An Essay by Laurie Arp and John Wilkin

As one of his first member communications, John Wilkin, CEO of Lyrasis, shared his essay “Lyrasis in a Landscape of Radical Interdependence,” which introduced our areas of strategic focus and launched this essay series. In that essay, John wrote that “Lyrasis serves as the connective tissue, by design and intention. Our governance is designed to reflect the interests of the community.” Following that installment and building on the theme of Lyrasis unifying and reflecting the interests of our community, Celeste Feather authored a second essay focused on our support for licensing and Open Access Initiatives. This third essay will similarly shine a light on the way Lyrasis works on behalf of the community, this time in open-source community supported programs and deploying that technology to better meet local needs.

Value Match: Open Source, Lyrasis and the Community

Belief in the transformative power of open-source software is a core tenet at Lyrasis and within our communities. At its most basic level open-source software is: “software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify and enhance.” But more than that, open source software embodies our core values.

While open-source software has been growing in use everywhere and “96% of all code bases incorporate open-source software,” the values that embody open-source software seem especially resonant among the library and cultural heritage communities that prioritize openness – values like open standards, collaborative processes and transparent implementations of technological methods. As discussed by Jason Puckett and others, “Open source projects, products or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy and community-oriented development.” Selena Deckelmann, Chief Product and Technology Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation, says the power of open-source lies in its “idea that people anywhere can collaborate together on software, but also on many [more] things.” 

One of the many values Lyrasis shares with our communities is a commitment to openness: we invest, we contribute, and we develop and provide services that meet the needs of libraries, archives and museums.

Lyrasis is also the organizational home to multiple open technology communities. A key advantage to open source and community supported software is the distributed and collective commitments: it is community driven, funded and sustained. This is also where the model benefits from support and management from an organization like Lyrasis. We are grateful that individual institutions share their innovative efforts, but what happens when circumstances at that institution change? Dramatic changes to funding and leadership can imperil community supported software that is tied too closely to an individual institution. What are the impacts on the community, the user community, and the software itself? By providing structure, capacity and consistency, the organizational home model has become critical to sustainability and growth for open software program.

The Path to Today (Part 1): Open Source Organizational Home

Lyrasis has an extensive history of working with our communities to serve and provide services. With an organizational history dating back to 1936, Lyrasis is a membership-driven organization with an active membership of over 1,100 libraries, museums, archives and other collections-holding organizations around the world.

Lyrasis is honored to serve as the organizational home for multiple community supported and open-source programs, further expanding our community to include more than 650 institutions that are members of these programs, many of which are not Lyrasis members. We established the organizational home for ArchivesSpace in 2012 and CollectionSpace in 2014, and with the merger with DuraSpace in 2019, we added DSpace, Fedora and VIVO to the Lyrasis family. 

As the organizational home, Lyrasis provides resources and services to help these open-source programs bolster, expand and amplify their community’s efforts. As an active member of these communities, Lyrasis contributes staff, technology, financial services, logistics support and code for the benefit of all users. Our partnership enables the various programs and communities to focus on program-specific needs and priorities, free from the burden of building common types of infrastructure that are necessary for long term success and sustainability. We have also been pleased to partner with the programs to foster open-source sustainability using the It Takes a Village (ITAV) guidebook and toolkit.

An organizational home allows the communities to be nimble, participative and collaborative, yet also remain responsive. Together with the community, Lyrasis has been able to increase membership in these community-based efforts, improve community participation in governance, improve software usability and create partnerships with key organizations and members that forward program goals. 

The Path to Today (Part 2): Adding Services to Meet Community Needs

As we became an organizational home for more communities, we recognized the value and need to provide additional services, such as hosting and related services like migration. As a result, we now deploy highly competitive supporting services for community-based software that meet the needs of a wide range of institutions.  

While some organizations may always host open-source software themselves, many are not staffed or resourced to do so, due to lean IT support or other institutional barriers. Hosting is not only more cost-effective over time, it is also a strategic decision as it can empower staff to focus on critical local collections, service to their community and system demands instead. Often the choice is one of focus: delivery of services to our communities or managing and maintaining software, migrations and even hardware.

Our hosting services have grown over time, largely in tandem with our organizational home commitments. We currently provide hosting services for ArchivesSpace, CollectionSpace, DSpace (DSpace Direct) and DuraCloud. While these are robust, we continue to improve and expand, as well as explore potential intersections that lead to greater accessibility, transparency and better workflow efficiencies. 

Lyrasis Today: A Strategic Commitment to Community Impact 

Lyrasis open-source programs and our hosting services teams have always shared values, including a commitment to open code, transparent processes, sustainability, growing thoughtfully, working with open communities and contributing code and other resources to benefit the larger community. As we refined our focus at Lyrasis, structuring our work around the three strategic priorities laid out in John Wilkin’s first essay, we are further building on the symbiotic relationship between our community supported technologies and our hosting services. The interplay between the two creates a sort of virtuous cycle where each is strengthened by the work of the other.

In 2023, we reorganized our formerly separate DuraSpace Community Supported Programs (DCSP) and Digital Technology Services (DTS) units into a combined Community Supported Technologies and Hosting Services (CSTHS) division to align the teams working on systems and services. Unifying these teams enhances opportunities for synergies and improvements. Investment and growth in one area naturally benefit the other. As the program membership and implementations increase, so do the opportunities for hosting. As our hosting service expands, it enables our teams to grow, gain additional expertise and devote more time to development and documentation that is then contributed back to the program, benefiting the larger community. Enhancing services provides opportunities for synergies and improvements for both.

There are some important separations, namely governance and participation in the programs’ Registered Service Provider (RSP) programs. As the organizational home, Lyrasis supports the different program leadership groups but does not drive program decisions. Those individual leadership groups (for ArchivesSpace, DSpace, Fedora and VIVO) are comprised of members of and contributors from the community. Thus, in each program, the specific community representatives drive strategic program decisions around membership, tech direction and more with autonomy and independence.

Lyrasis is also a Registered Service Provider and serves that function as part of a healthy ecosystem of Registered Service Providers. As a vital partner in that program, Lyrasis works with program governance to collaborate in identifying effective solutions and follows community best practices and guidelines in contributing solutions back to benefit the larger community.

Into the Future: Vision and Goals

With our new unified organizational structure, bringing systems and services together, we are positioned to better understand the needs of the community and to make more investments in software in collaboration with community governance groups.  

To further our work, we gathered distinct teams to identify gaps and opportunities for each hosting service. We are prioritizing needs that serve our hosting clients. These investments in the systems will be contributed to the core software and benefit the broader community.

Some highlights of work so far include:

  • Consolidating our approach to hosting infrastructure and deployments to remove silos
  • Establishing decision criteria for new functionality and hosting enhancements
  • Improving and expediting the onboarding experience across hosting services
  • ArchivesSpace Hosting – addressing staffing levels to contribute more fully to integrations, supporting broader audiences outside of North America and more
  • CollectionSpace – improved compliance support for institutions holding NAGPRA (Native American Graves Repatriation Act)-eligible collections, enabling single sign on, enhancing accessibility by publishing a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) and working toward Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliance, and more efficient onboarding migration processes
  • Repository services – working with the DSpace community to develop a preservation layer for DSpace, improve authentication options, enhance accessibility (VPAT), and discover ways to enhance scaling for larger collections, all shared through DSpace contribution channels.
  • While we are not currently ready to deploy a hosted Research Information Management (RIM) system (e.g., VIVO), we are interested and optimistic that we will be ready to do so on behalf of the community in the future.

As we work to grow and enhance these technologies and services, Lyrasis serves as that community connective tissue. We envision the organizational home as a vehicle for community collaboration and partnership to facilitate greater local impact. We strive to center our work to amplify the work of members and benefit the larger community.