Standards compliance – do we want it?

At the present moment there is no UK statutory body authorised to test technical compliance with ISO Library Data Model standard (ISO 28560). There is, as Paul Chartier has mentioned previously, software in existence which can verify that tags are being correctly encoded but so far as I am aware none of the RFID Alliance are using it. There is no reason why they should of course – it costs money – but one would hope that no-one would risk installing a fairly complex model (with over 1 billion possible combinations I’m told by Alan Butters) without testing.

When the question of compliance/verification was raised in the RFID committee back at the beginning of the year I recall that it was felt that the best way forward would be for the industry to regulate itself. In other words suppliers would send each other encoded tags for verification. It was even suggested that this process could be anonymised to avoid any commercial advantage being lost or won by the companies themselves.

Since then there has been a great deal of affirmation of the standard and the accompanying data model by just about everyone in the UK RFID market but I’m not sure that means it’s actually being used – or that suppliers are in fact testing their efforts with each other and the last time I was involved in supplier selection I had to explain to two of the bidders what ISO 28560 is, AND what the UK data model is, despite their having insisted that they supported both in their bid submissions.

Today I was asked a member of the RFID Alliance how a library might go about obtaining their ISIL designation. That at least shows someone knows they need it. The ISIL element of the data model gives the identity of the owning library – vital if ILL is ever going to work with RFID (other than in closed consortia all using the same solution) – and is mandatory in the UKDM. So if you haven’t been asked for yours, you probably don’t have ISO 28560-2.

It is of course for individual libraries to decide whether they want to use a common standard or accept whatever their supplier offers instead – just as it is for suppliers to decide whether to support one. But in case anyone has forgotten WHY we have fought so hard to develop a common standard let me quote from the RFID Alliance’s own statement made in October 2009:

“In forming the Alliance, each member has committed to help deliver ISO-based solutions to the library community and achieve the ultimate goal to make all library items interchangeable between libraries, regardless of the self-service equipment deployed. The benefits of this agreement could be instrumental to the wider public use of library facilities, as the loaning and returning items could be completed at different venues, allowing for much greater flexibility.” (the emphasis is mine)

The Alliance members are 2CQR,3M, Axiell, Bibliotheca, D Tech International, Intellident and Plescon.

ISIL registration may be carried out via the ISIL agency at the British Library – or you can use your library’s OCLC symbol prefixed by O-

OCLC symbols can be found at

Just in case you need them.

Best wishes


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