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This primer is an overview of the Z39.50 standard, which is defined simply as a standard that enables two computer systems on a network to communicate for the purpose of information retrieval. Specifically, this guide explains what Z39.50 is and how it works, identifies the benefits of using Z39.50 implementations, offers a brief history of the standard, describes some key technical features, provides examples of some Z39.50 applications, and forecasts the future direction of the standard.

The purpose of this primer is to give you enough information about the Z39.50 standard to understand its implications for information retrieval as it relates to your organization and work. Resources about organizations involved with Z39.50 and for learning more about the standard are also provided.