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ALCTS Standards

Glossary of Standards and Related Terms

  • Ad hoc standard
  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
  • Book Industry Study Group (BISG)
  • De facto standard
  • De jure standard
  • Industry standard
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
  • Interoperability
  • Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC)
  • Library of Congress (LC)
  • National Information Standards Organization (NISO)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Open standard
  • Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC)
  • Proprietary standard
  • Recommended practice
  • Standard
  • Standards development process
  • Standards organization
  • Trade standards
  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Standards glossaries and definitions that are freely available on the Web include:

Ad hoc standard

A standard developed by an organization that is not a recognized or accredited standards development organization, whose development may or may not follow a formal process, and for which formal consensus is not usually obtained. An ad hoc standard that gains wide acceptance and use in the marketplace may also be considered a de facto standard. Examples include: AACR and RDA.


American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

ANSI is a private, not-for-profit organization that coordinates the development, publicity, and use of voluntary consensus standards in both the public and private sectors. It is comprised of about 1,000 US companies, professional societies and trade organizations, standards developers, and government agencies, among others. ANSI accredits national standards developing organizations such as NISO, and it approves American National Standards. ANSI is the US member body in ISO. As such, it influences ISO standards development and strategy by participating and voting in ISO technical and policy meetings. ANSI Essential Requirements: Due process requirements for American National Standards are available online at:


Book Industry Study Group (BISG)

BISG is a not-for-profit book trade association whose mission is to create a better informed, empowered and efficient book industry, as well as to develop and maintain standards and best practices that reduce costs and increase efficiencies across the information supply chain. Categories include barcodes and labels, classification schemes, digital content, EDI and e-commerce, identification (including the ISBN), mobile commerce, and product metadata. Its standards forum—BASIC -- administers publisher/customer and publisher/manufacturer EDI formats for books and serials. Available online at:


De facto standard

A de facto standard is a custom, convention, product, system, or specification that becomes widely used in the marketplace, and may in fact enjoy dominant usage. It is accepted as a “standard” method but has not been endorsed or formally approved by a recognized or accredited standards organization. It may have been developed as an ad hoc standard, or it may be something created internally by a particular organization or company. All or part of the standard or specification may be kept as a trade secret or have restricted use through intellectual property protections or licensing requirements. Examples include: Microsoft Office and TIFF.


De jure standard

A de jure standard is developed and endorsed by a formally accredited standards organization using rigid procedures that include openness, stakeholder balance, and due process that ensures equity and fair play in the development process. De jure standards may be cited in laws and regulations. Examples include national currencies and measurement systems, electrical codes, and NISO and ISO standards.



The international coordinating group for electronic commerce in the book, e-book, and serials sectors. It developed and maintains ONIX, an international standard for representing and communicating book industry product information in electronic form. Other areas of research, standards work, and guidance include bibliographic and product information, the standards infrastructure for digital publishing, rights management and trading, and radio frequency identification tags (RFID). While EDItEUR is known for creating and maintaining trade standards, it also manages services and trade “profiles” for some ISO de jure standards and creates and maintains recommended (“best”) practice documentation. Available online at:


Industry standard

According to the IEEE Standards Glossary, an Industry standard is a voluntary, industry-developed document that establishes requirements for products, practices, or operations.


International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

ISO is a non-governmental network comprised of more than 95 national standards bodies and is the world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards. The US member body is ANSI. ISO has more than 185 technical committees and 2,700 subcommittees and working groups. Since its inception in 1946, it has published more than 19,000 standards covering most aspects of technology and manufacturing. NISO participates in ISO Technical Committee 46 (responsible for standards in the area of information and documentation) and is secretariat for TC45/SC9, Identification and description. Available at:


Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

 IETF is a non-membership, open, voluntary standards organization dedicated to identifying problems and opportunities in IP data networks and proposing technical solutions to the Internet community. The organization is open to individuals. Available at:



Interoperability the ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of customers. Interoperability is enabled by the implementation of standards.


Joint Steering Committee for Development of RDA (JSC)

The JSC is responsible for developing and maintaining RDA: Resource Description and Access which replaces the previous standard, The Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR). RDA provides a set of guidelines and instructions on formulating data to support resources discovery of all types of content and media. It is published by the American Library Association, the Canadian Library Association, and CILIP: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Available at:


Library of Congress (LC)

An active participant in maintaining a number of library-related standards such as METS, MADS, MODS, MarcXML, technical standards for digital conversion of text and graphic materials, and digital library standards. Available at:


National Information Standards Organization (NISO)

The organization develops bibliographic and information standards. NISO represents ANSI internationally in the ISO technical committee for information and documentation. Useful NISO webpages include:

Recommended Practices:​

Technical Reports:​

White Papers:​

Miscellaneous Publications:


National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST)

NIST is the standards-defining agency of the US government formerly known as the National Bureau of Standards. Available at:


Open standard

An open standard is publicly available and has various use rights associated with it.  Different definitions of the term emphasize different aspects of openness, including that of the resulting specification, the openness of the drafting process, and the ownership of the rights in the standard. The term is used for technologies approved by formalized committees that are open to participation by any interested party and that operate on a consensus basis. An open standard is not completely controlled by a single vendor. The term may be coupled with “open source” implementations.


Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC)

This is a cooperative cataloging body aimed at expanding access to library collections by providing useful, timely, and cost-effective cataloging that meets mutually-accepted standards of libraries around the world. PCC members participate in programs that shape the future of cataloging and reduce cataloging costs. PCC Programs include: BIBCO (monographs), CONSER (serials), NACO (name authorities), and SACO (subject authorities). Available at:


Proprietary standard

A proprietary standard is a custom, convention, product, system or specification that is controlled by a single company. When widely used, it may become a de facto standard.

Recommended practice 

Also known as a "best practice" or a "guideline," a recommended practice deals with methods, materials, or practices developed to provide users with guidance. These documents usually represent a leading edge, an exceptional model, or a proven industry practice. Use of any or all elements of a recommended practice is discretionary--it may be used as stated or modified by the user to meet specific needs.



A norm or requirement that is established through consensus by a formalized organization or committee. A standard describes/defines a set of characteristics or qualities of a product, a process, or a service for common and repeated use. In the computer age, standards ensure compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability and/or quality.  Most standards are voluntary as they are offered for adoption without being mandated by law although particular domains may adopt and require some standards.


Standards development process 

A step-by-step formalized committee process for developing formal consensus standards. For example, in the US, the national process includes beginning with a draft of the proposed standard through the various steps to application to ANSI for approval of the standard. ANSI does not approve the technical content of the standard but approves the process by which it was developed. Not all national standards developed are submitted to ANSI for approval. Although the process can be tedious and lengthy, formal standard setting is essential to developing new technologies.


Standards organization

Any organization whose primary activities are to develop, coordinate, promulgate, revise, amend, reissue, interpret, or produce technical standards.  There are international, regional (multi-national), and national standards bodies. The three largest and most well-established international standards organizations are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IED), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the latter of which is a treaty-based organization established as a permanent agency of the United Nations. In addition, a large variety of independent international organizations exist, including ASME, ASTM International, IEEE, IETF, SAE International, TAPPI, W3C.


Trade standards 

Standards that lie between de jure and ad hoc standards. The processes for creating these standards likely have a transparent and open governance process in which members of an industry sector can participate, with governance in the hands of a stakeholder community.



The World Wide Web Consortium, W3C is an international industry consortium created to develop standards for the World Wide Web. It involves more than 400 organizations worldwide and creates and maintains standards for the Web, including XML, SMIL, and CSS.


Standards glossaries and definitions that are freely available on the Web include: