Change is Good–A View from the DuraSpace Sixth Annual Member Summit

Washington, DC  Magnolia trees and spring flowers were in full bloom for the Sixth Annual DuraSpace Member Summit held at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. DuraSpace members were interested in formal and informal conversations about the open source projects in which they primarily participate, the general state of the scholarly ecosystem, emerging opportunities, and of course, the recently announced "intent to merge" with LYRASIS.

Board of Directors chair Laura Wood, Director, Tisch Library, Tufts University, welcomed attendees by referring to the statement on the DuraSpace.org homepage,"We believe that preserving the world's intellectual, cultural and scientific heritage is vital," as a shared expression of how deeply our member institutions' commitment to the work that DuraSpace does and that our community does together is valued.
 
She echoed the Board of Directors by stating that a merger with LYRASIS is a key strategy for continued growth, and reminded members that the "intent to merge" is not a final decision, but rather a public phase of exploration and investigation. "The merger has the potential to allow a combined organization to have greater impact with more funding, more strategic opportunities and the chance to do new things," she said, "We are two healthy organizations that are trying to get stronger." Wood also reminded the audience that no name or mission statement has been decided on, and that combined legal and governance structures are not yet developed.
 
Debra Hanken Kurtz, CEO of DuraSpace, reviewed DuraSpace advances, leading with a look at the adoption of DSpace by almost 2000 repositories since 2008 while challenging the group to help us identify even more.  She pointed to developing new collaborative partnerships and projects including Hydra and Hydra-in-a-box, multiple software releases across all the projects, VIVO staff additions, and key fundraising achievements by Fedora as highlights in her presentation.
 
Robert Miller, CEO of LYRASIS, introduced himself and assured members that building trust, understanding and confidence is driving the merger investigations forward between the two organizations. He congratulated DuraSpace members on building a strong organization with successful strategies for serving scholarship. He noted that while he is not a librarian he has been engaged with and interested in libraries since he was a 9-year-old as a volunteer book shelver. Miller has served as a CEO of a search engine company, has started 2 technology and 3 consumer products companies, and worked for the Internet Archive where he built a digital community of over 1,000 global archives, libraries, and museums with 300 million users.
 
Miller presented a picture of LYRASIS' history that stretches back to a 1936 WPA initiative, and outlined organizational services that include a problem-solving sales team and a support team offering a wide-range of training opportunities. LYRASIS brings 4000+ annual users and 80+ vendor partners together with collections-holding organizations across fields, including archives, libraries and museums. He also reviewed the CollectionSpace and ArchivesSpace community supported software programs.
 
Among other questions he was asked, "What keeps you awake at night regarding the merger?" He replied, "Getting it right and making sure that we preserve what we have and thinking about how we can be better together."
 
A theme running through discussions and questions over both days was a concern that the DuraSpace brand and the values that DuraSpace represents would not be lost in a merged organization. How do we put the right value behind the name, mission and vision we choose to inspire what we want to become?
 
Project Updates
 
Andrew Woods, Fedora Tech Lead, led the Fedora update with a question about how the project might invest strong community energy to build a forward-thinking foundation that will ensure a code base that successfully evolves as institutional use increases.
 
He traced steady member growth from 41 in 2013 to 76 in 2015. Deeper engagement with the community (400+ participants in hands-on training and workshops) coupled with ongoing software improvements (five releases in 2015) will help Fedora reach its target of 100 members in 2016.
 
Woods suggested that a technical focus on specification versus implementation could decrease the code needed to update software, and would potentially invite greater architectural innovation.
 
Finally he pointed out that the effective Fedora culture of support, encouragement, and engagement is what creates sustainable open source projects-Fedora as well as others. He reminded the audience that the "ask" is for members to enable staff, technology teams, and ultimately our community to participate, get involved be a part of Fedora's future.
 
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David Lewis, chair of the DSpace Steering Group and dean of the University Library at Indiana University, followed with a look at DSpace challenges and advances. He reviewed the remarkable community-wide initiative to collaboratively test and select a single user interface and highlighted the upcoming release of DSpace 6.0 that will enable the implementation of the new user interface.
 
He unveiled the revised vision and mission for the DSpace Project recently approved by the DSpace steering and leadership groups:
 
Vision: The DSpace Project will produce the world's choice for repository software providing the means for making information openly available and easy to manage.
 
Mission: We will create superior open source software by harnessing the skills of an active developer community, the energy and insights of engaged and active users, and the financial support of project members and registered service providers. 
 
Lewis pointed out that in spite of steady growth of DSpace repository adoption worldwide from 510 in 2009 to 1974 in 2016, DSpace has gained relatively few members from outside of North America. Increased outreach and engagement to international users is a key priority for the project going forward.
 
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Dean Krafft, Chief Technology Strategist and Director of Information Technology, Cornell University Library, and Dr. Mike Conlon, VIVO Project Director and Emeritus Faculty, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, College of Medicine, University of Florida, followed with a review of VIVO's accomplishments led by the fact that there are now 133 VIVOs in 26 countries along with a team of committers at several institutions who contribute to advancing the software. The audience was reminded that VIVO is a general purpose semantic web data management system that is in use for research in geological sciences, climate change, atmospheric and space physics, deep carbon science and other fields. In addition, VIVO is a contributor to and participant in community projects and initiatives that include CTSA Search, Digital Science, Open RIF, ORCiD, SHARE, and Karma.
 
Looking ahead Conlon urged attendees who would be attending the Force 16 Conference in Portland (April 17-19) to watch for a demonstration and introduction to "Open VIVO"-a hosted VIVO that anyone can join with an ORCiD identifier and password. He closed with an invitation to the Seventh Annual VIVO Conference that will be held in Denver, Aug. 17-19, 2016.
 
Break-Out Sessions
 
Lunch was followed by table breakout discussions. Debra Hanken Kurtz asked members to discuss and give feedback on 1) What should be preserved in a possible merger? and 2) what should be pursued if DuraSpace does not merge with LYRASIS? Vigorous discussions ensued. In wrapping up Jonathan Markow, CSO of DuraSpace asked, "What if post-merger we find that all the things we value stay intact, and we gain the ability to do things we could not have done alone?"
 
Members spoke freely and opinions were both encouraging and cautious. Increasing training opportunities, international outreach and engagement, and a focus on hosted solutions were directions that the group was interested in whether or not the merger occurred. Another interesting comment centered around how the key strengths of each organization would combine-LYRASIS is primarily focused on content and DuraSpace is focused on software development. It was expressed that in order for the new organization to be successful those key areas would need to be brought together. Increased bandwidth-more staff, more expertise, funding opportunities, and administrative economies of scale-were seen as benefits of the merger. There was agreement on the strength of the "Dura" in the name DuraSpace as representing durability of digital assets, a shared community goal. Duraspace and its members are engaged in the transformation of the scholarly ecosystem to a more digital, more open, more inclusive, better preserved system. The brand conveys a shared community understanding. Finally the group agreed that DuraSpace's role in incubating projects initiated by the community is valuable and were concerned that the function would continue in a new organization.
 
Keynote
 
Tyler Walters, Dean, University Libraries, and Professor, Virginia Tech is also the Director of SHARE (SHared Access Research Ecosystem). He offered the afternoon's closing keynote with an overview of the SHARE vision to maximize research impact by building a free and open data set across the research lifecycle. To make open access to research data a reality Walters reminded the audience that better infrastructure would be needed. Metadata, standards, identifiers, code platforms, and APIs will contribute to making information more machine readable and discoverable. There is an increasing volume of content with a corresponding need for distribution of custodial responsibility. He said, "There is no big server in a room somewhere, it (research information) is a distributed web of information."
 
The research lifecycle is important because significant content and data may be generated at any point. SHARE aims to enable access to research data along with an understanding of where content fits in the lifecycle as part of the record of scholarship.
 
The current SHARE Notify public beta search interface (https://osf.io/share/?) is set to be improved as additional funding is made available. More than 5 million research release events from 99 content providers can now be accessed through SHARE. Harmonization of data across regions of the world is underway to improve contribution to, access, and use of SHARE Notify.
 
Walters concluded by asking the audience to provide feedback on SHARE Notify. The SHARE team is looking for communities to tell them what they want to do with the data as the project moves forward.
 
Day Two
 
Day two of the DuraSpace Summit consisted of gathering feedback from table breakouts regarding the intent to merge DuraSpace and LYRASIS, followed by in-depth project sessions where current strategies and technology roadmaps were discussed to gather member feedback.
 
At first glance feedback from the table breakout report out (see above) seems to indicate that DuraSpace members perceive the cultures of Lyrasis and Duraspace differently. Attendees characterized this as an issue of "branding"-the Duraspace brand representing the values and culture of scholarship, thought leadership, and transformation. The organizational values of DuraSpace and LYRASIS are actually very close, particularly since Robert Miller joined LYRASIS as CEO in June of 2016.
 
The LYRASIS board of directors asked Miller to find ways to provide thought leadership and develop an expanded set of services for libraries, museums and archives. To meet that goal the LYRASIS team has been meeting with their members throughout the country to hear about opportunities and issues, and to learn how LYRASIS might help guide future discussions and provide thoughtful solutions. The DuraSpace and LYRASIS organizations are each participants in the scholarly ecosystem, and are committed to our shared digital future. The aim of joining DuraSpace and LYRASIS is to greatly increase both organizations' capacity to serve their communities.