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Project Reshare and OpenRS: differing approaches to open source resource sharing

Library Technology Newsletter [December 2023]

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Introduction

In recent months, a schism has erupted in the open source resource sharing realm. Two open source resource sharing projects that previously resided within a single organization have separated, due not only to the differing functional models of their products, but also because of differences in styles of collaboration.

Launched in 2018, Project ReShare has been advancing an open source platform for resource sharing, created collaboratively among a community of interested libraries and vendors. The project benefits from the involvement of commercial development firms including Index Data. and Knowledge Integration. Index Data, specializing in open source software for libraries has been a major supporter of ReShare, has contributed technical expertise to the project and provides hosting for all the current implementations. Knowledge Integration has developed much of the back-end infrastructure underlying the ReShare products. EBSCO Information Services formally joined Project Reshare in October 2022 following encouragement from the ReShare Steering Committee. From its inception until about mid-2022, the Project ReShare focused primarily on ReShare Returnables, a resource sharing platform delivering interlibrary loan functionality, though other products have been on its longer-term roadmap.

Initial delivery of ReShare Returnables

ReShare Returnables, the initial product of Project ReShare, provides a shared inventory catalog, a search interface based on VuFind, patron-initiated requests, and fulfillment workflow with each transaction monitored and controlled by the lending and borrowing libraries. This product has been successfully implemented by over 100 libraries through four major implementations, including ConnectNY, Ivy Plus, PALCI, and TRLN, each contracting with Index Data for hosting and support services.

Credits: Multiple Antecedents and Contributors

The development of ReShare has taken place through a unique collaboration involving multiple commercial software developers and with the financial and in-kind support and expertise of libraries and consortia. At its earliest phases, the project benefited significantly from software originally developed by Knowledge Integration and Index Data prior to the launch of the project. Villanova University contributed important support to the project through its work on the VuFind discovery and related integrations.

The modules underpinning ReShare Returnables ILL functions were derived from a project by Knowledge Integration, launched in 2017 to create interlibrary loan capabilities for the FOLIO ecosystem. Knowledge Integration continued to perform software development after ReShare's launch in 2018, including work on the ReShare ILL request management infrastructure and other support for technical architecture for the development. Index Data provided leadership in establishing a paradigm for technical collaboration, as well as in leading the development of the staff workflows and user interfaces. This work included incorporating important UX design efforts, funded by PALCI and carried out by the Danish company Samhæng. Index Data provided the bulk of the development and integration of ReShare's discovery solution, as well as providing overall project leadership.

Expanding into Direct Consortial Borrowing

In response to the stated needs of consortia for seamless, unmediated borrowing, a new initiative to create a direct consortial borrowing product emerged within the Project ReShare organization. This work, initially known as the ReShare DCB project, began in about July 2022 following the selection of FOLIO and ReShare by MOBIUS. It gained additional momentum with the release of the GALILEO RFP -- for a new library management system requiring unmediated consortial borrowing -- which was issued around the same time. EBSCO proposed that direct consortial borrowing functionality be tightly connected with FOLIO. Knowledge Integration performed the technical development for this new project jointly funded with EBSCO Information Services. The specifications for the ReShare DCB were intended to be consistent with the stated requirements of consortia such as MOBIUS and GALILEO, as well as others that were interested in a new alternative to legacy products, such as INN-Reach, based on well-established direct consortial borrowing workflows.

The roadmap for the development of products within Project ReShare is defined through a collaborative process led by its steering committee and other subgroups. The DCB initiative came in through a somewhat different route, primarily related to the intention for EBSCO to deliver a resource sharing system to MOBIUS and GALILEO. The intent was that the DCB work would be part of and developed by the ReShare community via a team of subject matter experts, with the codebase stored in the ReShare repository. The urgency and scale of the project was significant, and many of its requirements and underlying infrastructure components clashed with existing roadmaps.

Diverging views of Scope and Collaboration

Whether the DCB project, which had been underway for almost a year, could continue to co-exist within the ReShare organization emerged as a point of contention. Some ReShare community members were concerned that DCB could become a separate effort that would compete for resources with the established ReShare product suite. Others countered that the investments EBSCO brought were sufficient to fund additional developers to create DCB while continuing to work on ReShare Returnables.

Discussion of these competing viewpoints was a key topic at the Project ReShare June 2023 retreat. The process and conclusions of the Retreat and follow-up session were articulated in the September 14, 2023 ReShare Community Meeting (video recording). One of the key outcomes of the retreat was the decision by the ReShare Steering Committee that the DCB Project would not continue under the ReShare brand until processes for community participation were better defined, enabling reconsideration of this initiative. As a result of this decision, the DCB project opted to separate from Project ReShare.

Project ReShare moves forward

Project ReShare continues with its mission to strengthen its resource sharing community and to continue to enhance and support its platform. The organization is also refining its organizational structure and articulating its values and community processes.

Following a community meeting in August 2023, ReShare announced changes within its organization. Work is underway to expand the ReShare products to include Controlled Digital Lending and an application for non-returnable items such as articles and book chapters. Four major deployments of ReShare have been completed with three new implementations underway. ReShare is well established both as a technical platform for resource sharing and as a diverse organization embracing community involvement and open source software.

OpenRS separates from Project ReShare

Following these events, the DCB project stakeholders chose to separate from ReShare and to launch a new initiative now known as the Open Resource Sharing Coalition, or OpenRS. EBSCO, Knowledge Integration, MOBIUS, MCLS, and Marmot each withdrew from Project ReShare and are now aligned with OpenRS. This new organization is developing new resource sharing solutions based on FOLIO technology and designed for unmediated patron borrowing requests and fulfillment.

A new beginning based on ongoing efforts

OpenRS, was launched in 2023 as a new initiative to develop, support, and promote a new open source direct consortial borrowing solution. Though a relatively new project, OpenRS moves forward with a well defined development agenda, backed by two commercial vendors, EBSCO Information Services and Knowledge Integration, with substantial involvement of MOBIUS as its first planned implementor. GALILEO and other consortia participating in the coalition have also announced intentions to implement OpenRS. In addition to direct consortial borrowing, the OpenRS development roadmap also includes controlled digital lending and interlibrary loan integrations, which is supported in its current codebase.

Distinct resource sharing models: DCB and ILL

OpenRS supports a workflow for resource sharing based on unmediated requests from library patrons. A central index provides access to the shared holdings spanning the participating institutions of a consortium. Patrons can search the central catalog and make requests for items not held in their local institution, specifying a preferred pickup location. Its workflow is broadly modeled on the Innovative INN-Reach resource sharing system.

This workflow model differs from ReShare Returnables which is based on loans made between libraries, usually managed through the interlibrary-loan office of each institution. Patrons submit requests directly using their consortial catalog. The ReShare software brokers the transactions, relying primarily on automated algorithms to route transactions from the lending library to the borrowing library. ILL personnel can monitor and adjust ILL transactions as needed. This workflow resembles that of Relais DTD or OCLC Interlibrary Loan.

The OpenRS Codebase

The new initiative builds on the software modules that were primarily developed by Knowledge Integration that predate and were incorporated into the Project ReShare infrastructure. At the time of the transition, the software repository holding the modules owned by Knowledge Integration was cloned, giving both projects a similar point for future development.

The OpenRS platform is not a fork of the ReShare software, but is based on FOLIO modules that preexisted both projects. The ReShare announcement noted that:

DCB fundamentally differs from other forms of ILL, lending directly to a patron at another institution, rather than to a borrowing/requesting library. To support DCB, ReShare's underlying platform required significant modifications, and ultimately, Knowledge Integration, with funding from EBSCO, decided to pursue DCB functionality as a wholly separate software stack, with the intention to brand the product as "ReShare DCB."

Organizational structure and institutional stakeholders

The project no longer falls under the ReShare brand, but has taken an independent identity and organization. OpenRS joined the Open Library Foundation, which holds the trademark for its organizational name. Knowledge Integration is engaged as the main commercial development partner for the OpenRS platform and retains the copyright to the software. EBSCO Information Services is a principal investor and sponsor. Work is well underway toward the completion of the initial version of OpenRS, to be implemented by MOBIUS to interface with its Sierra systems by May 2024 in advance of the organization's planned migration to FOLIO.

WOLFcon, a conference centered on FOLIO and related open source projects, included a session on Resource Sharing with OpenRS (August 23, 2023). Speakers included Donna Bacon, the Executive Director of MOBIUS, Ian Ibbotson, Owner and Principal Consultant for Knowledge Integration, and Tim Auger, FOLIO and OpenRS Product Manager for EBSCO Information Services. Auger had previously served as Product Management Director, eContent and Resource Sharing for Innovative Interfaces (2001-2018).

OpenRS embodies Direct Consortial Borrowing

OpenRS is conceptually similar to the direct consortial borrowing model as instantiated by Innovative's INN-Reach product. MOBIUS has been a long-time INN-Reach client, and while their stated requirements to EBSCO were in-depth and complex, their short-hand requirements statement was that the system should “emulate INN-reach.” (See MOBIUS ReShare Working Group presentation February 21, 2023). The unmediated DCB model, which is not unique to INN-Reach, includes a union catalog populated by the shareable items harvested from the ILS of each participating institution. Patrons search this combined catalog and can place requests for a desired item. When multiple libraries hold the item, the system uses an algorithm to predict the best copy to request. The DCB application then transfers the request to the circulation system of the lending institution. Integrating with the ILS in this way takes advantage of the existing functionality of the local circulation module for patron sign-on, pull lists, routing, patron notifications, charging and discharging of items and other related functions. From a staff handling perspective, items requested through the resource sharing system are treated just as local items, eliminating the need for alternate workflows and training.

An ILS-agnostic approach

OpenRS is designed to be agnostic to the ILS or LSP used by the consortium or participating libraries, based on connectors that manage the technical interactions. The initial version of OpenRS includes a connector for Sierra, with work underway for FOLIO, Polaris, and other ILS products.

Union Catalog and Discovery Interfaces

OpenRS includes a consolidated index harvested from ILS systems of the participating libraries. As items are loaded into the index, they are clustered and organized to optimize end-user searching. The OpenRS application manages the requests for selected items, which are subject to the loan rules for the borrowing and lending libraries. OpenRS does not include a discovery interface, but rather exposes the index and services that can then be consumed by third party discovery products, including open source products like VuFind or Pika, as well as EBSCO's proprietary Locate interface. MOBIUS plans to use the Locate interface for its implementation of OpenRS. OpenRS provides a discovery scaffold, a reference tool for developers to explore and test the services of the OpenRS.

OpenRS diagram of Core Components
OpenRS diagram of Core Components
(From Knowledge Integration presentation at WOLFcon)

INN-Reach: a pioneer in Direct Consortial Borrowing

Initially developed in about 1998, INN-Reach has proven to be a highly efficient model for exchanging resource items within a consortium. The history and functionality of INN-Reach is described in Resource Sharing in Libraries: Concepts, Products, Technologies, and Trends (2013) (Chapter 3 : Products and Services):

Innovative entered the consortial resource-sharing arena with the introduction of INN-Reach in 1991 in partnership with OhioLINK, a group of academic libraries in Ohio. INN-Reach was designed with the vision of allowing multiple libraries in a consortium to share resources efficiently.

OhioLINK was formed in the mid-1980s with the goal of ultimately building a statewide union catalog for the academic libraries. Innovative Interfaces was selected for this project with a contract beginning in 1990. The contract included implementing the Millennium ILS in each of the libraries and developing the infrastructure for the union catalog and consortial borrowing. This pioneering project in the domain of consortial borrowing today supports the libraries' eighty-eight public and private academic institutions, with combined collections of 49.5 million books and other materials.

INN-Reach was originally designed to work in conjunction with INNOPAC (later Millennium) ILS implementations in each of the participating institutions. Many INN-Reach implementations subsequently included participants with systems other than those provided by Innovative. NCIP support was added to INN-Reach in 2010, facilitating its operation with non-Millennium ILS implementations.

The INN-Reach system involves a central server that provides a physical union catalog populated and synchronized from the ILS of each of the participant institutions and an additional central server that brokers resource requests and fulfillment through real-time connectors.

The direct consortial borrowing implemented through INN-Reach follows a workflow that begins with users searching the central union catalog, with the ability to place a request for items held by any institution in the consortium. Once the user initiates a request for an item, INN-Reach performs a series of interactions that validates the authentication of the patron, creates temporary patron and item records as needed on the lending and borrowing ILS, and generates paging slips for the lending library. The item can then be pulled and delivered to the library associated with the borrower and then circulated through the same processes as locally held items.

While OpenRS follows the general direct consortial borrowing workflows as INN-Reach, the software was developed entirely independently. No programming code or components from INN-Reach are part of OpenRS.

Until recently, Innovative has gone many years with little to no new development for its INN-Reach platform. Innovative announced in December 2023 that work is now underway to modernize INN-Reach to incorporate technology from Sierra, a substantial upgrade from the Millennium software upon which it was previously based.

MOBIUS: a driver for open source software and direct consortial borrowing

MOBIUS, based in Columbia, Missouri, provides a range of services to libraries in Missouri and beyond. The organization has been providing direct consortial borrowing capabilities to its members for over two decades. Following other ambitious large-scale resource sharing projects such as OhioLINK, MOBIUS selected INN-Reach in 1999 from Innovative Interfaces as its direct consortial borrowing solution.

MOBIUS joined the Project Reshare community in March 2021, signaling a strong interest in an open source resource sharing solution.

In addition to providing automation and resource solutions for its members, MOBIUS also offers commercial support services to other libraries for open source software. MOBIUS began supporting and hosting Evergreen for the Poplar Bluff Public Library in 2011, which led to the establishment of the Missouri Evergreen Consortium. In 2017 MOBIUS formalized its open source support business.

In August 2022 MOBIUS announced that it had selected EBSCO Information Services to implement EBSCO FOLIO and ReShare Returnables. Once implemented, 61 academic libraries will migrate from Sierra to FOLIO. The resource sharing component of the project requires support for direct consortial borrowing across the MOBIUS members, as well as partner libraries and networks that will use other ILS products.

DCB was launched largely to support the requirements related to the response submitted to MOBIUS, which had issued an RFP for a new library services platform and resource sharing environment. MOBIUS, a large consortium in the state of Missouri, operates multiple clusters of the Sierra ILS from Innovative Interfaces as well as an INN-Reach resource sharing environment providing resource sharing. The MOBIUS INN-Reach implementation includes not only those using the Sierra ILS, but also provides services to other libraries and consortia not using Sierra.

GALILEO

GALILEO, managing the statewide consortium of academic libraries in Georgia, has selected FOLIO to replace Ex Libris Alma for its member libraries. The GALILEO announcement also stated that it would implement a direct consortial borrowing solution to be developed by Knowledge Integration:

“In addition to FOLIO, GALILEO will implement a consortial borrowing solution that is being developed by Knowledge Integration, a key software developer and a part of Project ReShare. Project ReShare is a user-centered, community-owned resource-sharing platform that will allow opportunities to include various forms of object fulfillment as the consortium grows and evolves. GALILEO has been a member of the ReShare community since 2021.”

GALILEO is an active participant and supporter of OpenRS. GALILEO has for several decades been providing unmediated consortial borrowing via different Ex Libris and open source platforms to enable its statewide GIL Express service.

Project ReShare: additional details

The project was established as a "community-based, open platform for library resource sharing" in 2018. The ReShare product suite currently includes Shared Index, ReShare Returnables, Direct Digital Lending. Plans are also underway for a Non-Returnables application.

Active projects based on ReShare Returnables include:

  • PALCI,
  • ConnectNY,
  • Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation, and
  • TRLN

These four instances of ReShare include over 100 individual libraries.

Other organizations that have committed to using ReShare with implementations still underway include:

  • CAVAL
  • Minitex
  • Boston Library Consortium (Note: BLC is also a founding member of OpenRS)

All of these implementations have contracted with Index Data for support services and hosting.

Two commercial organizations were deeply involved with Project ReShare, Index Data and Knowledge Integration. Index Data contributed technical expertise to the project and provides hosting and support services.

Midwest Collaborative for for Library Services served as the fiscal agent for Project ReShare through the summer of 2023. According to a statement by its Executive Director Scott Garrison, "MCLS is the single largest financial contributor to date to Project ReShare's effort to create new resource sharing software that is currently in use at over 100 libraries." With the withdrawal of MCLS from ReShare to join OpenRS, responsibility for the fiscal resources required reconsideration. It's important to note that the economy of an open source project must be measured not only through direct financial contributions, but also in terms of the efforts allocated by participating organizations and individuals. Project ReShare recently announced that the Boston Library Consortium will serve as its fiscal sponsor.

Perspective

The emergence of two different open source resource sharing solutions benefits libraries and consortia interested in alternatives to proprietary solutions. Although the separation of OpenRS from Project Reshare was disruptive for those involved, both initiatives seem well positioned for a stable and sustainable pathway to develop, enhance, and support their products for their respective communities.

Almost all product categories for libraries now include open source software options. FOLIO, Koha, and Evergreen together now comprise a significant portion of resource management system implementations; VuFind, Pika, and Aspen Discovery provide search interfaces that work with both open source and proprietary resource management systems. Samvera, DSpace, and Fedora provide reliable open source platforms for institutional repositories or other content management scenarios. Not only are open source options available for each of the major categories of library software, in most cases multiple open source options are available with differing capabilities or organizational affiliations. Now in the resource sharing arena, libraries and consortia have two open source solutions available, each offering differing approaches to helping libraries increase the impact of their collections. These differing models exist among proprietary products and it's a good thing that there are now open source versions of both approaches.

Consolidation of the commercial environment has driven interest in community-driven platforms and products. In addition to its own WorldShare Interlibrary Loan service and Tipasa ILL management system, OCLC acquired Fretwell-Downing in 2005 and Relais International in 2017. Ex Libris offers resource sharing capabilities in its Alma library services platform and offers Rapido as an interlibrary loan management application. In 2019 Ex Libris also acquired the RapidILL service from Colorado State University. Open source and community-based solutions help address the narrowing options and the rising cost of proprietary solutions.

The events surrounding Project ReShare and OpenRS also underscore the complex relationships between commercial companies and open source software projects. Almost all open source products foster some type of commercial engagement. Most implementations of open source products by libraries in the United States involve commercial support arrangements. Commercial companies often bring financial resources, business infrastructure for support services, as well as technical expertise and hosting platforms. Open source projects typically involve a balance of commercial self-interest with community driven values.

The respective alignments of commercial vendors with Project ReShare and OpenRS represent an important aspect of their sustainability. Project ReShare would likely not exist without the vision, expertise, and resources from Index Data. Likewise, OpenRS emerged through business opportunities related to EBSCO Information Services and the development expertise of Knowledge Integration in addition to the strategic needs of multiple library consortia. It is unrealistic to expect open source projects to thrive without commercial entanglements of some type. Rather, libraries need to carefully assess the overall sustainability of these products and their alignment with their own long-term strategies and expectations for their technology infrastructure.


Comparison of Project Reshare with OpenRS
Category ReShare OpenRS
Project LaunchedNov 2018Aug 2023
Workflow model Unmediated consortial borrowing solution based on an interlibrary loan paradigm Unmediated direct consortial borrowing with requests initiated by the patron
Technology Foundation Compatible with FOLIO technology, but developed as an independent application Based on the early resource sharing module of FOLIO. Not a fork of ReShare, though both share a common antecedent within the FOLIO codebase.
Live Implementations ConnectNY, IPLC, PALCI, TRLN
Planned Implementations CAVAL, Minitex, BLC MOBIUS, GALILEO, Marmot
Commercial Development Partners Index Data, Knowledge Integration Knowledge Integration (2018-2023)
Business model MCLS: fiscal agent through 2023;
BLC financial sponsor: 2023-present
Open Library Foundation, Administrative Benefits Service Program
Organizational home Project ReShare Steering Committee Open Library Foundation (2023-present)

The Open Library Foundation

The Open Library Foundation is a 501(c)3 established in September 2016 as a legal entity to support multiple open source projects. The organization provides governance, a community of collaboration, advocacy, and related services for its projects. OpenRS joined the Open Library Foundation in August 2023. Through it was listed as an OLF project, ReShare had not entered into a formal relationship. Documentation for Project Reshare resides under the OLF Atlassian Jira wiki site

The open source projects that have joined the Open Library Foundation include:

  • FOLIO: 2016 - present
  • Open Library Environment, including the Kuali OLE open source automation system.
  • Global Open KnowledgeBase (GoKB): 2016 – present
  • VuFind: April 2022 – Present
  • The Advanced Research Consortium (ARC): September 2021 – present
  • The Open Resource Sharing Coalition (OpenRS): 2023 – present

Project ReShare had an informal relationship with the Open Library Foundation but was never a formal member.

Chronology of related events


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Publication Year:2023
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Technology Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 2 Number 12
Issue:December 2023
Publisher:Library Technology Guides
Place of Publication:Nashville, TN
Company: Index Data
Knowledge Integration
EBSCO Information Services
Record Number:29565
Last Update:2024-05-25 02:43:03
Date Created:2023-12-11 10:22:59
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