Notes from the Executive Director – August 2020

Posted: August 3, 2020

In August 2019, the MCLS Board of Directors authorized MCLS to make a strategic investment in and become involved with Project ReShare, a new approach to resource sharing for consortia and the libraries we serve. It’s hard to believe we’re already almost a year into that work! Version 1.0 will be available this month, and software development will continue through fall 2020 and winter 2021.

Founded in 2018, Project ReShare is a community of equals including libraries, consortia, software developers, and user experience designers. The community is building a resource sharing platform that is user-centered (for library users and staff alike), offers choices and flexibility for libraries with different workflows, staffing, and technical expertise, embraces modern technology and current standards, has a modular design, and aims to be more affordable than existing systems.

Project ReShare is open source, community-owned and driven, and intended to be sustainable and highly scalable. The community is open to ideas and approaches from a growing number of energetic stakeholders, and the more than 50 people involved have proven adaptable as the world has changed quickly. Initial development has centered on returnable items such as books, but recognizing the challenges of COVID-19 and other pressures libraries face, the community is also actively pursuing other functionality including for non-returnables (e.g., articles) and controlled digital lending (CDL).

The Project ReShare Steering Committee has taken a thoughtful and transparent approach to organizing and leading the community, including: a Founding Members program that allows a library or consortium to have a voice in governance and software development for a modest financial contribution; Product Management (PM) Team to manage ReShare’s scope and development priorities; a Development Team to architect and code the software; and a Subject Matter Experts (SME) group with deep workflow experience and knowledge who determine functional requirements and user stories. Index Data and Knowledge Integration are leading software development. Project ReShare is affiliated with the Open Library Foundation, and the software is built using the same underlying platform as FOLIO.

MCLS is a Project ReShare Founding Member, and several of our staff serve as representatives on the Steering Committee, the PM Team, and the SME group. As a large multi-type consortium, we have a rich set of use cases to contribute to the project. We are very interested to see how ReShare will allow libraries to borrow and lend materials as members of multiple consortia.

The original members, led by the PALCI consortium, began with the goal of building an alternative to existing systems at a competitive price point, with comparable functionality that can grow based on community needs. Software development started with what a user at one library should experience when they identify a returnable item and want to request it from a different library, and what the requesting and supplying libraries’ staff should experience in the transaction. User experience firm Samhaeng built a very clean and simple set of interface prototypes, which the SMEs and Product Management teams vetted, before developers wrote any code. This way, working prototypes and software can flow from shared understanding. Project ReShare has a roadmap with quarterly milestones, and an agile development process. Each new function being planned has a detailed functional overview document, with a workflow diagram and a set of epics, each of which has a list of features and requirements.

From a technical perspective, ReShare is built on a central index which can be harvested into a variety of discovery services (such as VuFind, which early testers are using.) ReShare uses the ISO 18626 standard for messages between libraries, NCIP to create temporary records in a library management system, and Z39.50 to check item status. As an example of how flexible ReShare is designed to be, it can sit beside a library management system that does not have resource sharing functionality built in, or it could be incorporated into a standards-compliant system that supports application programming interfaces (APIs). At the same time, ReShare doesn’t assume a library can use NCIP or APIs; it is being developed so that libraries using less robust local systems can participate. The software’s microservices architecture employs a set of modular apps. Libraries with their own development resources can choose to modify ReShare’s base system apps, or build their own.

If you’d like to learn more about how ReShare works and see it in action, project coordinator Kristen Wilson created a concise 26-minute demonstration video of the beta version in spring 2020. Community members have presented at meetings including the 2019 FOLIO Forum, the 2019 NASIG meeting, the 2019 Charleston Conference, the 2020 CNI Spring Meeting, and the 2020 ICOLC Virtual Meeting. You can also find a wealth of technical documentation and more at the Project ReShare website.

On behalf of the Project ReShare Steering Committee, I encourage you to join the effort to help build the future of resource sharing. MCLS members Michigan State University and Grand Valley State University are Project ReShare Founding Members, and are currently contributing workflow and accessibility expertise. Learn how to get involved at projectreshare.org or email info@projectreshare.org.

Have ideas for other potentially game-changing projects MCLS could help bring to life? I’d like to hear from you, at garrisons@mcls.org.