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The Office for Library Standards (AfS - Arbeitsstelle für Standardisierung) manages and coordinates the official standardisation work in Germany and conducts the business of the Committee for Library Standards. The administrative office of the Consortium of Library Networks is also located here.

In close collaboration with the libraries and library networks of Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland, the German National Library's intention is to internationalise the library standards. These include cataloguing codes (e.g. RAK, RDA, RSWK, DDC), exchange formats (e.g. MAB2, MARC 21), metadata formats (e.g. Dublin Core, ONIX, LMER) and authority files. Here the AfS is actively responding to new developments, coordinating the varied activities within the German National Library and actively harmonising them within the international context.

The German National Library is a member of various national and international standardisation bodies. At present the Office for Library Standards is working in the following closely related core areas:

Standards for descriptive and subject cataloguing

In May 2012 the Committee for Library Standards resolved to introduce the Resource Description and Access (RDA) standard in all networks and institutions represented in this body, thereby finally replacing the rules for alphabetical cataloguing (RAK), the development of which was largely discontinued as of the end of 2001. Implementation of RDA in the German-speaking countries sees the fulfilment of a long-standing proposition - internationalisation of the standards.

Despite the fact that RDA has its own chapters for subject cataloguing, it is not expected that these will be worked on the foreseeable future. The standard for subject cataloguing hitherto used in the German-speaking countries, RSWK, is therefore to be revised and considerably streamlined. The German National Library works with the WebDewey Deutsch web application and the WebDewey Search retrieval tool in the field of classificatory subject cataloguing.

Data formats and communication interfaces

Formats and communication interfaces include the classic bibliographic data formats such as the former MAB format which has now largely been replaced by the internationally used format MARC 21 and related standards such as MODS and MADS. The main focus with regard to communication interfaces, meanwhile, is on the development of standardised procedures for online communication between systems (online transmission of data sets, update function and replication processes).

There are close links to the field of metadata, but web standards which are gaining in bibliographic significance such as linked data / open data and RDF are also attracting greater attention. The "Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative" is a new Library of Congress framework within which existing and newly defined systems are cross-referenced. The German National Library is actively involved in this work.


Metadata are (structured) data which describe a resource, an entity, an object, or other data. They can also be used to retrieve, use and maintain a resource, an entity, etc. The term metadata is used in different contexts. In the context of information science and libraries it refers to data which are used to describe electronic resources. However, there is now a growing tendency to use the term metadata also to denote data and catalogues in databases which describe non-electronic resources.

The German National Library has been following and actively participating in developments in the field of metadata for many years.By developing new standards such as XMetaDiss and LMER, the German National Library contributes its competence in the field of metadata to the general development and implementation of applications. Together with archives and museums it develops solutions for merging different metadata standards. The German National Library will provide input to the development work aimed at making the RDA cataloguing standard semantic web-compliant by contributing its considerable experience and expertise in the field of rule sets and metadata.

Through its co-operation in national and international standardisation committees, the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI), the ONIX International Steering Committee and the METS Editorial Board, the German National Library actively participates in the development of internationally recognised metadata standards. It has contributed numerous proposals to the IFLA Working Group on Metadata. The German National Library is also playing a leading role in the standardisation work and development of The European Library, the portal of the European national libraries, Europeana and the German Digital Library (DDB).

Authority files

Together with bibliographic databases, authority files constitute indispensable library cataloguing tools. Their purpose is to define preferred designations, to collocate different access points and document explanations and definitions.

The Integrated Authority File (GND) is a cooperatively managed authority file which was developed, and is now operated, by the DNB. It is a modern, web-compatible authority file which includes all entity types and provides a clear reference system for libraries' bibliographic data and for the cataloguing data of other users such as archives, museums, scientific and cultural institutions and projects. It is designed to link together the wide variety of resources and information offered by libraries and other cultural institutions in the German-speaking countries and to make them accessible. The earlier functional differentiation into authority data for descriptive cataloguing and authority data for subject cataloguing has been abandoned in favour of an object-based approach. The GND is exchanged in MARC 21 format and represents a major step towards implementing RDA in the German-speaking countries.

The GND is also a part of the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) which virtually integrates existing national authority files into an international authority file.

Last update: 26.09.2014

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