NISO Z39.102 Draft available for public comment

I’m at the Special Libraries Association Standards Roundtable today.  So I like to highlight a standard of interest to librarians at the same time.  And I’m in luck!  There a new draft NISO Z39.102 that is not only important to librarians but to the rest of the standards community as well!

NISO Z39.102 is titled STS: Standards Tag Suite.  It provides a common XML format for use in standards documents, both the metadata and the content text.  It represents a milestone in the effort to provide standards information in an “intelligent” format.  It will help standards developers and publishers achieve a long-standing goal that first appeared with the release of the SGML standards of the 1980’s.

What is tagging? Actually, you are probably more familiar with the concept of tagging data than you realize. For example, HTML used on web pages is just a form of content tagging.  So when you look at the source data for this page, for example, you’ll see “tags” that include the symbols “<” and “>” in them.  The data within the tags is used by computer programs to identify things like paragraphs and so on.

In XML tagging, and specifically in this type of tagging for standards, an agreed-upon set of informative tags allow computers not only to recognize layout requirements, but also content types.  So we’ll see tags for such things as scope material, referenced documents, tables of contents, and so on in this new draft.

Why use this type of tagging for standards?  NISO Z39.102 will create a consistent methodology for identifying specific areas within standards documents.  Users will have delivery tools that will increase the value of these publications.  You may be able to link from a paragraph in one publishers document to a paragraph in a standard from another source.  The real-life relationships between standards will be realized in the tools you use to work with these data sets.

Standards professionals realize that standards are “living”documents.  They are constantly being reviewed and updated as new factors present themselves.  The use of XML represents a realistic scheme for allowing users better insight into these changes.  And it will further reinforce the interrelationships of the data contained in the universe of standards themselves.

If you have further questions, please get in touch.  You can reach me and the Document Center Inc. staff by phone (650-591-7600) and email (  We have been following the evolution of standards data since the 1980’s.  We are happy to help you understand what these changes will mean for you and the standards community at large.