Letter From the Editor
Each May, NISO staff and members of our standards community gather for a meeting of the ISO Technical Committee for Information and Documentation (ISO/TC 46) and its various subcommittees. This is the committee that creates and promotes formal international standards for the publishing and library communities, and is responsible for everything from country codes (used in Internet top level domains), transliteration standards, and content identifiers, to metadata structures, preservation of materials, and standards for archives and records management. It is a dense and significant portfolio of activities that isn’t easily or neatly summarized. As is the case with many technical standards, it’s also not a set of work that is obvious most of the time, but which underpins much of the international trade in content and information services. One could hardly imagine an international book trade without ISBNs or ISSNs for serials, library cataloging without the MARC record structure, metadata without Dublin Core elements, nor any literary translation (outside Roman-based languages) without character transliteration.
Standardization at the international level is by no means a rapid process and the challenges to consensus are often significant. The process of agreeing on standards is often difficult enough, but adding to this back-and-forth are the difficulties of translation and working across languages and cultures, not to mention the less-meaningful-but-equally-cumbersome logistics of location and time zones. However, the stakes at an ISO level are often higher and the issues considerably more strained than in other situations. What might have functioned perfectly in a particular national context might not work as well in another. However, as the world has become more interconnected and distribution of content is frequently international, this suite of standards is critically important.
Also at an international level, though not within ISO/TC 46, NISO is now engaged in work on document processing languages, through a Joint Technical Committee (JTC 1/SC 34) of ISO and IEC. This group has proposed, via the South Korean delegation, to standardize digital rights management (DRM) approaches for electronic books. This project was approved by members of JTC 1/SC 34 earlier this year and a working group is now forming. This work could be an important overlay to the EPUB specification for digital rights and control of eBooks. The project envisions an environment where libraries could simplify their systems integration if there were simpler, more standardized security on those eBook files. How that standardized security and approach is developed could have significant impact on publishers, aggregators, and libraries distributing eBooks around the world. Voting members of NISO are encouraged to nominate experts to this JTC 1/SC 34 working group. Because of the timing of the ballot and the simultaneous launch of NISO as the US Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for this subcommittee in January, NISO members did not vote on the launch of the group. NISO is now in a position to nominate experts to engage in the work, if any members would like to do so. I will be reporting on the ISO meetings, and the outcomes of the TC46 plenary meeting later this month, during our monthly open teleconference on May 21 at 3:00 pm EDT. More information about that program is available here.
Also, related to security and access, I’d also like to draw people’s attention to NISO’s in-person event in Baltimore on May 22 and 23 on Digital Library Access Control and Security. This event will be a terrific learning and discussion experience with a fantastic lineup of speakers focused on the complex world of managing access to subscribed resources. We will be exploring a range of technologies, approaches, and solutions to the challenges of providing simple access to patrons while also providing security and control of intellectual property. This interactive session will include a mix of presentations and group discussions. More information is here.
Finally, I encourage you all to add to your calendars the NISO Annual Meeting, which will be held at the American Library Association in New Orleans on June 23 at 1:00pm CDT. This annual event is our opportunity to describe NISO’s status and future plans. Any questions or topics you would like us to cover are welcome in advance of or during the event. We will be recording it for those that can’t make it in person.
I hope to connect with you at one of these events in the coming weeks.
With kindest regards,
NISO Executive Director