Summary of the Q&A with FOLIO Forum

The first Open Library Community Forum was held on July 13th. The goal was to answer questions about FOLIO and provide attendees with more information about how they can participate.

Speakers included:

seb Sebastian Hammer is the President and co-founder of Index Data. Index Data has gained worldwide respect in the library community for its work in standards-based solutions and its commitment to open source software. Sebastian describes his role as the chief strategist, creative person, consultant, requirements capturer, occasional innovator and cheerleader of the company.
chris Christopher Spalding is VP, Open Source Platforms & Communities at EBSCO Information Services. He has over fifteen years of experience working in application and database support, implementation, and presales for both vendors and academic libraries.  He has held positions managing systems and systems departments while at Novo Nordisk in Denmark and Emory University, Atlanta, GA, as Director of Library Core Services.
Mike6x8b_thumb Michael Winkler is the Managing Director for the Open Library Environment, serving as chief project executive for the OLE community, which is committed to providing innovative software platform on which to build a new generation of library services. Prior to taking on his current role, Michael provided leadership and strategic visioning for the use of information technology at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

The main themes for the forum related to the community, where FOLIO stands as of today and where it is headed. Right now engagement is growing, with more than 1,000 people signing up for more information, joining mailing lists and following FOLIO on Twitter. The initial release of the core platform will take place in August 2016 and regular releases will build toward a platform providing core ILS functionality. Sebastian Hammer framed the current efforts around being as engaging as possible for the development community with the ultimate goal being to create services that help libraries. Christopher Spalding explained that the FOLIO project is based on the premise that open source conversations push new technology and foster creative thinking and innovations. As a representative of EBSCO and as someone who has managed both corporate and library systems/systems department, he said FOLIO is a new environment where interested parties (institutions, organizations and individuals) can come together as peers and come up with innovative ways to manage the work of libraries and determine how to expand the library footprint into new areas within the institution. As someone dedicated to both library technology and open source, Michael Winkler declared that software is more effective if there is more engagement.

Questions from the attendees ranged from requests for project specifics and a roadmap to queries about how to get involved in the community itself. As for the project, Sebastian said his company, Index Data, is working to build the base software platform that can be a starting point for developers. The base platform is being designed to support traditional ILS functionality while allowing libraries, service providers and individuals to experiment with future technology and services. He said the platform approach starts with an empty slate upon which functions and features can be built.

As questions turned to the Roadmap, Christopher explained that while a core set of ‘legacy’ ILS functions have been identified, extensibility as a goal in itself was a major point of interest, to help answer the question /where else can we go/ as a community and as an industry? Sebastian described how Index Data is looking for a new way to create software through an ‘app-store’ model and a platform that allows developers broad freedom in how they contribute and use the platform — an approach to extensibility that is new in libraries. By inviting engagement from multiple special interest groups, subject matter experts, developers and others, you are allowing for a type of extensibility that is difficult to create and certainly differs from anything any vendor has created on its own. By lowering the bar of entry, FOLIO hopes to invite a re-imagining of the types of services libraries can provide. Sebastian highlighted the variety of business models and opportunities that will exist, because of the nature of the platform and its liberal (Apache 2) license.

Both Sebastian and Michael addressed library services and the future of those services. Michael said FOLIO “will give us tools to get the library involved in teaching and learning and will position the library to be where institutions are heading”—increasing library relevancy and changing the perceptions of libraries from the limits of a traditional library services provider to a partner in student outcome improvements and other areas. Michael summed it up by asking attendees to think about innovations. “If we can find a place where everyone can come together to have a conversation about issues facing libraries and what users want, we can provide librarians with new tools to go beyond the ‘library space’ and increase engagement with the campus as a whole.” Christopher pictured the community as a place for various entities to come together saying it was, “a place for institutions, vendors and service providers to come together to move the process forward—an open conversation designed to spark innovation.” He said existing companies are looking to engage with the community and the platform. FOLIO was described as an ecosystem of developers and organizations that are primed to take the software and create something new with it, essentially an ecosystem that will support a new marketplace.

All three panelists addressed a question about trust with similar ideas about transparency and openness. Michael said “open” means more than the software, it is about letting participants into the process and providing a window into development.

The next OLE sponsored Open Library Community Forum will be for developers and is scheduled for July 27th. An August 10th forum will focus on the GoKB knowledgebase. Watch for more information to sign up.

People can join FOLIO as strategists, functionalists and developers and organizations such as service providers and consortia are also getting involved and committing resources. Learn more about how to get involved at and follow us on Twitter at @FOLIO_LSP.