Creating NISO Standards
How Standards are Created
Standards are much like icebergs: a lot goes on under the surface, beyond your immediate view. Typically a standard is "supported" by years of development and trial implementations. It can take up to five years for a good idea to advance to being a formally approved standard.
Before they become standards, they are good ideas:
There may have been a day when standards could be academic exercises, but no more. Change is ubiquitous. Some would say that change has become the only constant in our lives -- personal and professional. Standards can be vehicles that allow us to move through periods of transition, but they must respond to real needs and solve real problems to be used, otherwise they are "shelf-sitters". To develop market driven standards, NISO needs to hear from you and be a good listener.
So NISO learns more about a good idea:
That is why NISO sponsors pre-standardization workshops that bring together expert industry representatives to talk standards for a day. It happens because leaders in an industry recognize a problem and work together toward a solution. The result is a report with recommendations. And very often, the recommendation may suggest that a standards committee be formed. Topics NISO has begun to address include the implementation of the DOI, standards for machine-generated thesauris, library statistics for the Internet age, and networked reference services.
Then a committee gets to work:
Standards development is a challenging activity unlike any other professional endeavor you may undertake. It demands a commitment of time and expertise and intelligence that is not unlike basic research and development. It is definitely not for the weak of heart or mind! Standards committee members require technical expertise combined with vision. In the case of the committee chair communication skills and interpersonal skills are a must. The process may be tedious at times, it may tax your patience, but it will never bore you. If you spot standards development activities on a job candidate's resume you can be assured that individual brings an unusually capable set of skills and connections to the table.
And the community gets involved:
Shaping good standards takes time but this investment is not any longer than other important strategic activities your organization engages in. The fact is, standards are a product of consensus which requires significant base-building that must go on to move a group to a common solution. This investment is the most important part of the process and its value cannot be downplayed. Drafts of proposed standards are submitted to Voting Members of NISO for comments and approval and available to any involved party for comment.
Approved standards are published and used:
When a standard is published, NISO announces this as widely as possible through a variety of electronic lists, to many industry news outlets, and on our web site. Because we want people to use these standards, we also make them easily, quickly and freely available for download for free from the NISO website. NISO standards are used by publishers and information providers, automated information systems companies, library directors, systems librarians, serials librarians, preservation librarians, abstractors, indexers-all those whose work depends on interoperability with other systems and processes.
But it's still not done:
Some NISO standards require a Maintenance Agency to register users, to assist in implementation of the standard and to provide information on any changes to the standard and advise on how to implement the standard. And all standards are reviewed on a regular basis at least five years after approval and revised as the information environment changes.