ISNI to review how it represents gender identities

ISNI to review how it represents gender identities

The International Standard Name Identifier Agency (ISNI-IA) is to formally review the way it handles gender identities in its records, saying that its current system is "derived from historic practices that have been in place for centuries but which many stakeholders now regard as outdated."  

The ISNI is a standard system, featuring a 16-digit code, for uniquely identifying the public identities of contributors to media content such as books, television programmes and newspaper articles. It was developed 10 years ago.

A small advisory group will review current ISNI policy and identify its shortcomings. The group will involve representatives from key ISNI sectors, including libraries, book publishing and rights organisations and from affected groups. The recommendations will be offered to ISNI’s community for comment and the company board will make a final decision on the best practice for gender identification.

Tim Devenport, the executive director of the ISNI-IA, said: “ISNI does not exist in a vacuum, and we need to be sure we reflect best practice across the numerous fields where ISNI is used. We are pleased to be embarking on this important piece of work and anticipate that the ISNI community will recognise its relevance and timeliness. We look forward to feedback from the ISNI community when draft recommendations are ready.” 

The company has said the documentation of gender in records relating to identity is important for "disambiguation and assessing gender balance", and "useful in gender-specific genres such as women’s writing and trans literature".

Speaking to The Bookseller, ISNIS-IA communications manager Alaina-Marie Basssett, said: "At present, we're only just starting out on our journey towards establishing how gender identities should be represented in ISNI records and the ISNI database; so we cannot say at this time what that solution will look like. What we can say, however, is that our recommendations will be formed based upon the needs and use cases within the sectors where ISNIs are used (i.e. the libraries, music, publishing and rights sectors at present), and based on the insights compiled by our forthcoming advisory group and its canvassing. It is up to that group (in collaboration with ISNI members and the ISNI board) to decide what is required and to what extent gender identities can and should be represented in ISNI records."

The organisation aims to assign individuals with a persistent unique identifying number in order to resolve the problem of name ambiguity in search and discovery and to share each assigned ISNI globally so that every published work can be attributed to its creator.