How ISNI Works

ISNI is an ISO standard, in use by numerous libraries, publishers, databases, and rights management organizations around the world. As an open standard, ISNI is not a proprietary "walled garden" - it is diffused widely on the open web, and is a critical component in Linked Data and Semantic Web applications.

The ISNI database is built from many databases worldwide, and based on linking through matching algorithms. ISNIs are assigned when there is a high level of confidence in matching new names to existing names in the database. 

The workflow in ISNI assignment and diffusion is a scrupulous process designed for maximum accuracy. The quality of ISNI metadata is paramount, with all ISNI participants playing a role.  Data contributors and Registration Agencies are responsible for the quality and completeness of the input data and also for taking action on reports provided.  The Assignment Agency has a suite of programs that samples data, checks for anomalies and enriches data.  Most important is the role played by the ISNI Quality Team at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library. This team evaluates new data sources, identifies strategic databases to add, reviews statistical samples, and corrects records flagged for manual review, as well as responding to end user input.

Data Loading

The ISNI database has been built from contributed files from many sources from multiple domains.  Thus the ISNI core data is enriched and its confidence is increased with each new source and at the same time ISNIs are diffused widely.  Unlike online requests where ISNI assignment is always achieved, an ISNI is only assigned for a record contributed via batch load where there is a confident match with an existing record or where the name is unique and does not exist in a shorter form.  The ISNI Quality Team samples each new source and may recommend single source assignment for strategic files in new domains.

Related documentation can be found here.


Once ISNIs are assigned, they are made freely available along with their core metadata.  The database is accessible from this web site and also via the SRU API.  Data contributors receive reports after each batch load and they also receive periodic notifications including new assignments for records with prior status of provisional.  Also in the notifications are indications of additional new sources on records and error corrections.  Data contributors are encouraged to use and rediffuse ISNIs widely.  See also: Linked Data

Related documentation can be found here.

Online input

There are two methods of online input, via web page forms and via the Atom Pub API.  The web interface allows data contributors to make corrections and enrichments to existing records, to add source codes and local identifiers to existing records and also to add new records.  There are two different templates, one for persons and one for organizations. The Atom Pub API enables ISNI Registration Agencies to submit requests for ISNIs using their own interfaces.  The API uses the ISNI request schema.

Related documentation can be found here.

End User Enrichment

The public database includes a prominent invitation to all users to submit enrichments, clarifications and corrections.  Captcha is used to avoid machine input.  Inclusion of an email address for a response is optional.  The data is stored in two non display fields, one a general note and the other a web page reference (URL).  These fields are indexed and a daily robot generates an alert email that is sent to the ISNI Quality Team.  The notes and URLs may be converted into public fields during the review process. 

Linked Data

Linked data is part of the ISNI-IA’s strategy to make ISNIs freely available and widely diffused.  Each assigned ISNI is accessible by a persistent URI in the form[isni]  for example:   ISNI core metadata is available in html and xml. 

URIs in the form[isni] or[isni] are not valid and should not be used.

URIs in the form[isni] are proprietary URIs set up in the early stages of ISNI implementation. They will no longer resolve after 1st January 2017.

See also:  Diffusion


About the ISNI International Agency

ISNI is the globally recognized and adopted standard approved by ISO for the unique identification of the public identities across all fields of creative activity.

Registration Agency

A registration agent provides the interface between ISNI applicants and the ISNI Registration Authority, which is governed by the ISNI board and administered by OCLC.

Search the ISNI Database

Use the lookup tool provided by OCLC to search the ISNI database, to discover which Public Identities have already been assigned ISNIs.