The Texas Z39.50 Profile Project

Texas Z39.50 Implementors Group

October 2, 1998


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ANSI/NISO Z39.50 is an international standard that makes it easier to retrieve information from local and remote electronic databases, such as library catalogs. The standard is implemented in software "clients" (used to perform a search) and "servers" (which provide access to the databases). For example, with a Z39.50 client on your local catalog, a user could search the Z39.50 servers of other libraries' catalogs. To the user it would appear as if the remote catalogs were simply extensions of the local catalog.

For optimum results, Z39.50 clients and servers must be set up with a common set of specifications, usually referred to as a "profile." The Z Texas Profile Project is an effort by volunteers from all types of libraries to develop a consensus on the Z39.50 features required to share networked information resources in Texas. Z39.50 clients and servers employing the Z Texas Profile will improve Texas users' results when searching remote library catalogs.

The initial phase of the Z Texas Profile Project will focus on the requirements and specifications for basic search and retrieval between online USMARC library catalogs. Later phases of the Project will address requirements for sharing other kinds of databases, such as those with full-text documents or images. Eventually, the Profile will contain several levels reflecting increasing requirements, with higher levels building upon the specifications of the lower levels to maintain compatibility.

In addition to developing the Texas Z Profile itself, the Project will also develop guides for procurement and implementation and encourage the testing of the Profile specifications in actual Z39.50 client and server implementations.



*The Project will improve and broaden Texas citizens' access to networked information resources in Texas and beyond.

*The Project will improve Texas librarians' understanding of Z39.50 and their capability to acquire and set up Z39.50 clients and servers.

*The Project will establish one possible technical foundation for future sharing of the information assets of Texas.



1. Provide an ongoing, open, consensus-based, and phased development of a voluntary Z39.50 Profile for both clients and servers in all types of Texas libraries. The 1998-1999 phase will focus on the basic requirements for searching online library catalogs which support USMARC. Subsequent phases will address library catalog users' more exacting requirements (such as searching archival libraries) and searching non-USMARC databases (such as those with full-text documents or images) which may be provided by other organizations.

2. Develop consensus among implementors by April 1999 on the first two levels of the Profile. Level 1 will facilitate basic search and retrieval by library patrons and reference staff. Level 2 will support the search requirements of technical services and ILL staff. Present a final draft of these two levels at TLA Annual Conference, and, if favorably received by librarians there, publish and promote Levels 1 and 2 for general use.

3. Identify and publicize by October 1998 an interim set of client and server specifications which libraries can use for RFPs which must be released before April 1999.

4. Develop and publicize by April 1999 selection criteria for purchasing Z39.50 clients that address the functional requirements which are not covered by the Z39.50 specifications themselves (for example, the capability of saving a retrieved record in USMARC format).

5. Encourage one or more libraries (and their vendors) to implement the Z Texas Profile on their Z39.50 server and/or clients by 4th quarter 1999 so that other libraries can begin testing their own client implementations of the Profile.

6. Ensure that the Z Texas Profile specifies Z39.50 rigorously enough to meet Texas libraries' requirements without creating unnecessary barriers to Z39.50 implementation by libraries or Z39.50 product development by vendors.

7. Collaborate with international profiling efforts that address the Texas requirements, harmonizing the Z Texas Profile with international efforts to the extent possible to ensure the broadest utilization and thus cost effectiveness of Z39.50 implementations in Texas.

8. Promote the consensus-based Z Texas Profile for voluntary adoption by Texas libraries and educate librarians on the importance of the Profile in resource sharing.


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