Developing the Bath Profile

Paul Miller with details of the "Bath Profile" - a Z39.50 specification for Library Applications and Resource Discovery.

The Bath Profile: An International Z39.50 Specification for Library Applications and Resource Discovery

A meeting [1] was held in Bath from 15-17 August in order to progress work on the evolving international Z39.50 Profile to improve semantic interoperability when searching across diverse systems. For further information on Z39.50, see a separate article in this issue of Ariadne [2]

Discussion of this Profile began on a listserv (ZIP-PIZ-L) and was continued through teleconferences involving a small group of librarians, vendors and others prior to this meeting.

The meeting proved highly successful, and resulted in significant progress being made on the Profile, and in the adoption of a new name; The Bath Profile: An International Z39.50 Specification for Library Applications and Resource Discovery. This new name replaces earlier working titles such as ZILS, the International Interoperability Profile, and others.

We anticipate releasing a draft of the Profile for wide-ranging review and comment in the latter part of September, with the intention of presenting it to the January 2000 meeting of the Z39.50 Implementor's Group (ZIG) in Texas for endorsement, and then hopefully progressing it through the ISO accreditation process early in 2000 for formal recognition as an Internationally Registered Profile.

In the meantime, this piece provides a summary of key aspects of the Profile's architecture, which may be of interest to Ariadne readers.

The intention in developing this Profile was to reduce the complexity and uncertainty faced by many who wish to facilitate searches across multiple Z39.50 Targets, especially those supplied by different vendors. Implementation of the Profile will also facilitate searching when the client software of the user is a different vendor product than the target being searched. As such, we have taken efforts to tightly define both the range of attributes associated with each Access Point, and the behaviour to be expected from client and server.

The Profile is aimed at a fairly basic level, primarily concerned with title/author/subject-type searches on diverse bibliographic databases. It is hoped, though, that this Profile might be adopted as a common core to other, more detailed, Profiles in particular regions, domains and functional areas, and significant progress was made towards this amongst the authors [3] of other Profiles (including ONE, vCuc, CENL, DanZIG, the Finnish Z39.50 Profile, and the Texas Libraries Profile) present at the Bath meeting. With the realisation of this aim, users will be assured a basic level of cross-searching capability across a wide range of domains and vendor solutions.

The current release of the Profile will address three key 'Functional Areas', with the intention to add others in the future. The current Functional Areas are Basic Bibliographic Search & Retrieval, Cross-Domain & Extra-Domain Search & Retrieval, and Bibliographic Holdings Information Search & Retrieval.

Within each of these Functional Areas, we have defined a limited number of Levels of Conformance, with Level 0 intended to encompass as many existing implementations as possible, Level 1 defining the functionality we might wish to specify in systems currently under construction, and Level 2 defining a number of functions which we feel it is currently infeasible to require across the board, but which we feel effort should be directed towards.

We look forward to the release of this draft during September, at which point it will be made available from the meeting web site [1], and look forward to receiving your comments upon it at that stage.


  1. Z39.50 Interoperability Profile: Drafting Meeting, 15-17 August 1999
  2. Paul Miller, Z39.50 for All. Ariadne, No. 21, September 1999
  3. Z39.50 Interoperability Profile: List of invitees

Author Details

Paul Miller
Interoperability Focus
c/o Academic Services: Libraries
University of Hull
Hull HU6 7RX

Web site:


This meeting was made possible thanks to generous support from the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils. Interoperability Focus is based at the University of Hull, and receives additional support from this institution.


Date published: 
Thursday, 23 September 1999
Copyright statement: 

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