National Library Standards Activities

This report was last updated in June 2004

The library and information community has adopted a range of standards which facilitate the interchange of library data, which promote the inter-operability of library systems, and which support the operation of national and international networks of libraries. Adherence to standards plays an important role in improving access by users to the information resources which are held in library collections, in collections of other cultural institutions, or which are accessible on the World Wide Web.

For many years the National Library has been an active participant in the definition and promotion of national and international standards for the library and information community. This statement sets out the Library’s current standards activities, and the directions and priorities which it wishes to pursue in the medium term future.

Standards framework

The National Library sees it as important to maintain a watching brief over national and international standards activities to ensure that the appropriate standards framework is in place or under development to support its business objectives.

The National Library is represented on the Standards Australia / Standards New Zealand Technical Committee IT/19 (Computer Applications in Information and Documentation). Committee IT/19 addresses standardization practices relating to libraries, information services and related tasks. Its workplan is driven primarily by the activities of the International Organisation for Standardization's Technical Committee 46, Subcommittee 4 (ISO TC 46/ SC 4) - the equivalent international standards body. Committee IT/19 also maintains a watching brief over other areas of the work of TC 46 that relate to computer applications in information and documentation. The Library will also monitor relevant activities undertaken by Committee IT/21 (Records Management).

The National Library's Assistant Director-General (Information Technology) chairs a cross-program Standards Activity Group that meets at least four times a year to review the Library's standards activities. An important role for this group is to assess changes in internal priorities or the external environment that may need to be addressed through allocation of responsibilities and resources to specific business areas within the library. As a regular agenda item, the Group reviews the outcomes of Committee IT/19 meetings and proposes items for forthcoming meetings.

The Library publishes information about its standards activities through this web page and also maintains a page that provides links to lists of standards and standard organisations.

Responsibility for ensuring the Library's standards activities operate within an overall standards framework is shared as follows:

  • National Library Standards Activities Group: priorities setting and allocation of resources to standards-based activities;
  • Information Technology Division: maintenance and development of the "Standards for Libraries" web site; provision of expert advice to the National Library and other institutions on information technology standards;
  • Resource Sharing Division: provision of expert advice to the National Library and other institutions on system interconnection standards and related application protocols.

Catalogue descriptions

The use of common cataloguing standards is of major importance in supporting consistent access to library catalogues by users, and in promoting the international sharing of cataloguing data, which greatly improves the efficiency of the cataloguing process.

Descriptive cataloguing

The library community in Australia bases its description of library materials on the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules. The second edition of these rules (known as AACR2) was first published in 1978, and updated most recently in 2005. The National Library has been active in the development, interpretation and implementation of AACR2, and in the development of RDA : Resource Description and Access, the replacement for AACR2. In particular, the Library:

  • has participated in the membership of the Joint Steering Committee over a significant portion of the last three decades;
  • is actively involved in the Australian Committee on Cataloguing, which establishes the Australian viewpoint on cataloguing rules and issues;
  • provides secretariat services to the Australian Committee on Cataloguing;
  • has worked actively to support Australian implementation of descriptive cataloguing standards through its support for the National Bibliographic Database;
  • maintains a corresponding membership of the IFLA Section on Cataloguing;
  • comments on documents developed by IFLA working groups, such as the Functional requirements for bibliographic records (FRBR);
  • monitors changes to Library of Congress cataloguing practices as disseminated through the Library of Congress rule interpretations; and
  • participates in the Anglo-American Cataloguing Committee for Cartographic Materials(AACCCM).

The National Library, as the major Australian cataloguing agency, regards these as priority activities. The Library will continue to be active, nationally and internationally, in this area through appropriate committees.

Responsibility for this area is shared as follows:

  • Collections Management Division: input to RDA, membership of Australian Committee on Cataloguing, membership of IFLA working groups, membership of AACCCM, support for Australian Committee on Cataloguing;
  • Resource Sharing and Innovation Division: input to RDA, membership of Australian Committee on Cataloguing, support for National Bibliographic Database.

Subject cataloguing and indexing

The most commonly used subject cataloguing standard in Australia is the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). While LCSH was developed in the United States, it has significant international use. The library community in Australia will generally not diverge from LCSH except for specifically Australian requirements. The National Library maintains the Australian extension to LCSH, which includes additional Australian subject headings and references that have been authorised for use in Libraries Australia. The Library routinely proposes additions and changes to LCSH itself.

A number of other subject thesauri are used by Australian libraries and indexing services. The Library  developed and maintained the APAIS (Australian Public Affairs Information Service) thesaurus until 2009, and the Occupations thesaurus. The General, Programs & Invitations and Trade thesauri are used in-house to index the National Library's ephemera collection. The Library is also a member of the Management Committee for the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus (APT) that is used in PictureAustralia.

The Library will continue to support activities in these areas of subject cataloguing and indexing standards.

Responsibility for this area is shared as follows:

  • Resource Sharing and Innovation Division: Australian input to LCSH, development of the Australian extension to LCSH;
  • Collections Management Division: maintenance of all thesauri, membership of APT Management Committee.

Dewey Decimal Classification

The Dewey Decimal Classification system is the classification standard most widely used by Australian libraries, although a number of libraries use the Library of Congress classification scheme. The Library recognises that it is important that the Dewey scheme should cater properly for Australian places, cultural themes, etc. The Library participates in the development of the Dewey Decimal Classification through the Australian Committee on Cataloguing.

The Library will maintain its relatively low level of activity in relation to the Dewey Decimal Classification system.

Responsibility for this area rests with the Collections Management Division.

MARC (Machine Readable Cataloguing) standards

The MARC format, created in the United States in the 1960s, is a well established standard for the exchange of cataloguing data. MARC has been critical in supporting the efficient international distribution of cataloguing data, thus underpinning bibliographic utility services such as OCLC and Libraries Australia.

There are a number of national MARC standards, as well as an international MARC (known as UNIMARC) which was developed by IFLA, but all of them conform to a structure which is defined by an international standard, ISO 2709, Format for information exchange. Between 1973 and 1992 the National Library supported an Australian MARC specification, which it published and maintained. However, the Library announced in 1991 that it would cease to maintain the Australian MARC specification after 1992, and that it would encourage Australian libraries to adopt the USMARC standard (subsequently superseded by MARC 21).

The Library regularly provides comments to the Library of Congress on developments in the MARC 21 standard that are being considered by the relevant US committee (known as MARBI). The Library also maintains membership of the MARC Advisory Committee. In general, there are no requirements for a peculiarly ‘Australian’ input to the MARC format, but the Library has contributed to the development of code lists within the MARC standard, which may include codes for Australian places and languages.

The Library will continue its level of activity in relation to the MARC format.

Responsibility for this area rests with the Resource Sharing Division, and the Collections Management Division for membership of the MARC Advisory Committee.

Special collection descriptions

The discovery of special collection resources, such as manuscript items, often relies on combining collection-level catalogue descriptions with finding lists or captions for item-level descriptions. The Library is implementing the Encoded Archival Description, which is a standard for encoding archival finding aids, and aims to convert its existing manuscript finding aids to the EAD standard.

The Library is monitoring the work of the International Council on Archives’ Committee on Descriptive Standards which has issued two standards:

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, and

ISAAR (CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families.

As a member of the Joint Committee of the Australian Council of Archives and the Australian Society of Archivists on Descriptive Standards, the Library has been assessing these standards with a view to reporting on the extent to which it can comply with them.

The Library is interested in the Primary Sources Program of the Research Libraries Group (RLG), which has been active in developing archival record description standards.

The Library will maintain its relationships with the International Council of Archives, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the RLG Primary Sources Program in the archival standards area.

Responsibility for this area rests with the Australian Collections and Reader Services Division.


The need to improve the effectiveness of searching for information resources on the World Wide Web has prompted the development of simplified metadata standards which could be used by authors or others at relatively low cost. (The term "metadata" refers to data which relates to one or more information resources, supporting their discovery or management). Prominent amongst these standards is the Dublin Core metadata set.

Dublin Core is a generic metadata standard for use by libraries, archives, government and other publishers of online information. The Library recognises that this standard may be applied broadly to citation and full text descriptions, and may support interoperability between a range of schemas, including MARC 21.

The Library intends to continue participating in appropriate Dublin Core working parties to support the continuing development of the standard, and its practical implementation through software tools, metadata registries and other measures.

Responsibility for this area is shared as follows:

  • Information Technology Division: participation in the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.

Data used in library systems

While the Library places an understandable emphasis on cataloguing and other standards for the description of library materials, there are a number of underlying standards which are also of major importance in ensuring the interchange of library data.

Character sets

The data which describes library materials or electronic information resources is, in the final analysis, composed of characters which belong to the world's scripts. There are a number of standards which govern these character sets, including the international standard ISO 10646 which is functionally identical to the UNICODE standard, and code sets for East Asian languages such as the US standard Z39.64 (East Asian Character Code for Bibliographic Use).

The Library has a low level of participation in the development of these standards. It monitors developments through its participation in Standards Australia Committee IT/19. It also monitors the use of East Asian character codes in products used by its National CJK Service.

Responsibility for this area rests with the Information Technology Division.

Data Elements

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), through its Technical Committee 46, Subcommittee 4, has developed a range of library automation standards. One of the working groups of Subcommittee 4 (Working Group 7) has developed a family of data element standards (ISO 8459) which can be used as a data dictionary to support the automation of library technical services. Data element standards have been defined for Interloan, Acquisitions, Information retrieval, Circulation, and Cataloguing & metadata. Further work will concentrate on a consolidation of all the parts into a unified data dictionary standard.

As discussed below, the Library has recently developed a draft data dictionary, based on the international standard ISO 2146 (Directories of libraries, archives, information and documentation centres, and their data bases), to support the future development of its directory services. The Library is leading a review of ISO 2146, which commenced in May 2000, under the auspices of Working Group 7.

The Library has also been active in the identification of data elements for preservation purposes. These activities are discussed in the section on Preservation Standards.

The Library also notes the existence of a framework standard, ISO 11179 (Specification and standardization of data elements) which it will observe, along with ISO 8459, in the construction of data dictionaries to support its own automated services.

Responsibility for this area is shared as follows:

  • Resource Sharing Division: monitoring of the ISO 8459 family of standards;
  • Collections Management Division: maintenance of the preservation metadata element set;
  • Information Technology Division: monitoring of the ISO 11179 standard.

Item Identifiers

A key type of data element is a unique number which identifies a book, serial, journal article, electronic resource, or other type of information resource. Most of the standards applicable to this area have been developed within Subcommittee 9 of ISO Technical Committee 46. Examples include ISBN, ISSN, ISMN, Serial Item Contribution Identifier (SICI), Book Item and Component Identifier (BICI), and Digital Object Identifier (DOI).

The Library has historically had a strong interest in item identifiers, and it has endeavoured to ensure that processes are in place for the routine assignment of several of the above identifier types to Australian information resources. The Library has relinquished the Australian ISBN agency role, but remains the national centre for ISSN and ISMN.

In the United States, a national standard has been developed for the identification of journal articles and other individual serial contributions. This standard is known as the Serial Item Contribution Identifier, or SICI. A similar standard for non-serial items, the Book Item and Component Identifier (BICI) has been released as a Draft Standard for trial use.

The Library will continue to monitor the development of the SICI and BICI standards, and it will work through Standards Australia and ISO committees to seek their endorsement as international standards. The Library will encourage their implementation in Australian citation databases and related services.

The Library has a strong interest in current developments aimed at providing authoritative and persistent identification of digital information resources. In April 2000 the Library engaged a consultant to examine and report on existing standards and processes for persistent identifiers, and a report of the consultant was released in June 2001. The Library has implemented the recommendations of this report and is now allocating persistent identifiers to the digital objects in its care, according to the guidelines in Appendix 1 of the report. It is managing persistence of its resources through a combination of managed URLs and a resolver system based on directing query strings to our application delivery mechanisms for digital materials detailed in Appendix 2 of the report.

In collaboration with the CASL Digital Issues Working Group and the State Library of Tasmania, the Library is looking at the feasibility of an Australian Digital Resource Identifier (ADRI) and a national agency for its implementation and allocation.

In 2001 the Library released a statement on Managing Web Resources for Persistent Access .

The Library is also an active member of an international working group (the Persistent Identifiers Task Force) which was formed to develop standards and guidelines for national libraries in the use of persistent identifiers. This Group has met twice, in April 1999 and March 2000.

The Library has agreed to participate in a pilot project with the ISSN International Centre to explore the concept of an Electronic Archive Registry and its possible role as part of a resolution system.

Responsibility for this area is shared as follows:

  • Collections Management Division, Technical Services Branch: oversight of the ISBN, ISSN, SICI and BICI standards, monitoring of persistent identifier standards, evaluation of test beds;
  • Information Technology Division: monitoring of technical aspects of persistent identifier standards, technical support for test beds;
  • Resource Sharing Division: delivery of the Library’s PURL service.

Full text markup

Text markup is of critical importance in the provision of online access to documents. This process involves the insertion of markers which clearly delineate the logical components of a document, such as the author information, title information, abstract, executive summary, chapter headings, and bibliographic references. Markup facilitates the browsing of documents through the Web. It also facilitates search access and the extraction of metadata. The wide scale adoption of standard markup schemes by publishers could greatly facilitate the efficient construction of digital libraries.

The framework standard for document markup is known as the Standard Generalised Markup Language or SGML. Within this framework, there is a multitude of specific standards for the markup of particular types of documents, such as books, journal articles, law reports, theses, or manuscript finding aids. Each of these standards is known as a Document Type Definition.

Examples of the application of SGML are the HyperText Markup Language (HTML, the original basis for browsing documents on the World Wide Web), the Extensible Markup Language (XML, designed as an improvement on the HTML standard in the separation of content from presentation), the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) .

The Library will give increased attention to these standards, because of their importance in the management of digital information resources. The Library is trialling the use of XML and EAD (mentioned above under Special Collection Descriptions) for its collection guides, manuscript finding aids and other appropriate web publications.

Responsibility for this area rests with the Information Technology Division.

System interconnection

The development of library networks over the next decade will be based on the interconnection of distributed library systems, and the use of client/server technology. The implementation of certain key technical standards will allow particular applications such as searching and interlibrary loan to be managed cooperatively between two computer systems. . The three key standards are Z39.50, the international Interlibrary Loan Protocol, and the Open Archives Initiative Metadata Harvesting Protocol.

Z39.50 (ISO 23950)

The Z39.50 standard specifies the structures and rules which allow a client machine (such as a personal computer or workstation) to search a database on a server machine (such as a library catalogue) and retrieve records that are identified as a result of such a search. The rather arcane designation for this standard derives from the fact that it was the 50th standard developed by a committee known as "Z39", the committee of the American National Standards Institute that has the responsibility for library automation standards. While technically a US national standard (Version 3 of which was adopted in 1995), Z39.50 has also been copied or "cloned" as an international standard, known as ISO 23950. The standard has been of major importance in supporting access to distributed library databases and catalogues. The Library of Congress undertakes the role of maintenance agency for the standard.

Through its participation in Standards Australia Committee IT/19 and related bodies, the Library has been active in monitoring the development of the Z39.50 standard and in ensuring that it became an official Australian standard. The Library continues to participate as resources permit in meetings of the Z39.50 Implementors Group, an international body which works by consensus to approve the development of the standard.

From 1998 the Library participated in a group, convened by the National Library of Canada, which developed what is now known as the Bath Profile. This Z39.50 profile was drafted in August 1999 at a meeting held in Bath, UK. The profile builds on the work of earlier profiling projects and defines a range of author, title, subject, keyword, date of publication and standard identifier searches which should be supported, the exact combination of attributes required to specify each search type and the expected behaviours. The profile addresses the range of functionality which users expect to be supported by library catalogues. In addition the profile defines levels of conformance for cross-domain searching.

The Library has implemented the Z39.50 standard in its key bibliographic services: Kinetica; the National CJK Service and its catalogue. The Library also maintains a national directory of Z39.50 targets.

Libraries will add holdings and original cataloguing data to the national union catalogue, through Kinetica, as part of the process of obtaining records for their local systems. The Library recognises that, while union catalogues are of great benefit to library communities, more flexibility is required in the process of updating them. For this reason, the Library has taken a strong role in supporting the concept of the Union Catalogue Profile. This Profile is intended for use with the Z39.50 standard to allow a cataloguer to update a database in a distributed environment, effectively supporting the simultaneous update of local and union catalogue systems. The National Library, in collaboration with others, has discussed this profile with the Z39.50 Implementors Group, and it hosts the Profile on its web site.

Work on the Z39.50 standard is a priority activity for the Library, because of the importance of the standard to the development of the open, distributed library network. The Library will continue its high level of involvement in the monitoring of the standard, in contribution to the maintenance of the Union Catalogue Profile and the Bath profile, in support for the standard in the Library’s own systems, and in collaborative projects which are based on the standard.

Responsibility for this area is shared as follows:

  • Resource Sharing Division: implementation of the standards.
  • Information Technology Division: input into the development of the standards.

Interlibrary Loan Protocol and related standards

The Interlibrary Loan Protocol is designed to support the interconnection of separate computer systems which are managing the interlibrary loan process. It supports the control and management of ILL transactions for both lending and borrowing activities.

The Library has not taken an active role in the development of the Protocol. However, it has cooperated closely with the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee through the JEDDS and LIDDAS projects, which are based on the Protocol. The AVCC, through its project manager for JEDDS and LIDDAS, represented Australia at recent international meetings of the ILL Protocol Implementors Group. The Library’s Kinetica Service is using the Fretwell Downing VDX software, which supports the Protocol.

Related to the Interlibrary Loan Protocol are standards which support electronic document delivery services, such as the "header information" standard developed by the Group on Electronic Document Interchange (GEDI), and the Multitype Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) standards which support transmission of a document image over electronic mail.

These are important areas of activity for the National Library, because these standards will underpin the development of a national and global distributed interlibrary loan network. The Library will continue to monitor the development of these standards, partly in cooperation with others through the LIDDAS Steering Committee.

Responsibility for this area rests with the Resource Sharing Division.

Open Archives Initiative (OAI) Metadata Harvesting Protocol

The National Library has embarked on an exploration of the use of the Metadata Harvesting Protocol in its proof-of-concept to support resource discovery of digital Australiana. Metadata will be gathered from a wide range of information managers according to the OAI protocol and the proof-of-concept will also become a target for similar initiative being conducted by the University of Michigan's OAIster project. The National Library has also become a signatory to the Budapest Open Archive Initiative which 'aims to accelerate progress in the international effort to make research articles in all academic fields freely available on the Internet.' .

Responsibility for this area rests with the Coordination Support Branch.

Directory services

Directory services provide a critical underpinning to the library and information infrastructure, allowing the discovery of relevant information suppliers, and providing access to information about the methods and conditions of supply.

The Library has created and published a number of directories of Australian library collections and services. It has developed the Australian Libraries Gateway and the Directory of Australia’s Oral History Collections to provide a single web interface to these directory services. The Library has recently developed a draft data dictionary, based on the international standard ISO 2146 (Directories of libraries, archives, information and documentation centres, and their data bases), to support the future development of these services. As this standard is now over 10 years old, the Library is leading a review of the standard through Committee IT/19.

Directory services play a significant role in supporting interlibrary loan services. The Library has developed the Australian Interlibrary Resource Sharing Directory, which includes a national register of library symbols. The Library is also participating in ISO Technical Committee 46, Subcommittee 4, Working Group 8, which is developing a standard for an internationally accepted system of library codes or symbols.

A recent paper sets out relevant standards initiatives and projects related to directory services to be undertaken by the Library and by Committee IT/19.

The Library is conscious that directories will increasingly be based on distributed services, rather than on centralised directory databases. For this reason, international directory service standards such as X.500 are likely to become more important in the cooperative development of library directories.

X.500 is actually a series of ISO standards which define a global directory service that is independent of any computing application or network platform. An X.500 service will utilise a collection of directory servers, each holding a portion of a global directory information base. Because the X.500 standard is quite complex, the Internet community has defined a standard called the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, which conforms to the X.500 model and is becoming widely used.

The Library will aim to develop its technical expertise in these directory protocols, and it will consider how to apply these standards to the future development of the Australian Libraries Gateway and the national interlibrary loan network.

The Library is cooperating with Macquarie University in relation to the international project known as PRIDE (People and Resources in a Distributed Environment) which will develop services based on the X.500 standard. In particular, the Library is working with Macquarie University to develop a draft directory schema. The Library is also trialling the Open Directory software (which supports X.500) with the aim of migrating the Interlibrary Resource Sharing Directory to this platform in the medium term.

Responsibility for this area is shared as follows:

  • Information Technology Division: monitoring of the X.500 standard, participation in the development of a draft directory schema, monitoring of data dictionary standards, leadership of the review of ISO 2146, implementation of the Open Directory software;
  • Resource Sharing Division: support for the Australian Libraries Gateway, participation in the PRIDE Project, monitoring of standard library codes.

Preservation standards

Preservation of physical collections

Despite the growth in digital collections, the Library will continue to be responsible for its very large, important and growing non-digital collections. Preserving these collections draws on a range of best practice approaches. The Library takes an active role in monitoring and contributing to developments, especially in the areas of conservation treatment, storage environments and strategies for dealing with intrinsically unstable information carriers such as cellulose acetate photographic materials and acidic newspapers.

The Library played an especially active part in the development of an Australian standard for "permanent" paper, through Standards Australia Committee MS/48 (AS 4003-1996) - see Australian National Permanent Paper Campaign for further details. The Library will continue to support the use of such standards by publishers, as a way of reducing the potential costs of preserving future additions to the Library's book collections.

Responsibility for this area rests with the Collection Management Division: Preservation Services Branch.

Reformatting standards

The Library accepts reformatting or copying as a legitimate tool in support of its preservation programs. Identifying and using appropriate standards is a key foundation of the Library's approach to reformatting, whether using analogue or digital technologies.

Preservation microfilming

In the area of preservation microfilming, the Library has gained extensive experience and played a leadership role in standards development in Australia. It was the main instigator in re-shaping the Standards Australia Committee MS/4 to focus on preservation issues, and actively contributed to the development of draft preservation microfilming standards through that Committee. In addition, the Library published in 1998 Guidelines for preservation microfilming in Australia & New Zealand to assist in the adoption of best practices. More recently, the Library is collaborating with the State Library of South Australia to develop training materials in preservation microfilming, suitable for use in the South East Asia and Pacific regions (in which the Library has special responsibilities as a Regional Centre of the IFLA Preservation and Conservation Program). Improved knowledge of and compliance with standards and best practices for preservation microfilming have been identified as important goals for these regions.

Digital reformatting

While microfilm has been a very useful preservation reformatting methodology, digital imaging technology has opened up the possibility of greatly enhanced access to the content of collection materials.

The Library makes digital copies of physical collection items in order to enhance access and to support preservation programs. Standards play an important part in ensuring widespread accessibility, and in defining formats and methods capable of surviving a number of technology changes. The Library is also seeking best practices that will minimise the risk to material being digitally copied.

Currently, a standards approach to digital imaging applies mainly to image file formats. The Library takes account of a range of graphic interchange standards including TIFF (Tagged Image File Format), JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), and GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) standards. The Library has also used some proprietary standards such as Kodak PhotoCD for processing and storage of images, Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) for delivery of multi-page documents, DigiMarc watermarking to protect the intellectual property of creators and distributors of digital images, and Lizard Technologies MrSid wavelet compression tools to make large images such as maps deliverable over networks. Recently, the Library has trialled the use of Ebind, a method of binding digital images together using an SGML document type definition. Ebind supports management and display of digital copies needing to reflect the hierarchical and sequential structure of documents such as books.

The Library seeks to use open, non-proprietary standards wherever they can deliver the functionality the Library requires.

Other elements of digitisation programs such as selection and preparation of materials, digital capture, and management of digital collections, are currently less standardised, although many forums are attempting to prepare best practice guidelines in these areas.

The Library has been an active member of the Corporate Management Forum Information Technology Working Group Digitisation Subgroup, which produced some basic guidelines for national institutions in Australia.

The Library also participates in the RLG PRESERV program, which has prepared a number of digital imaging guidance documents, and the NISO Committee AU on Technical Metadata for Digital Still Images.

The Library has developed its own Digitisation Policy, which sets out many of its own intentions, and is engaged in a major digitisation program which will build on experience gained in a number of its own previous projects, as well as that of others such as the Library of Congress' American Memory and the Making of America project. Over the course of its initial integrated digitisation program in 2001-2002, the Library expects to clarify and report on the standards it finds most useful in all areas of digital imaging, and to clarify its intentions regarding the roles of digital imaging and preservation microfilming.

Responsibility for these areas rests with:

  • Collection Management Division: Preservation Services Branch
  • Corporate Services Division: Coordination Support Branch, and IT Division.

Preservation of digital collections

The Library is involved in developing digital archiving and preservation procedures to support both its own digital collections (including digital surrogates and Australian digital publications), and a distributed national collection of electronic publications. These collections include both online and physical format digital resources. The Library shares relevant information freely with a number of other national libraries, consortia such as RLG, and digital archiving projects overseas, as well as with other Australian libraries and institutions, with a view to developing standards and best practices that will ensure the ongoing accessibility of digital collections.

In particular, the Library closely monitors the development of archiving models such as the Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS). This emerging standard is being developed by the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems on behalf of ISO Technical Committee 20, Subcommittee 13 (Space data and information transfer systems).

The Library is also working to develop best practice guidelines with an RLG/OCLC Digital Archive Working Group defining the attributes of a reliable digital archive, and with a special committee of the Council of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) on digital archiving issues.

The emergence of standards is likely to be slow in the area of strategies intended to maintain access to large collections of digital resources, such as migration and emulation. The Library monitors and when appropriate seeks to contribute to international research leading to a better understanding of these and other strategies. As best practices emerge, the Library plays a role in publicising them and encouraging their use, both through its PADI website, and through published guidelines such as Safeguarding Australia’s web resources: guidelines for creators and publishers and First steps in preserving digital publications.

Responsibility for this area rests with:

  • Collection Management Division: Preservation Services Branch
  • Technical Services Branch.

Preservation of audio resources

The Library takes an active role in developing informal standard procedures for sound archiving through the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA), and applies best practice approaches in managing its analogue and digital audio collections. It monitors the activities of the RLG Working Group on Preserving Magnetic Media, and closely monitors the impact of Digital Video Disc technology on Compact Disc standards. However, as the Library moves its audio collections to mass storage systems over the next few years, CD standards are expected to become less important to the Library.

Responsibility for this area rests with Collection Management Division: Preservation Services Branch.

Metadata for recording preservation information

The Library is developing systems for recording preservation information required to manage both its digital and non-digital collections.

The Library developed a draft set of preservation metadata requirements for managing all of its digital collections, designed to complement resource discovery, rights management and other administrative metadata. Building on this, the Library is a member of an OCLC/RLG Preservation Metadata Working Group developing international guidelines and recommendations which will be available for public comment by mid 2002.

Responsibility for this area rests with Collection Management Division: Preservation Services Branch.

The Library monitors standards in these areas but is not actively involved in their use at this stage.

Responsibility for this area rests with Corporate Services Division.


The National Library has been active in the development and promotion of a large and complex array of standards which facilitate access to distributed information resources, and which support the inter-working of library systems and services. Other Australian libraries have given strong support for the National Library to exercise a leadership role in standards work. The Library is committed to continuing to invest in this area, with an emphasis on those standards which have the most impact in supporting the distributed library network, and in supporting the preservation of digital information.