The Critical Component: Standards in the Information Exchange Environment. Edited by Todd A. Carpenter. Chicago: Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, 2015. 298 p. $71.00 softcover (ISBN: 978-0-8389-8744-5).

People may not realize it, but standards are all around us. The seat belt in cars that keeps passengers safe, the power outlets found in homes to plug an electronic device, or the JPEG file that is downloaded to view a friend’s picture all adhere to standards. If it were not for these standards, many of the things people do would not be possible. Information professionals in particular need standards to communicate, access, retrieve, and display information. The Critical Component: Standards in the Information Exchange Environment provides the reader with an understanding and appreciation for the standard creation process in the information environment. It highlights some of the most important standards in the library profession, from the description standards that librarians and publishers use for resources, to the various types of identifiers found in the information supply chain.

The book is divided into eleven chapters and nine case studies. Each chapter highlights a segment of the standard creation process. Chapters 2–10 include case studies that describe an information standard which in turn illustrates the context found in the chapter. For example, chapter 5 deals with the role of identifiers in content management and distribution. Several standards have been created to fulfill this part, such as the international standard book number (ISBN) and digital object identifier (DOI). The transactions that occur between organizations in the information supply chain (e.g., libraries, publishers, distributors, and content providers) can be difficult to manage without the use of identifiers. Identifiers help these organizations differentiate one resource from another. The case study that supplements chapter 5 is on the international standard name identifier (ISNI). As the book explains, ISNI strives to make people and organizations discoverable; this role helps stewards of information identify entities involved with an intellectual work. ISNI also supports effective management in rights payments and rights clearance, which is a vital task for publishers. Without ISNI these communities would have to identify authors or organizations through their own means rather than using one identifier to resolve their individual needs; hence a standard that created cost-effective solutions.

The book starts by discussing the importance of standards; how standards are developed and the organizations that contributed to their development; the information standards landscape; and the basic concepts that are undertaken by information standards. Chapters 5–8 address type-specific standards that affect the information community such as identifiers, descriptive metadata schemas, and digital preservation. Chapter 7 at first glance seem out of place in these chapters since it discusses discoverability as a goal, but after reading about identifiers, metadata, and preservation standards one realizes that they are all created with the goal of increasing discoverability. Chapters 9–11 return to the general standard process (similar to Chapters 1–4), explaining how standards are marketed, how to get involved, and the future of information standards. The concluding chapter is especially revealing because the editor features some of the future standards that are being worked on or that will eventually be developed. Examples of these upcoming standards are in the area of rights management and open access.

A definite highlight for readers will be to learn about all the organizations involved with the creation of standards. Similar to the saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” so is the case when creating a standard. As consumers of information, it is reassuring to know that organizations like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) exist to support standards and to guarantee that the process meets the needs of its constituents. Along with these organizations, the individuals that are involved in making a standard a reality put in a great effort to move the professional agenda forward. Without the dedication of these volunteers, standards would not be feasible. As stated by the editor, “Standards provide the most effective strategy for addressing the issues in a way that provides a framework for all community members to contribute to the process” (291). Standards help the professional community come together to solve a common problem and to accomplish a goal.

When looking for other books that discuss information standards, it is difficult to find something that is as all-encompassing as this publication. Now, a reader would have to search for individual resources to learn about the various standards mentioned in the book. This book serves as a convenient resource for readers by providing a basic overview of several important information standards in the field. The book is also valuable in that each chapter and case study is authored by individuals that were involved with making a particular standard or have extensive experience in the standard creation process. Many of the contributors are well known and respected authorities in the field of information science and technology.

Despite the content of the book being introductory, it can be very technical at times, especially when it discusses a particular standard. If a reader does not have experience working with information schemas or systems it can be difficult to understand certain case studies. The language and acronyms used throughout the book can be vast for a first time reader in information protocols. An index would have been helpful in allowing a reader to reference back on a particular term.

In conclusion, the information environment can always seem to be in flux. Although this may be the case, standards have withstood this fluctuation and provided much needed stability in the library field. The book showcases how information standards are a critical component to the world of information. Its distinctive content makes it a unique resource in the literature of information science, where standards, for the most part, have not been reconciled in this manner, with the standard creation process and real world examples. With its emphasis on the importance of standards and how they play a major role in the work of information professionals, the book leaves readers thinking that standards should take a higher priority in our professional lives. As practitioners, it is vital to consider being a part of the standards creation process whether by volunteering, providing feedback when standards are under review, or just being aware of and using them!—Heylicken Moreno (, University of Houston, Houston, Texas


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