Scope: Overview of the PCC ISNI Pilot

Creator: Michelle Durocher

Goals and Objectives

By initiating an ISNI Registration Agency Membership agreement, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging began a partnership with the ISNI International Agency to explore the mutual benefits of PCC contributors engaging in identity management activities within the ISNI database.  Beginning in the Fall of 2017 through the end of calendar year 2018, the PCC conducted a multi-institution ISNI Pilot to develop an understanding of ISNI tools and systems, to create PCC documentation and training for its members, and to put in place member supports for cost-effective scaling of broader PCC involvement in ISNI.

With the November 2016 PCC Policy Committee 'agreement in principle' to seek a PCC umbrella membership in ISNI (original proposal that was endorsed), a PCC ISNI pilot was seen as the best way forward to explore the needs and issues that would arise for all parties (libraries, ISNI-IA and OCLC) when PCC metadata practitioners seek to incorporate ISNIs into their metadata workflows and pursue a wide range of ISNI use cases.  The experience of having PCC metadata librarians working in ISNI has generated information for all parties to understand the characteristics (tools, services, workflows, training & documentation) necessary for a sustainable, affordable and effective long-range PCC membership agreement beyond the pilot.

Pilot Participation

Participation in the PCC ISNI pilot was drawn from three segments of the PCC:  institutional participants, PCC Standing Committee representatives (Applications / Standards / Training) and the PCC Identity Management in NACO Task Group.  Institutional participants come from the following libraries:  Brown, University of Chicago, University of Colorado Boulder, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan State, Stanford, Stony Brook, Texas A&M, UC Davis, UCLA, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

PCC Standing Committee Involvement

These short term charges were approved by PCC Steering and by the Standing Committees involved. 

Standing Committee on Applications – Short Term Charge

Under the guidance of Michelle Durocher, the Standing Committee on Applications (SCA) shall appoint a representative to participate in the PCC ISNI Pilot.  SCA specifically will advise on creation and enhancement of ISNI tool sets and APIs, bulk and batch loading protocols, and production workflows as they affect PCC Libraries.  SCA will work with the Pilot Libraries in developing a common PCC batch template and workflow processes agreeable to and coordinated with OCLC.

Standing Committee on Training -- Short Term Charge

Under the guidance of Michelle Durocher, the Standing Committee on Training (SCT) shall appoint a representative to participate in the PCC ISNI Pilot.  SCT specifically will document procedures and workflows for creating and maintaining ISNI records and prepare training in the use of ISNI tools and APIs.  SCT will document use of the PCC Common batch template.  Procedures will be written for both single record creation and batch processes.  SCT will work with the Standing Committee on Standards on documenting best practices for ISNI records.  SCT and SCS will provide guidance to PCC members on use cases for ISNI and its relationship to the NACO Program, the latter information arising in part from work underway now within the PCC Task Group on Identify Management in NACO.

Standing Committee on Standards -- Short Term Charge

Under the guidance of Michelle Durocher, the Standing Committee on Standards (SCS) shall appoint a representative to participate in the PCC ISNI Pilot.  SCS specifically will advise project managers on defining public and confidential data elements for the ISNI database.  SCS will monitor the work and findings of the Pilot Libraries with the intent of developing best practices for ISNI metadata creation and maintenance after a sufficient period of experimentation has surfaced options for consideration.  Pending the outcome of the pilot, SCS will work with the PCC Policy Committee and the Identity Management in NACO Task Group to establish the PCC ISNI Registration Agency as a new Program and help define its relationship to NACO.


The PCC pilot participants committed to working together such that our engagement presented the lowest possible overhead to our ISNI colleagues and their technical partner, OCLC.  For example, the pilot group used a single point of contact for each functional area (practitioner training questions, tool-based technical questions, etc.) so that we asked questions in a coordinated and non-duplicative manner;  the pilot participants first asked questions to each other, in a train the trainer model, and then presented outstanding questions to ISNI, OCLC, or ISNI Quality Team members as appropriate.  Answers were documented so that the PCC would develop internal documentation and could share that documentation as would be helpful to others if desirable.

Workflow Activities

Pilot participants experimented with workflows to:

  • search for existing/ modify existing/ and create new ISNIs for persons and organizations using ISNI member tools, both as single practitioner-initiated transactions as well as batch work;
  • work as a group to establish a PCC common batch template and batch workflow processes, agreeable to and coordinated with OCLC, so that best practices from the pilot could be adopted as the common template within the future PCC umbrella membership and not require ongoing scripting overhead on ISNI technical partners for PCC batch activities;
  • understand and utilize the ISNI member APIs so that transactions requiring OCLC staff-mediated batch processing would be kept to a minimum and the API used to its fullest capacity as a “self service” model.

Sample Use Cases and Workflows

While a range of use cases utilizing identifiers are emerging within libraries, the most common uses for ISNIs initially articulated by pilot participants were the following:

  • incorporating ISNIs within library MARC bibliographic and authority work;  examples include:
    • seeing how the creation and assignment of ISNIs could support the authority control of personal and department names found in theses & dissertations collections
    • searching for existing and/or create new ISNIs in conjunction with or instead of creating new NACO authority records
    • developing a distinct and complementary “identity management” track within NACO
  • utilizing ISNIs within non-MARC contexts, such as institutional repositories, which would require batch searching and creation of ISNIs for institutional affiliates
  • exploring how ISNIs can complement and enhance faculty research platforms, such as VIVO
  • creating ISNI URIs for use in linked data

Other use cases were also pursued during the PCC ISNI pilot;  this list is not exhaustive.

Background on the PCC

The Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) has a long history of commitment to creating, maintaining and sharing high quality metadata, as well as creating the professional context to train and support its members in working efficiently together in a coordinated manner as a unified community.  While members work within their local institutional contexts, they adhere to a common set of best practices and policies when undertaking work under the PCC umbrella.  They are highly trained and dedicated metadata professionals that work together to arrive at workflow best practices that result in minimizing duplicated effort and maximizing our ability to  share metadata outputs and expertise in support of information discovery.

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