NISO releases draft FASTEN Recommended Practice for public comment

(31 Oct 2019) The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) seeks comments on a new draft Recommended Practice pertaining to the modernization of library-vendor technical interoperability using RESTful web service application programming interfaces (APIs) and standard mobile application intent calls. In the interest of streamlining information transfer between vendor and library systems, the scope of the draft FASTEN Recommended Practice touches on areas such as login/authentication, account information, availability, checkout, streaming options, and more. FASTEN is the acronym used for this initiative, more formally titled as the Flexible API Standard for E-Content NISO.

Since 2010 and the accompanying rise in library circulation of digital content, libraries and vendors have sought to streamline and improve the process of locating and accessing such materials. One key solution has been the adoption of APIs, useful in handling behind-the-scenes transmissions between systems. However, in today’s more complex library environment, with its rich variety of digital content formats (audio, video, etc.), one of the biggest challenges for a library user is understanding how to navigate across the various platforms to access the specific format preferred. Understandably, library digital patrons do not want (nor should they need) to hold multiple accounts for each of the many platforms to which a library may have licensed rights.

The objective behind the FASTEN initiative was to replace with more elegant solutions aging, inflexible, and hard-to-use enterprise tools. This required leaving behind disparate protocols, such as SIP, SIP2, proprietary interfaces, web proxy solutions, and more.

The FASTEN Working Group was made up of product managers and developers as well as university and public librarians,” notes Chris Carvey, Director of Customer Interactive Experience at Queens Library and co-chair of the FASTEN Working Group. “As a group, they identified the very real pain points of the library user’s digital experience in the library and reviewed current library and vendor practices. The next phase of the work was to create a foundational API toolset that the community can build on to satisfy user and library needs, whether the need be faster response times, improved discovery of resources, better integration, or an enhanced user experience.”

“We covered every step of the experience, from log-in to return of digital materials, basing our recommendations on the Library Communications Framework (LCF) made available by BIC, Book Industry Communication,” agrees Josh Weisman, Vice President, Development at ExLibris, the other co-chair of the FASTEN Working Group. “We feel certain that any extra work that vendors undertake to adopt this practice will be rewarded as libraries, and their patrons, engage more fully with digital content in the context of a more secure, private —and above all easy — and intuitive experience.”

“There may be more work ahead,” says Nettie Lagace, Associate Executive Director of NISO, “but by implementing standards using RESTful Web services APIs, vendors will be able to abandon some of the bulky toolsets of the past, and thereby allow libraries more flexibility in meeting local needs.”

The Flexible API Standard for E-content NISO (FASTEN) Recommended Practice is available for public comment between October 31 and November 30, 2019. To download the draft document or to submit comments, visit the NISO Project page at: https://www.niso.org/standards-committees/fasten. All input is welcome and encouraged.

The press release is here.