Standards Watch

Another ISO Standard: Bibliographic Data Element Directory

I’ve been informed that another ISO Committee Draft has been issued for ballot: ISO/DIS 8459, Information and documentation – Bibliographic data element directory.

Here’s the summary:

“This International Standard specifies and describes data elements required in the interchange of data between bibliographic systems. It describes, in the form of a directory, data elements used to support the processes of acquisition, resource description and cataloguing, searching, requesting loan or copy directly to an end user or inter-library. The focus of the standard is to provide common definitions for data elements that are exchanged in protocol messages between systems and is also intended as a foundation for new standards. By inheriting element names and definitions, new standards can be achieved in an efficient way that directly relates them with existing standards in the field.”

This is a revision and consolidation of the previous version issued in 5 parts between 1988 and 2002.

Comments and vote recommendations from NISO members are due to NISO by Wednesday, March 19, 2008. Because ALA is a NISO member, we have the opportunity to take a look at this and funnel comments to our ALA representative to NISO (Cindy Hepfer, As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t send you directly to this document–ISO is very closed to this sort of thing. However, if you’re interested in reviewing it, you can send me ( or Cindy a note and ask us to send you the document. Let us know that you’re an ALA member (we’re not supposed to distribute to non-members).

I did a small informal poll of bib-savvy colleagues and none of them had heard of this standard. Have you? Do you know of any applications that use it?


  1. Janifer Gatenby

    As part of the consolidation process, the data elements from the 5 parts were mapped to 8 protocols and ISO 2146, the registry standard. This resulted in 545 elements and 674 mappings. The alphabetical listing includes many synonyms. The protocols mapped are EDItEUR, ISO ILL, NCIP, OpenURL Request Transfer Message, OAIPMH, Z39.50, SRU, ISO 2146 (Registries).

    The ISO Holdings Schema ISO 20775 which is also out to vote used ISO 8459 definitions, as did the Z39.50 Union Catalogue Profile (UCP) and part 4 was one of the input documents for NCIP. There is also some interest in investigating the common elements among NCIP and ISO ILL from that part of the community.

    The standard includes provision for a maintenance agency that will
    • revise or correct data element definitions as the need arises
    • maintain a database of mappings of data elements to relevant protocol interchange and data schema standards
    • add new elements and definitions as the need arises
    • add new enumerated values or examples for data elements as the need arises
    • publish a web site with mappings and updated elements, values and definitions

  2. Diane Hillmann


    Thanks so much for this helpful context to the newly consolidated standard. I find the goals in your final bullet points very compelling. Do you think that the effort to accomplish those goals might be communicated fairly widely? There’s a lot of potential benefit reflected there, which sadly is difficult to realize in a closed standards environment.


  3. Janifer Gatenby


    We are currently in discussions with a potential maintenance agency about converting the mappings database and making it available as a web service. The main point of the standard is as a base for protocol and schema standards rather than as a standard that any one system can implement and claim complaince. The next step should be to identify more protocols and schemas that could be mapped and any other dictionaries of data elements. I believe that DLF has one; it would be great if they could make it available.


  4. Diane Hillmann


    Making the data dictionary into a web service is an excellent idea. I hope you’ll keep us apprised of this work as it progresses. As you may know, there’s some work afoot to do something similar with RDA, which should fit very nicely into the environment you’re thinking about.


  5. Janifer Gatenby

    OCLC Office of Research has mounted the database of mappings that was used in the consolidation process of ISO 8459. The database is available for free search and browse at Janifer

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