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An Update on FOLIO

Smart Libraries Newsletter [October 2016]


Progress continues on the FOLIO project to create a new open source library services platform for academic libraries. Recent milestones include the initial release of the lower-level platform software needed for the development of functional apps and some new organizational structures.

FOLIO will be based on a microservices architecture, with a lightweight platform providing common infrastructure services to the functional modules or apps. The development of this infrastructure layer was contracted to Index Data, a firm based in Copenhagen, Denmark and Boston, MA that specializes in open source library software. The initial announcements of the FOLIO project anticipated an initial release of the framework in August 2016, which was accomplished on schedule.

Generally consistent with this timeframe, Index Data has completed some of its initial work for FOLIO, with code repositories now openly available on GitHub. It must be emphasized that the software currently available is oriented to developers and does not yet provide higher level functionality. According to Sebastian Hammer, Chief Strategist for Index Data, “the software created at this time should be considered more like an operating system to support apps, which will provide smaller units of functionality which can then be stitched together to form complex systems.”

The architectural design of FOLIO organizes the technical infrastructure into several layers. The lowest system layer will be comprised of components mostly oriented to storage for bibliographic and transactional data as well as indexing and configuration services. Another layer, called OKAPI, serves as an API gateway, providing a variety of services to manage communications among apps. A UI toolkit will also be provided to facilitate the creation of apps with consistent user interfaces. The FOLIO development environment will include Stripes for OKAPI, which builds on the React framework created by Facebook and Instagram. The creation of apps can commence in earnest once the system layer, OKAPI, and UI Toolkit are in place.

A variety of communications channels have also been set up to support developers interested in working on FOLIO. The project envisions individuals and organizations throughout the world contributing their efforts to design, develop, test the software, and create documentation. Robust communications will therefore be required to coordinate these efforts.

Conversations among developers are currently taking place in Slack ( as well as in threaded discussions managed through Discuss ( The main page, is growing rapidly to include or link to all aspects of the project.

The Open Library Foundation was recently established to house the governance of FOLIO and to support other allied open source projects, such as the GOKb and the Open Library Environment (OLE). Open source projects need some type of organization to manage decision making, to hold assets such as copyrights or other intellectual property, and to acquire and distribute any financial resources. Examples can be seen across many open source software projects. These roles are provided by LYRASIS for CollectionSpace and ArchivesSpace; DuraSpace provides these services for DSpace and Fedora. The Apache Foundation manages many of the large-scale open source projects such as the Apache web service, SOLR, Lucene, and dozens of other core technologies for the web.

The Open Library Foundation was initially established as a legal entity in June 2016 as a first step in becoming an organization able to provide services for open source projects. In September 2016 the Open Library Foundation announced its website ( that FOLIO and GOKb had joined. This foundation functions as a legally independent entity.

Most foundations are non-profit corporations. The Open Library Foundation was incorporated in March 2016 in Delaware and is currently working to obtain 501c3 status, which is needed to be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit and not subject to federal taxes. The foundation's initial board of directors includes:

  • Michael Winkler, the Managing Director of the OLE
  • David Carlson, Dean of Libraries at Texas A&M University
  • Sam Brooks, Executive Vice President of EBSCO Information Services

Winkler states that the foundation intends to expand the board to include up to 12 members, representing a broader range of academic institutions and organizations with related interests.

EBSCO Information Services has been deeply involved with FOLIO, both in its initial conception and in financial support. The company, however, does not own the software produced nor does it have unilateral control of its design or the processes in which it is produced. Rather, EBSCO participates in its governance among other stakeholders. The governance and administrative structures are oriented to a broad community of individuals and organizations interested in open source library software apart from direct commercial ownership.

The OLE was originally formed to produce a new open source resource management system and joined with the Kuali Foundation that supported a variety of large-scale business applications for higher education. The shift of the Kuali projects to a more commercial model, a delayed schedule in delivering the software, and the advent of FOLIO led this group to change its course. Its organization and most member institutions have opted to engage with FOLIO rather than to continue the development of the Kuali OLE software. In the transition from Kuali to FOLIO, OLE has seen the addition of some new partners, such as Texas A&M, Cornell University, and two German consortia (hbz and GBV). Some of the original OLE partners have not engaged with the new direction, including Indiana University and University of Pennsylvania. The Penn Libraries recently announced that they have contracted with Ex Libris for Alma, which will be used with their Blacklight-based open source discovery environment.

Winkler previously served as the Director for Digital Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania prior to shifting to the full-time role as OLE's Executive Director. This position is currently administratively housed at Cornell University.

View Citation
Publication Year:2016
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 36 Number 10
Issue:October 2016
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Products: FOLIO
Record Number:22258
Last Update:2023-10-03 01:58:46
Date Created:2017-02-16 09:33:49