Standards

NISO commissioned a Blue Ribbon Panel, chaired by Cliff Lynch, to advise on its strategic planning process. [Full disclosure: I was a member of the panel.]

The report of the Panel [pdf] is now available and makes compelling reading for anybody interested in how standards work is organized - or not organized - in our space.

And as more processes move into a network environment, standards become much more important. This means that we would benefit from better ways of identifying standards needs, better ways of supporting standards activities through their whole life-cycle, and a better synthesising framework within which to understand priorities and gaps.

Comments: 1

May 25, 2005
Dorothea Salo

This is excellent, lucid, thoughtful reading. Good work!

I do have a slight quibble with the report's assumptions vis-a-vis potential librarian participation in standard-building efforts.

While it is definitely vital to get specialized technical talent on a standards body, that's a far cry from saying every member has to have the same (or even the same amount of) technical talent. Indeed, in my experience people with somewhat less up-front knowledge do standards bodies an immense service by keeping their noses to the grindstone and out of the clouds. They tend to improve the clarity and comprehensiveness of the standard's eventual documentation immeasurably, also -- and poor writing quality was explicitly noted as a common standards failing in the report.

Now, obviously such participants need some tech savvy, and they have to be willing and able to learn. (I was at a standards meeting a month ago; learned a hefty amount about encryption and public-key infrastructures in two short days. Had to.) Libraries, especially academic libraries, have plenty of people who meet this profile, however. Why on earth not tap them for standards work? For any academic library with a service component to tenure, this should serve well, and be more congenial to the average library geek than typical library-organization committee work.

So the librarian participants win, their employers win by improving staff technical talent, standards bodies win, and libraries in general win both by raising the library profile in the tech world and by receiving standards that keep library needs firmly in mind.

On another topic, I'd be interested in hearing more (whatever anyone can share) about the "lively debate" related to education about standards. Yes, the private marketplace for this is healthy, BUT it's quite possible (and has happened) for a standard to slip through the commercial cracks and be lost. I'd like to see NISO pick up the orphans somehow, either by doing the work itself or goosing the private sector.