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based on the same standard have similar functionality and therefore, are able to communi-
cate and exchange data more readily. In libraries, for example, there are separate systems for
cataloguing, collection management, administration or finance. Information system
standards ensure, that these systems can exchange data.
Data structure standards define the elements of information contained in the components
of an information system, for example the fields used to record information and their
relationships.They include input formats, output formats (catalogues, registers, lists, etc.),
and record types.The benefit of uniform data structure standards lies in facilitating data
exchange without the need of developing specific software to read data, yet the standard
must be flexible enough to leave room to accommodate the different institutional methods
and practices.
Data content standards define the elements for entering information within each element
defined in the data structure standard.They regulate cataloguing rules and syntax conven-
tions, for example, punctuation, capitalisation, quantities and date formats, required vs.
optional inclusions. Data content standards address the issue of data integrity.
Data value standards provide lists or tables of terms, names, alphanumeric codes, or other
specific entities that may be entered in a particular data elements. Such indexes of terms and
agreed-upon vocabularies can be accumulated in thesauri or code lists.
In addition, to enable working in a shared environment, two more groups of standards
are needed in automated information systems: procedural standards and information
interchange standards.
Procedural standards define the documentation procedures needed to manage operations
effectively, including procedures for logging on/off electronic systems, or policies regulating
an institution's acquisition and loan procedures.
Information exchange standards, on the other hand, define the technical framework for
exchanging information within an institution, but also for data exchange with external
organisations. Examples in this category include SGML (Standardised General Markup
Language), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), ISO 2709 (originally developed to support
the exchange of bibliographic information) and XML.
Reaching agreement on sector standards
"It's a major technology thing, that technology demands collaboration."
Jennifer Trant, AMICO, USA; DigiCULT Interview, August 8, 2001
Standards are products of consensus and the result of an often time- and resource
consuming group effort to review and test developed standards before they are adopted by a
larger community. Hence, the question of achieving seamless access through developing
commonly shared (metadata) standards is not so much a technological as a managerial and
organisational issue.
Reaching agreement on standards turns out to be a time- and resource consuming
process where high expectations are often disappointed. Not only does there exist a
tendency within the cultural heritage sector to "re-invent the wheel" as similar standards are
developed in the individual domains the countless number of standards in the cultural
heritage sector speaks for itself but one can also sense some resistance within the com-
munity to give up what has already been achieved. As Magdalena Gram, Division Head at
the Swedish Royal Library, stated:"As professionals, we always have to create structures, and