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Automation Standards


Z39.50 is an international standard for communication between two computers systems, usually library or information systems. It is a type of software that makes it possible to search multiple disparate library catalogs and other resources in one search, and bring back one set of results. Z39.50 version 3, introduced about two years ago, displays holdings status of result sets, a necessary component for interlibrary loan. Version should support ISBN searching.

There is also a client component to Z39.50 for searching library catalogs and downloading records. Bookwhere, a product by Web Clarity, is an example of a Z39.50 client, it can be configured to search multiple Z39.50 resources such as the Colorado Virtual Library, The Library of Congress, and any other database that have a Z39.50 server.

Contractual language to use in RFP for a Z39.50 server:

  • Support Z39.50 Version 3, including OPAC Record Syntax
  • Agree to support the Z39.50 U.S. Profile Level 1 when it is approved.
  • Agree to implement the NCIP (NISO Circulation Interchange Protocol -- future Z39.82) when it is approved.
  • Provide a method for exporting/extracting patron records in a standard format with appropriate accompanying documentation so they can be loaded into a central statewide patron database.

Remember, the Z39.50 server is what you will need to connect to the Colorado Virtual Library. A Z39.50 client allows you to search other Z39.50 resources seamlessly, but won't allow your database to be integrated into the Colorado Virtual Library.

Benefits of Z39.50

  • Broadcast searching--The Z39.50 server allows libraries to be part of a "virtual union catalog" such as the Colorado Virtual Library where multiple libraries can be searched simultaneously.
  • Bibliographic resource sharing--A z39.50 client allows libraries to share cataloging resources
  • Interlibrary Loan--resource sharing is possible with Z39.50 version 3, Users can view library holdings and shelf status in real time
  • Most of the key automation vendors have Z39.50 servers that you can purchase as a separate piece or that comes bundled with other modules. Check with your automation vendor to find out where they are with Z39.50 server and client implementation. For more information on Z39.50, see:

Interlibrary Loan Standards

This standard is a protocol for performing interlibrary loan transactions between disparate online catalogs. Z39.50 retrieves the bibliographic record, while ISO 10160/61 allows you to place a hold on the record.

Circulation Interchange Protocol

Though not implemented to date, the Circulation Interchange Protocol standard will support circulation transactions between different library systems. The circulation of print and electronic materials, remote patron authentication, patron borrowing, online payment, and controlled access to electronic documents are some of the functions this protocol will support. This standard will be based on the standard interchange protocol (3M SIP), implemented to support self-checkout machines and developed by the 3M corporation. More information on CIP standard:


This is the industry standard for patron checkout of library materials. Version one enables communication between the self-checkout station and the library's Circulation module. Version two expands the language base, allowing library vendors to provide libraries with more features and capabilities.

For additional information, email: Regan Harper (

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