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On Monday (5/7), Lauren and I traveled down the ever delightful I-40 to Durham, to attend a one-day meet-up about FOLIO, held as part of the first ever WOLFcon (decoder ring settings: a meet-up is an infrequent in-person gathering of a mostly online community; WOLFcon is the World OLF Conference; OLF is the Open Library Foundation, the oversight organization for several open source projects including FOLIO. And FOLIO is…)

FOLIO, backronymically from “The Future of Libraries Is Open,” is an open source library management system currently under development. Its aim is to provide the sort of core and extended library software currently available from commercial products like Ex Libris Alma and OCLC WMS. Beyond that, though, FOLIO is a platform on which developers can build further library software, with sites already exploring how to leverage it for digital repositories, digital preservation, assessment of faculty research output, union catalogs, and more. Rather than creating a single, monolithic program, FOLIO provides a framework on which developers can write small, interoperating apps. They very consciously use the model of your phone’s app store, only with open source: don’t like your ILL app? Try an alternative from the app store. Don’t like any of them? Revise one or write one from scratch and use that. And while open source isn’t without costs, you ultimately contribute more to a community than to someone else’s corporate bottom line.

Several schools and vendors are putting major support into FOLIO. The central software comes from IndexData, a very cool little company I had a chance to work with in Ohio. EBSCO will provide hosting and support for libraries that prefer not to run and maintain it locally; using a hosted option puts you into a system where you and your co-tenants can more easily benefit from each other’s work. (There are likely to be other hosting and support options in the future.) A lot of software development muscle is currently coming from some of the libraries that previously worked on the Kuali-OLE project, notably including Duke and Texas A&M. Beta test partners for EBSCO’s service include the University of Alabama and a small consortium located at UMass Amherst. Interest, and some initial development work, is coming in from libraries in South America, Australia and New Zealand, China, and several large European organizations.

So all is pretty groovy, and FOLIO will definitely be a platform we should evaluate for our LMS…sometime around 2022. It just isn’t quite there yet for the non-Dukes of the world to hold their breath for (and Duke’s 17-member implementation team will need to hustle to meet their 2020 go-live date).

The timeline notwithstanding, I’m optimistic about FOLIO. Everyone involved is aware that A) projects like this need an active, engaged community, and they’ve got that; and B) they need participants to start going live with some components, and the EBSCO beta partners are likely to do that relatively soon.

It was a day well spent. There were live demonstrations of actual working code, optimistic but honest discussion of how far things have to go (we weren’t the only people in the room without a 17-member implementation team just waiting for their cue), and a very real sense that the larger conference going on around us was getting a lot done.