Z39.50 International Standard Maintenance Agency - Library of Congress, Network Development and MARC Standards Office

Z39.50 Text

Part 3: Model and Characteristics
of the Information Retrieval Service

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3. Information Retrieval Service
The Information Retrieval service definition describes an activity between two applications: an initiating application, the client, and a responding application, the server. The server is associated with one or more databases.

Communication between the client and server is carried out by the Z39.50 protocol, which is specified in section 4. The specification is logically divided into procedures pertaining to the client and procedures pertaining to the server. The portions of the client and server that carry out the Z39.50 protocol procedures are referred to respectively as the Z39.50 origin and the Z39.50 target.

3.1 Model and Characteristics of the Information Retrieval Service
Communication between origin and target is via a Z39.50-Association (Z-association) within an application association (A-association; see A Z-association is explicitly established by the origin and may be explicitly terminated by either origin or target, or implicitly terminated by termination of the A-association.

There may be multiple consecutive Z-associations within an A-association. There may be multiple consecutive as well as concurrent operations (see 3.1.2) within a Z-association.

The roles of origin and target may not be reversed within a Z-association. A Z-association cannot be restarted, thus once a Z-association is terminated no status information is retained, except information that is explicitly saved.

The service definition describes services and operations; models for these are described in 3.1.1 and 3.1.2. Services are grouped by facilities; the Z39.50 facilities and services are defined in 3.2.

3.1.1 Z39.50 Services
Z39.50 services are carried out by the exchange of messages between the origin and target. A message is a request or a response. Services are defined to be confirmed, non-confirmed, or conditionally-confirmed.

A confirmed service is defined in terms of a request (from the origin or target) followed by a response (from the peer). For example, Search is a confirmed service, initiated by the origin; the Search service is defined in terms of a Search request from the origin followed by a Search response from the target. Access-control is an example of a confirmed service initiated by the target.

A non-confirmed service is defined in terms of a request from the origin or target, with no corresponding response. For example, TriggerResourceControl is a non-confirmed service initiated by the origin; Segment is a non-confirmed service initiated by the target.

A conditionally-confirmed service is a service that may be invoked as either a confirmed or non-confirmed service. It is defined in terms of a request (from the origin or target) followed possibly by a response (from the peer). For example, Resource-control is a conditionally-confirmed service, initiated by the target.

3.1.2 Z39.50 Operations
This standard describes eight operation types: Init, Search, Present, Delete, Scan, Sort, Resource-report, and Extended-services.

A request from the origin of a particular operation type initiates an operation of that type (for example a Search request initiates a Search operation) which is terminated by the respective response from the target. Only the origin may initiate an operation, and not all origin requests do so (see 3.4).

A request that initiates an operation is called an initiating request and a response that ends an operation is called a terminating response. From the origin perspective, an operation begins when it issues the initiating request, and ends when it receives the terminating response. From the target perspective, the operation begins when it receives the initiating request and ends when it sends the terminating response. An operation consists of the initiating request and the terminating response, along with any intervening related messages (see 3.4).

3.1.3 Model of a Database
The objective of this standard is to facilitate the open interconnection of clients and servers for applications where clients search and retrieve information from server databases. The ways in which databases are implemented differ considerably; different systems have different styles for describing the storage of data and the means by which it can be accessed. A common, abstract model is therefore used in describing databases, to which an individual system can map its implementation. This enables different systems to communicate in standard and mutually understandable terms, for the purpose of searching and retrieving information from a database. The search and retrieval models are described in 3.1.4 and 3.1.5.

The term database, as used in this standard, refers to a collection of records. Each record is a collection of related information, treated as a unit. The term database record refers to a local data structure representing the information in a particular record. Associated with a database are one or more sets of access points that can be specified in a search for database records (see 3.1.4), and one or more sets of elements that may be retrieved from a database record (see 3.1.5). An access point is a unique or non-unique key that can be specified either singly or in combination with other access points in a search for records. An access point may, but need not, be related to an element; it can be equivalent to an element, derived from a set of one or more elements, or unrelated to any element.

3.1.4 Searching a Database
A query is applied to a database, specifying values to be matched against the access points of the database. The subset of records formed by applying a query is called the result set (see 3.1.6). A result set may itself be referenced in a subsequent query and manipulated to form a new result set.

A search request specifies one or more databases and includes a query. The type-1 query defined in this standard (see 3.7) consists of either a single access point clause, or several access point clauses linked by logical operators. For example:

In the database named "Books" find all records for which the access point 'title word' contains the value "evangeline" AND the access point 'author' contains the value "longfellow."

Each access point clause consists of a search term and attributes. The attributes qualify the term; usually, one of the attributes corresponds to a normalized access point, against which the term (as qualified by the other attributes) is matched. Each attribute is a pair representing an attribute type and a value of that type (for example, type might be "access point" and value "author"; or type might be "truncation" and value "left").

Each attribute is qualified by an attribute set id which identifies the attribute set to which the attribute belongs. An attribute set specifies a set of attribute types, and for each, a list of attribute values.

3.1.5 Retrieving Records from a Database
Following the processing of a search, the result set is made available by the target, to the origin, for subsequent retrieval requests. When requesting the retrieval of a record from a result set, the origin may supply a database schema identifier, element specification, and record syntax identifier.

For the purpose of retrieving records from a result set, associated with each database are one or more schemas. A schema represents a common understanding shared by the origin and target of the information contained in the records of the database, to allow the subsequent selection of portions of that information via an element specification.

A schema defines an abstract record structure which, when applied to a database record results in an abstract database record, which is an abstract representation of the information in the record. An element specification applied to an abstract database record results in another instance of the abstract database record (the latter may be a null transformation). The element specification selects elements from the abstract database record, and may also specify variant forms for those elements.

The target applies a record syntax to an abstract database record, resulting in an exportable structure referred to as a retrieval record.

3.1.6 Model of a Result Set
In general, it is assumed that query processing does not necessarily require physical access to records; a result set is thus assumed to be the identification of (e.g., pointers to) records, as opposed to the actual set of records, selected by a query. (It is not assumed that the database records are locked. Methods of concurrency control, which would prevent modification or deletion of result set records, are not addressed by this standard.) A result set may be used as a selection mechanism for the transfer of records between systems; the result set itself is considered to be a purely local data structure and is not transferred (that is, records are transferred, but not the local pointers to the records).

For the purpose of retrieving records, the logical structure of a result set is that of a named, ordered list of items. Each item is a triples consisting of: (a) an ordinal number corresponding to the position of the triple in the list, (b) a database name, and (c) a unique identifier (of local significance only) of a record within the database named in (b).

A result set item is referenced by its position within the result set, that is, by (a).

For the purpose of searching, when a result set is used as an operand in a query, the logical structure is one of the following:

Note: Query specifications may indicate that the basic model applies, or under what condition the extended model applies and the nature of the unspecified information. For the type-1 query, when version 2 is in effect, the basic model applies.

3.1.7 Model of Extended Services
The family of Z39.50 services includes the Extended Service (ES) service. "Extended services" refers to a class of services recognized by this standard, but which are not Z39.50 services (as described in 3.1.1). The ES service is a Z39.50 service, and an ES operation results in the initiation of an extended services task. The task is not considered part of the Z39.50 ES operation.

An ES operation is initiated by the origin, via an ES request. The ES response, which completes the operation, does not (necessarily) signal completion of the task; it may indicate for example that the task has started or is queued (or it might indicate that the task has been completed; in fact the ES request may specify that the task should be completed prior to the ES response). An ES task may have a lifetime beyond the Z-association.

Examples of extended services are: saving a result set or query, and exporting or ordering a document.

Each ES task is represented by a database record, called a task package, maintained by the target in a special database, the "extended services database". The origin uses the ES request to cause creation of a task package on the ES database. The database may be searched, and records retrieved, by the Z39.50 Search and Retrieval facilities. The origin may search for packages of a particular type, or created by a particular user, or of a particular status (i.e., pending, active, or complete), or according to various other criteria. In particular, the origin may search the database after submitting an ES request (during the same or a subsequent Z-association), for a resulting task package, to determine status information pertaining to the task, for example, to determine whether the task has started.

3.1.8 Explain
The origin may obtain details of the target implementation, including databases, attribute sets, diagnostic sets, record syntaxes, and element specifications supported. The origin obtains these details through the Z39.50 Explain facility. The target maintains this information in a database that the origin may access via the Z39.50 Search and Present facilities.

This "explain" database appears to the origin as any other database supported by the target, but it has a well-known name and a pre-defined record syntax. Also, certain search terms, corresponding to information categories, are predefined in order to allow a semantic level of interoperability. Each information category has its own record layout, and all are included in the Explain syntax.

3.2 Facilities of the Information Retrieval Service
Sections 3.2.1 through 3.2.11 describe the eleven facilities of the Information Retrieval service. Most consist of logical groups of services; in several cases, a facility consists of a single service. Additional services may be added to any facility in future versions of this standard. Following is a summary description of the eleven facilities.

Initialization Facility--Init Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate an Init operation.

Search Facility--Search Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate a Search operation.

Retrieval Facility--The Retrieval facility consists of two services:

  1. Present Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate a Present operation.
  2. Segment Service: A non-confirmed service initiated by the target, during a Present operation. Note: a Present operation thus consists of a Present request followed by zero or more Segment requests followed by a Present response.

Result-set-delete Facility--Delete Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate a Delete operation

Browse Facility--Scan Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate a Scan operation.

Sort Facility--Sort Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate a Sort operation.

Access Control Facility--Access-control service: a confirmed service initiated by the target. It does not initiate an operation, and it might or might not be part of an active operation.

Accounting/Resource Control Facility--The Accounting/ Resource Control facility consists of three services:

  1. Resource-control Service: A conditionally-confirmed service initiated by the target. It does not initiate an operation, and it might or might not be part of an active operation.
  2. Trigger-resource-control Service: A non-confirmed service initiated by the origin during an operation.
  3. Resource-report Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate a Resource-report operation.

Explain Facility--The Explain facility does not include any services, but uses the services of the Search and Retrieval facilities.

Extended Services Facility--Extended-services Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin to initiate an Extended-services operation.

Termination Facility--Close Service: A confirmed service initiated by the origin or target. It does not initiate nor is it part of any operation. It allows an origin or target to abruptly terminate all active operations and to initiate termination of the Z-Association. (Following termination of the Z-Association the origin may subsequently attempt to initialize another Z-Association using the Init service.)

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