The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 2, Number 1
Apr 1989

How to Help Write NISO Standards

The two major organizations in this country that are involved in writing standards for paper are the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). The American National Standards Institute is supposed to be the coordinating and validating body that also distributes the standards produced by these and other member organizations, but in recent years it has been performing poorly, as anybody can testify who has tried to order standards through them. ASTM now distributes its am standards, and NISO has arranged for its standards to be distributed by Transaction Publishers, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N-T 08903, instead of by ANSI.

Both ASTM and NISO have committees with names like D6 and Z39.48, and both operate according to the rules for voluntary consensus standards-setting bodies, which call for participation by all segments of society that have an interest in the subject of the standard. (That is to say, each interested segment is represented on the committee.) After the standard is drafted, comment is sought from voting members and people outside the organization. The trick is to know when the standards you are interested in are at this stage, so that you can write for a copy and send in your comments, which will always be seriously considered. After comments are in, balloting begins, and when agreement is finally reached, it is published.

NISO has a quarterly newsletter ($40/year to nonmembers) that includes a s of the status of all standards being formulated or revised. Two that are currently (as of January) under revision are Z39.48, Permanence of Paper, and Z85.1-1980, Permanent and Durable Library Cards. To comment on them, you have to first get a copy. If your institution is not a voting member, information associate or subscriber (to NISO publications, including standards), you will have to buy a copy of the standard in question from NISO, PO Box 1056, Bethesda, MD 20817 (301/975-2814).

There are 65 voting members of NISO, all institutional, including businesses and governmental agencies. (ASTM, on the other hand, is a federation of committees.) They pay $200 to $4000 a year, depending an the size of the organization; they receive all standards and must send in a written vote or abstention on each one. Information Associates pay $500 a year and, like Voting Members, receive all draft standards sent for ballot or comment, but do not have to either vote or cement. There are two types of Subscribers: those getting the quarterly newsletter for $40, and (for libraries only, called Information Subscribers) those getting the same things the Information Associates get, for $100 a year. Everyone else has to pay for each draft standard they order, except those who are invited by the committee to comment on a particular standard.

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