National Library Standards Activities

The library and information community has adopted a range of standards that facilitate the interchange of library data, promote the inter-operability of library systems, and 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 that are held in library collections, in collections of other cultural institutions, or that are accessible on the Internet.

The National Library maintains 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 Library is an active participant in the definition and promotion of selected standards for the library and information community.  

Standards framework

The National Library is represented on the Standards Australia / Standards New Zealand Technical Committee IT-19 (Computer Applications in Information and Documentation). This Committee addresses standardisation 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. 

Collection descriptions

The use of common collection description standards is of major importance in supporting consistent access to library materials by users and in promoting the interchange of descriptive data.

Descriptive cataloguing

The National Library of Australia, as the major Australian cataloguing agency, has worked actively to support Australian implementation of descriptive cataloguing standards through its support for the National Bibliographic Database.

The library community in Australia bases its description of library materials on RDA : Resource Description and Access. The National Library of Australia is an active member of the Oceania RDA Committee (ORDAC)

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. 

Classification and shelving

The Dewey Decimal Classification scheme is the classification standard most widely used by Australian libraries, although some libraries use other classification schemes , such as the Library of Congress Classification scheme.

The National Library has closed book stacks and has since 2010 used a running number system to shelve its monograph collection. The Library primarily uses the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme to organise its serials and reference collections. The Library of Congress Classification scheme is used to organise the Library's maps collection. 

MARC (Machine Readable Cataloguing) standards

The MARC format 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.

The Library regularly provides comments to the Library of Congress on developments in the MARC 21 standard that are being considered by 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 include codes for Australian places and languages.

The Library is monitoring the development of new ways to represent and exchange bibliographic data, including linked data models such as BIBFRAME. 

Special collection descriptions

The discovery of special collection resources, such as manuscript items, often relies on combining collection-level catalogue descriptions with finding-aids or indexes for more granular item-level descriptions. The Library has implemented the Encoded Archival Description (EAD), which is a standard for encoding archival finding aids. Finding aids for all manuscript collections, large pictorial archives and maps formed collections are created according to the EAD standard. 

Data used in library systems

While the Library places an understandable emphasis on 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. 

Item Identifiers

A key type of data element is a unique number that identifies a book, serial, 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 and ISMN. The Library is the national centre for ISSN and ISMN

System interconnection

Library networks are based on the interconnection of distributed library systems, and the use of client/server technology. Key technical standards such as the Z39.50 information retrieval protocol (ISO 23950:1998), the international Interlibrary Loan Protocol (ISO 10161-1:2014 and ISO 10161-2:2014), and the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) Metadata Harvesting Protocol allow functions such as searching and interlibrary loan to be managed cooperatively between multiple computer systems.

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 digitises physical collection items in order to enhance access and to support preservation programs. Standards play an important part in defining formats and methods capable to ensure long term, broad accessibility. The Library has adopted best practices in its image capture standards and online delivery platform. Digitisation activities in the Library are guided by its Digitisation Policy.

Preservation of digital collections

The Library is involved in developing digital archiving and preservation procedures to support both born digital and digitised assets, including both online and physical format digital resources. The Library is developing systems for recording preservation information required to manage both its digital and non-digital collections.

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.