new working group's output will provide advice for creating indexes that better fits today's presentation and use cases. This working group will use the 1997 technical report as a starting point for its work, but it plans to create a new Z39.4 standard to include extensions and revisions to ensure it is current, including addressing indexing techniques, such as embedded indexing and indexes designed for electronic searching. A formal standard will also ensure better authority and wider industry recognition.

“We hope that publishers will be able to refer to the re-established NISO standard when they specify requirements for index creation for both print and electronic materials,” comments Marti Heyman, Executive Director, Metadata Strategy and Operations at NISO Member organization OCLC and a member of the NISO Information Creation & Curation Topic Committee, which governs the approval of the new working group. "End users of the published materials will therefore experience an increased level of uniformity of indexes, and this will drive improved consistency — and therefore effectiveness — of the end-user experience."

NISO Associate Director for Programs, Nettie Lagace, mentions, "NISO is eager to modernize and re-publish one of our early standards, Z39.4. We are seeking broad representation from stakeholders, such as professional indexers, publishers, indexed database vendors, indexing tool vendors, and libraries, to ensure that the updated work has relevance to all of these audiences." Those interested in participating in this Working Group should contact Lagace at


NISO, based in Baltimore, Maryland, fosters the development and maintenance of standards that facilitate the creation, persistent management, and effective interchange of information so that it can be trusted for use in research and learning. To fulfill this mission, NISO engages libraries, publishers, information aggregators, system vendors, and other organizations that support learning, research, and scholarship through the creation, organization, management and curation of knowledge. NISO works with intersecting communities of interest and across the entire lifecycle of information standards. NISO is a not-for-profit association accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). For more information, visit the NISO website.


Nettie Lagace

Associate Executive Director
Nettie Lagace is the Associate Executive Director at NISO, where she is responsible for facilitating the work of NISO's topic committees and development groups for standards and best practices, and ...