Using National Bibliography Numbers as Uniform Resource Names
RFC 3188

Document Type RFC - Informational (October 2001; No errata)
Obsoleted by RFC 8458
Obsoletes RFC 8458
Was draft-hakala-nbn (individual)
Author Juna Hakala 
Last updated 2018-10-13
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Network Working Group                                          J. Hakala
Request for Comments: 3188                   Helsinki University Library
Category: Informational                                     October 2001

                 Using National Bibliography Numbers as
                         Uniform Resource Names

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2001).  All Rights Reserved.


   This document discusses how national bibliography numbers (persistent
   and unique identifiers assigned by the national libraries) can be
   supported within the URN (Uniform Resource Names) framework and the
   syntax for URNs defined in RFC 2141.  Much of the discussion is based
   on the ideas expressed in RFC 2288.

1. Introduction

   As part of the validation process for the development of URNs the
   IETF working group agreed that it is important to demonstrate that
   the current URN syntax proposal can accommodate existing identifiers
   from well established namespaces.  One such infrastructure for
   assigning and managing names comes from the bibliographic community.
   Bibliographic identifiers function as names for objects that exist
   both in print and, increasingly, in electronic formats.  RFC 2288
   [Lynch] investigated the feasibility of using three identifiers
   (ISBN, ISSN and SICI) as URNs.

   This document will analyse the usage of national bibliography numbers
   (NBNs) as URNs.  The need to extend analysis to new identifier
   systems was briefly discussed in RFC 2288 as well, with the following
   summary: "The issues involved in supporting those additional
   identifiers are anticipated to be broadly similar to those involved
   in supporting ISBNs, ISSNs, and SICIs".

Hakala                       Informational                      [Page 1]
RFC 3188      Using National Bibliography Numbers as URNs   October 2001

   A registration request for acquiring a Namespace Identifier (NID)
   "NBN" for national bibliography numbers has been written by the
   National Library of Finland on the request of the Conference of
   Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) and the Conference of the
   European National Librarians (CENL).  Chapter 5 contains a URN
   namespace registration request modeled according to the template in
   RFC 2611.

   The document at hand is part of a global co-operation of the national
   libraries to foster identification of electronic documents in general
   and utilisation of URNs in particular.  Some national libraries,
   including the national libraries of Finland, Norway and Sweden, are
   already assigning NBN-based URNs for electronic resources.

   We have used the URN Namespace Identifier "NBN" for the national
   bibliographic numbers in examples below.

2. Identification vs. Resolution

   As a rule the national bibliography numbers identify finite,
   manageably-sized objects, but these objects may still be large enough
   that resolution to a hierarchical system is appropriate.

   The materials identified by a national bibliography number may exist
   only in printed or other physical form, not electronically.  The best
   that a resolver will be able to offer in this case is bibliographic
   data from a national bibliography database, including information
   about where the physical resource is stored in a national library's

   The URN Framework provides resolution services that may be used to
   describe any differences between the resource identified by a URN and
   the resource that would be returned as a result of resolving that
   URN.  However, NBNs will be used for instance to identify resources
   in digital Web archives created by harvester robot applications.  In
   this case, NBN will identify exactly the resource the user expects to

3. National bibliography numbers

3.1 Overview

   National Bibliography Number (NBN) is a generic name referring to a
   group of identifier systems utilised by the national libraries and
   only by them for identification of deposited publications which lack
   an identifier, or to descriptive metadata (cataloging) that describes
   the resources.  In many countries legal (or voluntary) deposit is
   being extended to electronic publications.

Hakala                       Informational                      [Page 2]
RFC 3188      Using National Bibliography Numbers as URNs   October 2001

   Each national library uses its own NBN strings independently of other
   national libraries; there is no global authority which controls them.
   For this reason NBNs are unique only on national level.  When used as
   URNs, NBN strings must be augmented with a controlled prefix such as
   country code.  These prefixes guarantee uniqueness of the NBN-based
   URNs on the global scale.
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