Posted by Lori Ayre on December 4, 2012

On June 6, 2012 Library Journal announced that 3M would be donating the copyright for SIP to NISO which would mean that NISO "will now have responsibility for future development and ongoing maintenance of SIP." 

The article also correctly points out that 

SIP is the de facto standard for communication between library self-service devices and the wide variety of integrated library systems (ILS) that libraries use. It provides the crucial common language that makes possible such widespread functions as self checkouts, automated materials handling systems, PC management systems, or fine and fee payment transactions.

In other words, SIP is really important when we try to integrate ANYTHING with our ILSs.  So, given its importance you'd think that there might be something in the works for 2013 at NISO but alas SIP is not the subject of discussion at any of the scheduled 2013 NISO Events.


Just before 3M donated SIP to NISO, they updated it.  So, they actually donated SIP2 as well as SIP3 to NISO.  One issue for NISO to work out is what is the relationship between NCIP and SIP. Since there is some overlap, it might be nice to combine them into one protocol so that ILS vendors don't use the two protocols as an excuse to charge a fee for each (I'm talking to you Innovative Interfaces).  On the other hand, the more you have going on in one protocol, the more messy and unwieldy the protocol becomes. 

So while there is overlap, SIP has focused on self-service transactions while NCIP has focused more on resource-sharing.  It isn't clear whether they should be combined to continue to evolve on separately.

Since NISO acquired SIP, they set up a SIP workroom. They already had an NCIP Workroom.  You can find evidence in these workrooms of what little work has been done since SIP came under the management of NISO.  I was able to find one "work item" in the SIP workroom which is dated March 2, 2012.  In that document, they set out a timeline that includes appointing a working group (Month 1) and approving a workplan (Months 1-3) and submitting SIP3 as a draft standard (Months 3-9).  So far, they've appointed the working group and rather than finalizing that in Month 1 (which would have been April or May), the group was finalized in October.  Suffice to say, the remaining to-do's remain unaddressed as far as I can tell. Thus the black hole.

And while you're looking at the list of NISO workrooms, note that the RFID workroom is now officially "inactive."  So evidently any plans to actually do something with the new US Data Model are up to someone other than NISO.  Pesky issues like what do libraries use for Owner Library (when they aren't an OCLC member), or how can we verify that tags are properly encoded, and is there anyone out there coordinating or tracking the data profiles used by libraries to ensure that the long-term interoperability goals are reached...or at least reach-able?  

The lack of RFID activity at NISO coupled with the sloth-like momentum related to SIP3 and NCIP don't leave me very hopeful that we'll ever have a circulation/self-service/resource-sharing protocol that actually makes sense for RFID.

As I've noted before, one of the reasons libraries are moving to RFID is because you can read multiple barcode numbers at one time.  But SIP3 and NCIP can't transact multiple bar code numbers at once so the result is the crippling of a potentially powerful technology. Libraries are using SIP2 and RFID today but it isn't the powerful solution it could be. It's slow and its clunky.  Don't even talk to me about RFID and basically is a nonstarter.  

Until RFID can communicate with the ILS in an intelligent way (e.g. parallel processing) and with data elements that include the ISO RFID data elements (not just what is currently offered via SIP and NCIP) libraries will be paying OUT lots of money for a technology that should be saving them money.

If NISO is going to be responsible for all of these things then more libraries need to join NISO and get actively involved in what issues NISO focuses on and what decisions get made.  

In reviewing the Voting Members list on NISO, I note there is not a single library.  Voting Members are all vendors and a few library associations (e.g. ALA, ARL, SAA and a few others).  Evidently, libraries are supposed to join the NISO Library Standards Alliance.  Membership is $600-$1000 per library and for your $1000 you get a lot of alerts, access to the standards (really? you have to pay for a copy of the standards?) and free access to the NISO webinars (normally at least $165 each).  I guess that's something. 

Putting my money where my mouth is...I'm sending in my application to join NISO as a voting member.  For a small company like mine, membership is $1,615 which isn't cheap.  But I'm tired of griping about NISO and not doing anything productive with my frustration and my knowledge.  Wish me luck. I suppose they could reject my application....

Anyway, I hope you will consider joining me as a voting member of NISO so we can ensure that the work they do continues to (begins to?) represent the needs of libraries.