The Open Library Environment (OLE) project will use open, flexible technology to produce a community-sourced alternative to current legacy automation components, including Integrated Library Systems (ILS) and electronic resource management (ERM) systems.
OLE will automate core library functions in a way suited to modern workflows and that interoperates with business and content applications beyond the library. Libraries control the design of OLE, ensuring that it supports our core mission.
With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an international group of research libraries began working with the library community in September 2008 to plan the project. Project participants are developing system requirements and an initial design document, to be ready in July 2009. The next steps are to develop a project proposal and acquire funding for development of the OLE software. The aim is to have a reference implementation available by mid 2011.
OLE will integrate with the institution’s broader technical infrastructure, creating more streamlined and faster access to research information and much less duplication of data and effort.
OLE will be able to be deeply integrated with the other applications of the institution. It will flexibly deliver information resources of the library to researchers and will be able to be embedded into all curriculum activities. For example, OLE should provide better options for integration with student information systems, course management systems and identity management systems. OLE will give better access to resources for all members of the institution and add value to these resources.
OLE aims for a transformational design approach to create an extremely flexible, interoperable system that does not just replicate the concepts that underlie legacy software.
OLE will be designed as a single system to manage diverse collection formats and content, including print, electronic and future information sources. It will not have separate systems for inventory control of print or for licensing control for e-journals.
As a community source project, OLE will place control of mission-critical automation infrastructure in the hands of libraries, allowing them to determine the direction of development and to extend and enhance functionality with greater freedom.
OLE will support the needs of libraries involved in consortia and other collaborative organizations.OLE’s Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) will allow OLE to fit in well in the enterprise networks of their parent organizations and to evolve gracefully without the need to create or replace large modules as library needs evolve.
The OLE project started with extensive library community consultation and design. It aims to support libraries in transforming their workflows so they can manage changing services and resource formats – not just to replicate a traditional ILS.
OLE has an enterprise focus and uses a Service Orientated Architecture design principles so that it integrates with external information sources, systems and agencies.
The OLE Project has communicated with other projects to learn from their experiences and to explore possible synergies with their work. Because OLE will be open source, it has the potential to build on and interact with software developed through other projects. For example, libraries should be able to use a number of discovery tools produced by other open source projects as an interface to OLE. (An ongoing list of the OLE Project’s contacts with other projects is available on the OLE website: http://oleproject.org/get-involved/working-groups-join-us/connecting-with-other-projects-working-group/.)
The planning phase project team consists of representatives from libraries of different sizes, public and private institutions and varied U.S. and international locations. Partners were chosen for their ability to contribute to both functional and technical planning for community source SOA projects, for their influence in the library community and for their experience in library innovation relevant to this project. By including a wide variety of people and institutions, we increase the likelihood that our design document will reflect the full range of library needs and that we will have a community highly motivated and well prepared as we move towards the build phase.
Project participants in the planning phase include Columbia University, Duke University, Indiana University, Lehigh University, Library and Archives Canada, National Library of Australia, OhioLink consortium, Rutgers University, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Kansas, University of Maryland, University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University.
This planning group has interacted with over 300 individuals from more than 170 libraries, organizations and businesses and organizations to bring additional expertise and feedback into the planning process.
The planning group is currently identifying potential build partners and other open source projects with which OLE can collaborate to leverage experience and expertise. We anticipate naming build partners by June 2009.
OLE will be initially developed under a community source model. The developed product will then be released under an open source license.
Community source limits initial development efforts to partners who have committed financial and/or human resources for the duration of the development cycle.
When released, the open source model will allow any developer to modify the code to meet their institution’s particular functional requirements. Ideally, those changes will be funneled back to the larger OLE community and, where appropriate, incorporated into future releases.
The initial version of OLE is targeted towards research and academic libraries. The design model also addresses the additional needs of a consortial environment.
OLE will have the flexibility to be adapted to different types and sizes of libraries over time.
The planning and design phase for OLE will be complete in July, 2009. We expect to begin software development in fall 2009, contingent on funding. The first deliverable will be the OLE framework and some additional functionality by fall of 2012. At that point, a larger developer community will extend the functionality.
OLE will have no licensing fees. It will be free to download, use and modify. Once released there will be free support options (i.e.: documentation, wikis). There will be cost components which may vary by institution. Among the cost factors to take into account are ongoing staff support and required hardware. Institutions which desire a more direct role in the governance of OLE will have associated governance costs to consider. However, unlike proprietary solutions which often require a significant financial commitment while offering limited opportunities to impact the future software enhancements, OLE’s basic tenant of community involvement will allow institutions to maximize the value of their investment.
OLE is designed to be flexible and to prevent duplication of other systems used in your institution, so transition will depend on how your institution wants to use it.
The transition to OLE may involve different processes from what libraries have experienced in previous ILS migrations since it differs substantially from existing legacy library automation components.
Moving to OLE may involve transferring data from other products than the ILS and may involve relying on institution-provided components for some data and services that were previously managed or replicated within the ILS. We expect, for example, that OLE implementations will rely on institutionally provided authentication systems rather than manage its own patron file in the ILS model.
Earlier adopters of OLE may need to operate some modules of their existing ILS until the full product has been delivered.Once the full version of OLE has been completed, libraries that implement it should be able to phase out their existing ILS and ERM.
OLE will not develop its own public interface.
OLE’s design aims to provide robust support for any discovery interface product that the library may choose to use. We expect OLE to work well with existing and emerging discovery interfaces such as the eXtensible Catalog, VuFind, Primo, Encore, AquaBrowser, Blacklight, and Endeca as well as future products. The need to support these interface has been given a high priority in the design of OLE.
OLE expects also its services to be delivered through non-library interfaces such as courseware systems, campus portals, and other institutional products that involve support from the library.
All those who are interested in the OLE Project are invited to provide feedback on project activities and documents via the OLE Project and are welcome to participate in OLE webcasts.
Institutions that want to play a significant decision-making and development role in OLE should consider becoming a software build partner. For more information on becoming a build partner, contact Lynne O’Brien (email@example.com).
Institutions involved in the software build phase of OLE can ensure that the OLE software reflects their core values and required functions. Institutions involved with governance gain additional influence on product development and on the growth of the community that uses and supports OLE.
The success of OLE depends on leading institutions making investments in a project aligned with its own interests that also provides benefits of the larger community.