Introduction

The Internet has wrought many changes in how the world operates, affecting almost all areas of human activities. Although these changes include entire new ways of communicating and conducting business, nowhere are the changes more evident than in the way individuals and organizations access information. When the author began his first university degree, accessing scholarly information involved a trip to the university library, searches through physical card catalogues and journal indices, obtaining physical items and manually taking notes. The process has changed significantly in the intervening twenty-nine years. Physical card catalogues are a thing of the past and most journals are indexed, searched and accessed using digital tools. Digital formats for both metadata and actual items have enabled users to access information and have provided institutions with a new way to make their information available to other institutions and users.

The problem facing users and the challenge facing the institutions is that significant amounts of information are stored in silos - single purpose databases and repositories which were not designed to communicate with other systems. Interoperability aims to allow disparate systems to interact without requiring special knowledge of remote systems. A variety of standards have been developed by working groups consisting of representatives from a variety of public, private and commercial organizations. This paper discusses interoperability within the context of a specific protocol.

The Search / Retrieve via URL (SRU) protocol which is the focus of this paper was developed as a way of increasing the level of compatibility between library systems and other information sources. It builds on lessons learned in the use of previous protocols, adding compatibility with current web standards. The goal is easier integration of information sources between libraries and digital information sources available on the Internet.

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