Kurt Munson, Head of Access Services at Northwestern University, has been involved with Project ReShare since its inception. He has served several important roles in the Project, including as a member of the Steering Committee and as Chair of the Product Management Team since 2018. He was instrumental in the visioning of what Project ReShare could become, and he announced last month that he is stepping down from his official roles in Project ReShare. We want to celebrate his contributions and learn from his experience by interviewing him for the Project ReShare news site.
Project ReShare: You’ve been involved with Project ReShare since the beginning. Can you talk a little about how it all began?
Kurt Munson: Sebastian (Hammer,Co-Founder and President of Index Data) and I had a chat at the Midwinter meeting of the American Library Association in Denver [in 2018]. We were concerned about contraction and consolidation in the ILL software marketplace leaving libraries with fewer and fewer choices as well as a concern that standards for interoperability were being ignored. We got a group together for a first meeting in August of that year and started fleshing out what a product could be and, more importantly, how to have a community of support around it.
Project ReShare: What has changed since those early days?
Kurt Munson: ReShare has forced “churn in the market,” as I call it. ISO 18626 is now on all roadmaps due, I think, to our early adoption of that standard for ReShare. We have a growing community of users and a strong base of people committed to the project who graciously give their time to share knowledge to develop better products.
Project ReShare: What are you most excited about for the future of ReShare?
Kurt Munson: Expansion both in functionalities and user base. The ability to build out a group of software functions to meet the needs of many different types of libraries as well as different groupings of libraries. More than anything else it’s the creativity of the community as it pushes the boundaries. ReShare has grown so much and my decision to step down is because the project is well past my ability to effectively support it with my knowledge and experience. In the words of Banksy- “When the time comes to leave, just walk away quietly and don’t make any fuss.”
In the end, I don’t know if Project ReShare benefited more from this experience or honestly that I did. It was a wonderful collaborative learning experience from which I have learned a great deal that I use daily.
Clara Fehrenbach spoke with Sebastian Hammer, Co-founder and President of Index Data, to learn more about Reservoir.
ReShare Shared Inventory
A shared inventory and consortial discovery has been a foundational piece of the Project ReShare vision since the beginning. The 2021 ReShare Returnables launches at PALCI and ConnectNY went live with FOLIO’s Inventory module (dubbed “mod-inventory” in FOLIO-speak) as the basis for ReShare’s Shared Inventory storage, which in turn feeds into discovery layers, such as VuFind. Mod-inventory worked for its purpose, but it became clear that the way ReShare needs to ingest and use bibliographic data calls for a more flexible shared inventory infrastructure that is designed to ingest data from many different sources (i.e. individual member libraries in a consortium.)
Because ReShare was intended to be modular from the start, it was possible for Project ReShare and Index Data to be responsive to the needs of the community and update the infrastructure behind the Shared Inventory.
What is Reservoir?
Originally coined mod-meta-storage, Reservoir is the new underlying infrastructure of ReShare Shared Inventory. Based primarily on PostgreSQL, Reservoir was envisioned and realized due to community need, both to address inefficiencies discovered in the live environments at PALCI and ConnectNY and to support the onboarding of IPLC onto ReShare Returnables using their Platform for Open Data (POD) infrastructure. Reservoir is designed to be both fast (quickly handling a very large number of records) and flexible (poised to reuse its contents for future purposes.)
In order to accomplish speed and flexibility, Reservoir does not merge records as they’re imported in the same way that mod-inventory was designed to do. According to Sebastian, Reservoir works instead by “storing incoming bibliographic records separately and ‘clustering’ them using a match algorithm.” Then the records can be “merged” later for use in a consortial discovery layer or for other purposes. This method of clustering now, merging later was designed to allow much easier experimentation with different matching algorithms, since clusters can be reconfigured or rebuilt without needing a full data reload. It’s even possible to use more than one different matching algorithm at the same time with Reservoir.
Want to know how much faster Reservoir is? Consider this: Using Reservoir, it takes less than a week to ingest, merge, and process a collection of about 80 million bibliographic records. Before Reservoir, it would have taken approximately five months to complete the same process.
A reservoir is “a large natural or artificial lake used as a source of water supply.”
Taking inspiration from “data lake” terminology and imagery, Reservoir was named because it is envisioned as a data lake that ingests data from sources “upstream” and provides a supply of “clean” data to any service positioned “downstream.” Currently, the primary use of this data is in consortial discovery using VuFind, but it could be adapted for many different purposes, including consortial collection analysis.
On November 15, Project ReShare held a Community Meeting that gave members the opportunity to focus on community-building and sustainability. Attendees had the opportunity to connect with each other in small breakout rooms to discuss the state of the Project and to brainstorm how to help ensure the sustainability of the Project for the future. Members were encouraged to reflect on opportunities and challenges and think about how to increase participation and welcome new members to the community.
In the breakout rooms, members shared that they particularly value the community-focus of Project ReShare and appreciate how ReShare Returnables is able to interoperate with a wide variety of other systems. There was an appreciation for the diversity in library types and sizes involved, and it was noted that there are lots of opportunities for future development as well as enhancements to existing functionality.
The participants also discussed how to ensure the financial and community sustainability of Project ReShare. Attendees provided input on financial and development contributions of members and how to onboard new members with a focus on integrating new and existing voices into the organizational structure of Project ReShare.
PALCI went live with ReShare Returnables in August 2021. Clara Fehrenbach, Document Delivery Services Librarian at the University of Chicago and ReShare Communication Team member, interviewed PALCI Executive Director Jill Morris about the implementation.
Project ReShare: When did PALCI go live with ReShare Returnables? Jill Morris: PALCI went live with ReShare powering its well-known EZBorrow consortial interlibrary loan service on August 12th, 2021. Within just a few short days, we were already seeing requests being generated through our patron search/browse interface (the shared VuFind ReShare discovery layer) and books being delivered to borrowing PALCI institutions. The first patron-initiated ReShare book request to make its way into the hands of a library patron originated at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. The item was supplied and delivered by Drexel University in Philadelphia in less than 48 hours. The system correctly identified Drexel University as a supplier for the item, and the staff at Drexel processed the request in ReShare, getting the book to the user even more quickly than most Amazon Prime purchases.
PR: What features of ReShare are most exciting for PALCI? JM: From the consortium office perspective, we’re thrilled to have the means to support library configurations with a central directory and other staff-facing tools that support easy problem solving and troubleshooting. We can see what’s happening with each request from the moment the patron clicks a button, and while it’s hidden from patron-view, staff can use that information to ensure the system is working properly behind the scenes. We also love the new shared index that was developed as a part of this system to support the sharing of collections. At a glance, we can search and understand what’s held collectively within the PALCI community.
PR: What are you hearing from member libraries about ReShare? JM: Library staff are telling us that they like the opportunity to communicate back and forth with each other, right at the point of need. A message feature allows you to connect with the individual working on a specific request without the need for separate email chains and reference back to other systems. We’re also hearing that many faculty users enjoy the discovery interface where they can browse for and filter searches to identify the materials they’re seeking at our 50+ participating EZBorrow libraries.
PR: What has your experience been like leading up to your implementation? JM: PALCI decided to join the ReShare community prior to it having the name ReShare. For two years prior to ReShare’s official start, a working group within PALCI made up of resource sharing experts, library developers, systems staff, and consortial leadership had put a great deal of effort into identifying and defining a preferred future for next generation resource sharing. In early 2017, it was determined that threats of market consolidation were increasing, and that there was no existing system that would meet the needs of the future defined by that group, so we began seeking out partners to create solutions. The group agreed that it was essential for our choice to include an investment in open and interoperable library infrastructure so as not to repeat the same issues of the past, and so that the end result would remain under the control of the community that developed it. After making our initial contribution to help co-fund the UX design and development work, the decision to implement ReShare was an easy one. We had played a role in designing the system’s requirements, and ReShare represented the potential for innovation and the future our community had defined several years earlier.
The implementation of the system itself was mostly front-loaded with steps to ensure we could properly map the holdings of each library’s collections into our shared index so they could act as suppliers in the system. Setting up the cloud-based tenants for each library was a relatively straightforward process. Our service provider, Index Data, hosts and maintains the implementation. Each library received its own distinct URL and login to set up its staff users. Once set-up, libraries were able to configure their institution’s pickup locations and prioritize various locations and branches as suppliers. The ReShare interface gives our consortium staff tools to help configure the settings for each library, and because most of our libraries already had standard NCIP functionality in place (a set of protocols that allows a central system to talk to disparate ILS systems), we were primarily working through an iterative process of configuration and testing. We have at least 12 different types of ILS systems in use by PALCI libraries, plus a variety of discovery tools. ReShare’s use of standards, like NCIP, and open APIs, allowed us to connect to each ILS seamlessly, and in the future, the system will be capable of discovery integrations with local systems too.
We were determined to go live with our implementation just prior to the start of the Fall semester to ensure we’d have enough staff back in the office. The launch also coincided with many staff returning to on-site work after more than a year of COVID-related disruptions. We also waited to make sure that ReShare integrations with other tools, like ILLiad, were well on their way to completion. Our biggest hurdle was the sheer volume of institutions we needed to connect, and the many system configuration combinations those libraries represented.The implementation was fast and furious as we approached our target date — PALCI was the very first implementer to go live, and as we went along, we identified some configuration issues that needed resolution prior to implementation. Fortunately, the ReShare development team delivered on solutions each time we encountered a problem, and none of the issues prevented us from using the system. We managed the implementation largely in cohorts, and relied on our community to help support each other in developing system documentation and user guides that will benefit other consortia in future. Today, we have 53 libraries actively using ReShare, and we expect to bring on 15-20 additional libraries in the next 6-12 months.
PR: What advice do you have for others considering ReShare? JM: With most proprietary platforms, libraries have to expect that commercial business interests will ultimately win out in all product roadmap decisions, driving further vertical vendor integrations and less choice in the marketplace overall. After all, commercial entities offering proprietary solutions are set-up to operate for profit, whether or not the solutions that drive that profit are actually benefiting users of the service to the fullest extent desired by consumers. ReShare represents an important opportunity to break that cycle and give libraries a real voice in the process. It’s a chance for libraries to co-invest in and shape the future of sharing collections by providing choice and potential for innovation — keeping libraries’ and patrons’ needs front and center through a shared vision and governance model. ReShare is a brand new software – and there are some growing pains that come with that choice. The software is not yet as mature as others out there on the market. Yet the system is breaking new ground with its implementation of ISO18626 — the newest ILL standards, and it’s laying a foundation for greater system interoperability in the future. It’s an investment that all libraries should be thinking hard about making when faced with the choice. Along those same lines, I think perhaps ReShare’s most important asset is its community. The team of developers from Index Data and Knowledge Integration together in partnership with a group of consortia and individual libraries is unlike most library community projects in that we have a deep wealth of expertise, transparency, shared interests and alignment around vision.
We’re pleased to share the recording and slides from Project ReShare’s October 14th open Community Meeting.
In this meeting, Pam Jones (Connect New York) and Jill Morris (PALCI) explained their decisions to adopt ReShare Returnables for their consortia. From a practitioner point of view, Maureen O’Brien Dermott (Dickinson College), Liz King (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,) and Michele Matthews (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) talked about their experiencing implementing and using ReShare Returnables.
Kristin Wilson (Index Data) talked about the relationship between ReShare service providers and libraries/consortia implementing and using ReShare Returnables.
Finally, Kelly Farrell (TRLN) shared ways that Project ReShare community members can get involved with the project.
Project ReShare will hold a community meeting open to the public on December 14 from 11:00-12:30 EST. Register here to attend.
In this meeting, Kelly Farrell, Triangle Research Libraries Network, will talk about how individuals can get involved with Project ReShare and how institutions and consortia can join as members. She will also give an update on Project governance, including the new elections and nominations structure for the Steering Committee.
This community meeting will feature the ReShare Returnables product. Gretchen Gueguen, PALCI, will report on the consortium’s experience so far using Returnables 1.0 in a pilot phase, as well as collaborative efforts to develop integrations and documentation.
Kristen Wilson, Index Data, will give a demonstration of the ReShare Returnables 1.1 release, with a focus on new functionality, and she will talk about the roadmap for the Project in 2021. Attendees not familiar with ReShare are encouraged to watch our previous demos, which can be found at https://projectreshare.org/products/returnables/.
We hope to see you there!
Please note: Attendance is limited to the first 300 registrants. A recording will be made available at a later date.
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