Welcome the OLF Discussion Space!

During the fall of 2018, the CORAL Steering Committee began to explore the possibility of joining the Open Library Foundation. The Committee is continuing to explore the option through the remainder of 2018 (and beyond), as there appear to be many benefits for CORAL if it has a “home” with the OLF. However, discussion about the implications continues, and the Committee would love to know what the CORAL User Group thinks! This website provides a space for learning more about the OLF, viewing the working drafts of important documentation, and providing feedback as the Committee considers this option.

The discussion is split up as follows:

Please explore these areas and please leave comments! You can also leave anonymous comments on the Padlet!

What is the Open Library Foundation (OLF)?

The Open Library Foundation, or OLF, was formed in 2016 as a way to promote collaboration among library open source projects such as CORAL. The major way that the OLF can be helpful is in providing infrastructure for open source projects seeking to collaborate with other open source projects, as well as those that need administrative support systems generally. The OLF started with two main, pre-existing open source projects: the Open Library Environment (OLE) and the Global Open Knowledgebase (GOKb.) The OLF now includes the open source library platform, FOLIO, and its roster is growing quickly. The lightweight and independent approach to organization has made the OLF an attractive option for some open source projects, since the Foundation is committed to making sure open source code remains open and unaffiliated. However, the details are complex, and before CORAL joins the OLF, learning more about the OLF is ideal. Please add comments or feedback below.


OLF Homepage

FOLIO Press Release about establishment of OLF (September 2016) 

OLF Github

Committee Notes and Correspondence

Relevant Meeting Minute Notes

      • August 14, 2018
        • OLF (HW) – Heather had a call with Michael Winkler of the Open Library Foundation (OLF) to discuss the possibility of CORAL moving under the OLF umbrella. OLF is currently the home of FOLIO, GOKb, and other open source projects, and they’re recruiting others. Joining OLF offers a number of benefits:
          • they offer a lightweight organizational structure
          • they could offer legal assistance as OLF is a non-profit corporate entity and could help with things like takedown notices
          • they offer to assist with financial services such as collecting and reporting funds, something that the web committee has been discussing
          • they are a 501-3c membership organization
          • they could assist with meetings – they license Zoom – and host forums
          • there is no fee to join – costs are underwritten by EBSCO. One concern is that as part of the legal assistance, OLF would need to hold the IP. A question was asked about whether EBSCO’s their only source of funding. No, Texas A&M’s Dean sits on the Board of Directors and TAMU pays a membership fee. It is very likely that all over universities that serve on the Board pay a membership as well. Heather is going to follow up with Winkler with a list of questions:
          • Why does the IP need to be transferred?
          • What is the process for transferring the IP?
          • What happens to the IP if OLF is dissolved?
          • How would it affect proprietary partners such as SirsiDynix?
          • What is the expectation of integration with FOLIO?

          Another question was how might this affect CORAL users outside of the U.S.? The SC thought getting some feedback from BibLibre on this would be helpful.

          Heather would like to create an open space for community discussion about this topic.

          Committee composed list of questions for Michael Winkler. Those questions and answers are featured in the FAQ section. 

      • November 13, 2018
        • OLF invitation
          • Heather shared Michael Winkler’s responses to the group’s questions regarding CORAL joining OLF. The discussion mainly revolved around three areas: governance/IP, funding, and what the benefit would be. We would transfer the IP but could take it back if the things didn’t work out. Caltech still has SCELC grant money that they put towards the OLF fee. The benefits for CORAL would be sustainability and publicity. It would give CORAL a bigger platform and provide more legitimacy to the product and CORAL would also bring more legitimacy to OLF. OLF would provide legal support and financial and technical infrastructure. CORAL is currently under a GPL v3 license. OLF (and SirsiDynix) prefers an Apache 2.x license. This is something we may need to reevaluate.
          • Action item: Heather will draft a charter proposal and share with the group. She will also see if she can get additional documentation from OLF. She also plans to create a page for discussion by the CORAL user community.


From Kristin Antelman, OLF Board Member:


The OLF Board had a call this morning (to prepare for an in-person in December) and we decided that we’d like, if possible, to be able to see draft charters for all the projects that are interested in potentially joining the OLF.
Do you think that’s possible for the CORAL SC to prepare by, say, December 1? Michael Winkler mentioned he’d been in touch with you, but if there’s anything you need just let me or him know and we can facilitate.
One of the key issues that is not yet resolved is what each project’s participation and engagement in governance would be, so if the SC has thoughts on that it would be useful (the Board seats are limited to 6-7 and are not linked explicitly to OLF projects). OLF also does not currently have any staff– so whether each project has an “infrastructure” person to work with the logistics of project hosting is also a question useful to address, either in the charter or on the side. The OLF may soon have a fundraising person based at a member institution, which could eventually lead to OLF staff, but that will take some time.
Let me know if you have any questions. Looking forward to having CORAL under the OLF umbrella!

License Concerns

Many on the Steering Committee have expressed a growing concern for the possibility of changing the license from the current GPLv3 version to an Apache 2.x license as is requested by the OLF.


      • Current GPL license is “copyleft” – strong protection for users – guarantee of non-proprietary adaptation/”theft” for vendor developers to feel confident about their contributions
      • Current Affiliate partners such as SirsiDynix and BibLibre have been contributing under the GPLv3 license for years with no encumbrances
        • concerned that their contributions will be taken and adapted for their own proprietary use only
        • a specific situation and discussion regarding Koha and Liblime comes to mind – some background
        • IP is less of a concern, although proprietary partners would be giving up some strategic assets when CORAL gives up trademark/copyright
      • Changing the license would require the agreement of all CORAL copyright owners, currently the libraries or developers who contribute code – nearly impossible to track all of these people down
      • Koha and Evergreen (open source ILSes) have GPL licenses like the one CORAL currently has
      • The current license has not been prohibitive for vendor partners of either CORAL, Koha, or Evergreen
      • OLF has expressed that needing to keep our license wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for joining
      • the OLF prefers the Apache 2.x license because:
        • it seeks to maintain neutrality
        • it allows code to be used in commercial applications with few restrictions
      • The issue for the Foundation with the GPLv3 license is that it is a viral license – software that uses it must be distributed under the same license (not amiable with commercial use). A brief description of the differences and compatibility is here: https://www.apache.org/licenses/GPL-compatibility.html.
      • The OLF Board is open to discussions of licenses, intent, unforeseen issues

        Is there a reason that CORAL uses the GPLv3 license? How do your commercial vendors deal with using CORAL in proprietary contexts? Would CORAL be interested in changing license?


For the CORAL Steering Committee:

      • Why is CORAL considering this? What brought this about?

While awareness of the OLF and its services has been floating around CORAL for awhile, the decision to look more closely at the OLF as an optional home came from the Web Committee, specifically the need for a formal “bank” for paying our very slight website hosting fee. It is a nominal fee that has been generously supported by Rice University Library and Caltech, as well as others, but it is a purchase that must be made outside of most formal processes (ie, on a member’s workplace credit card.) This simple charge opened up conversation around the benefits of finding at least a financial home for CORAL, a conversation that considered grant funds, short-term software needs, and day-to-day expenses (such as the hosting fee.) Some CORAL users have been working on an integration with GOKb, which led the Steering Committee to seek information from the OLF. The multitude of infrastructural options that the OLF seeks to make available has expanded the committee’s interest considerably, an interest that will continue to be reported on in this space.

      • What are the potential benefits if CORAL joins the OLF?

Per Michael Winkler, OLF membership benefits can be broken down into three major points:

      • The OLF holds a legal status. The OLF is registered as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit corporate entity. The OLF can sign contracts, hold intellectual property for open source software, provide legal services. The Foundation has a lawyer on “reserve” who specializes in protecting software licenses.
      • The OLF can provide financial services. The OLF can act as a “bank” for CORAL and can hold, distribute, and collect money. The OLF can provide a bank account, report on the account, handle any accountant and tax-related needs. Because the OLF is registered as a 501 (c)(3), it can form membership organizations and collect donations on behalf of CORAL.
      • The OLF can support CORAL with infrastructure. The OLF can provide CORAL groups with access to Zoom and other virtual meeting software, including software for webinars of up to 100 people. They can host forums, promote social media through their own channels, and help with promotion. They have a JIRA and Confluence setup that CORAL groups could utilize, as well as emerging QA testing resources. They also have created a robust community of open source developers who are working on similar library projects, and those developers share a Slack channel and other collaborative spaces, which CORAL developers would have greater access to.

The OLF is still new and growing, and the CORAL community would have great influence over future benefits that the OLF might provide.

      • What is the timeline?

Most immediately, the CORAL Steering Committee is working on a draft charter proposal that it plans to send to the OLF for consideration on December 1st. The conversation around whether or not CORAL should join the OLF will happen in the comments below through the remainder of 2019 at least. As a decision becomes more imminent, it will be reflected in these notes and updates will be sent to the user list. Commenting on the proposal draft is encouraged throughout this process, as it is the final document that we will send, if we decide to pursue the opportunity.

For the OLF (with answers from Michael Winkler)

      • Many questions are related to the transfer of CORAL’s intellectual property. There is some confusion about why the transfer of IP is necessary? I discussed a bit about how OLF would be better enabled to provide legal assistance if it holds the IP, but I’m not sure I was able to fully convey why it is necessary to do so. Would you be able to explain better, and also maybe tell us about the process of transferring that IP?

The transfer of IP is not necessary, but is thought of as a convenience to projects that may not have a neutral holder of the intellectual property rights. The Foundation is concerned with the IP of projects since part of our mission is to ensure the continuation and evolution of useful software for libraries. Owning the IP helps the Foundation understand its assets and liabilities that may exist in a software system, and gives the Foundation standing in protecting the IP and addressing any claims regarding the software. The Foundation has a relationship with an attorney that has provided services to the Foundation for establishing our non-for-profit, for our chartering process, and for responding to claims against the Foundation. The process of transferring IP is simple and is executed through a gift to the Foundation. I can provide a sample gift agreement for your review.

      • We also wondered about the implications to the IP if the OLF were to shutter. What are the plans for the other projects currently held by OLF?

The Foundation charter, as is required under IRS guidelines for a 501(c)(3) corporation, describes the process for handling assets, including IP, should the Foundation cease operations. This is a relatively standard clause that requires the Foundation to transfer IP to similar charitable organization in the same activity domain. In practice, this would require the Foundation to identify a similar 501(c)(3) to donate the IP to so that it can be maintained for the intended charitable purpose. Other projects have deposited their IP with the Foundation, and understand this continuation clause.

      • One further thing on the IP: are there any implications for our proprietary partners such as Biblibre and SirsiDynix? They utilize the CORAL code base and also make huge contributions back, so we want to be clear with them about any way they might be affected.

There could be implications. The Foundation prefers an Apache 2.x license to encourage commercial organizations to commit to Foundation code, to innovate with it, and see a return on investment. I don’t know your license, but if it is permissive that way or you have some standing agreement with them, the OLF would have not issue with use by Biblibre & SirsiDynix. The OLF is very interested in ensuring a commercial ecosystem around products of the Foundation since many libraries require such relationships for operational support, implementation, or other services. The upshot should be that there would be no impact on the use by your commercial partners. The OLF has a gift policy for commercial firms that make contributions back to the community (and such a gift is even tax deductible!).

      • People on the Web Committee were interested to know to what extent would CORAL be expected to focus on integration with FOLIO and other OLF projects? I re-emphasized (following your emphasis) that OLF is a lightweight structure that takes a hands-off approach, and that while integration is a major goal, the organization is ultimately supportive of local project goals. However, I think some people were more interested in knowing more about the FOLIO-related expectations. To be clear, the level of expectation is not a deal-breaker in any direction; we all see the enormous potential to be found in collaboration among these projects.

No, your CORAL Community would NOT be expected to focus on integration with FOLIO and other OLF projects, however, you may find that these are attractive to integrate or interoperate with since they may represent institutions that are either already in your community, or may be interested. We believe that the FOLIO Platform, OKAPI, is a strong, generalized, and well designed services platform that is useful for building software on top of. We would want to have conversations around what benefits the Platform has, what it could do for CORAL, and what types of functionality down the road CORAL may be interested in seeing the Platform support.

      • Finally, we are lucky to have a beta FOLIO campus represented on the Steering Committee, and their reps mentioned that there is a membership fee related to FOLIO, maybe more specifically to the OLF. Eric and Doug (who work at Texas A&M) will receive this message and can comment further, but are there more concrete details available regarding the future fee structures and funding beyond the current EBSCO underwriting? Just trying to connect these two dots.

Currently, the Foundation is funded by EBSCO and OLE (don’t want to give the impression that only EBSCO is underwriting). The OLF Board is having meetings over this month and next to begin determining what the Foundation budget needs to support. So, I don’t have fee structure information yet. Previously, we have discussed a base fee for support of the Foundation coming from OLF Communities (like CORAL, should you join) that would be supplemented by an a la carte menu of services that a project may take advantage of like virtual hosting, collaboration tools, and other pieces of infrastructure. I know this is vague, but is the best detail I currently have. I do not expect costs to be beyond what a project could reasonably afford – just not sure what that figure is yet.

Followup for the OLF (with answers from Michael Winkler)


      • You mentioned that OLF prefers an Apache 2.x license, but CORAL is actually licensed under a GPOv3 license. Would that license be able to stand? Would we want to migrate to a different license?

Yes, the OLF prefers the Apache 2.x license because it is neutrality and because it allows code to be used in commercial applications with few restrictions. The issue for the Foundation with the GPLv3 license is that it is a viral license – software that uses it must be distributed under the same license (not amiable with commercial use). A brief description of the differences and compatibility is here: https://www.apache.org/licenses/GPL-compatibility.html.

I don’t think that the OLF Board has considered much about the license, and this could be an interesting discussion point. I’m not sure that the OLF Board would require you to change license, but it would limit how CORAL software could be used in other OLF projects (not the other way around – CORAL would be able to use other OLF project software under Apache 2.x).

Is there a reason that CORAL uses the GPLv3 license? How do your commercial vendors deal with using CORAL in proprietary contexts? Would CORAL be interested in changing license?

None of this is a deal breaker. The OLF, at its root, is looking to support a comprehensive suite of library management tools and systems that is available to the widest segment of libraries possible. The licensing of open source software _can_ be an area of zealotry, but the license does say something about how use and reuse is envisioned by the owners. I think that it would be _very_ useful to have a discussion at the OLF Board about license and intent.

      • Some of the committee members would like to get a little clearer on how CORAL’s own governance structure will interact with any broader OLF governing bodies. This was something that Kristin mentioned in her email, that governance planning for OLF was underway. I know OLF plans to be very hands-off, but could you give us some insight into what the OLF is thinking about who will comprise governance for the OLF and what an OLF governing body would oversee? Any further insight on that planning would be helpful, and CORAL would be happy to provide feedback. 

Yes, Kristin is right that the OLF is working hard now on governance. The OLF will continue to be lightweight, and focused on enabling infrastructure for projects. Currently, the OLF is governed by the Board of Directors and has a treasurer and secretary as officers. The Board is invited and is intended to represent a broad and diverse slice of innovative thinking people with deep concern for libraries. The responsibility of the Board is to manage the assets of the Foundation, and to develop a set of collaborative services and technical infrastructure for projects focused on library management issues and creating open solutions. The Board is preparing for a face-to-face meeting just after CNI in December, and much of this is fodder for discussion. The Board will be considering hiring a Managing Director/Director of Development, and looking at standing up an infrastructure team to manage our increasingly rich set of services. Another topic of discussion will be participation of Project leadership in management and direction of the OLF – do projects get a seat on the Board, or other governance structures?

I’m not sure I’m giving you a full answer, and perhaps Kristin has more to say. We should keep talking about this to increase our understanding of what is required of projects and what projects need and value from the Foundation.

      • To further that request, does the OLF have any other supporting documentation? We’re particularly interested in any contracts or legal information that may come up, but any kind of documentation about governance and expectations would be helpful. 

This is a bit challenging. The OLF has a Charter that guides its activities: http://www.openlibraryfoundation.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/documents/Open_Library_Foundation_Bylaws.pdf. The Foundation also has a set of agreements for various activities, commitments and services that it provides or acquires. Chief among these is a Professional Services Agreement between the Foundation and a project participant to second the effort of staff to a project. We have a standard gift agreement for donations to the Foundation such as intellectual property, code, and other assets (including cash). We have a standard MoU for projects to use to bind member institutions and organizations to their project. We have Contributor License Agreements for institutions and individuals that are creating IP in projects. And we have associated financial management documents for the Foundation. Again, it would be useful to better understand what CORAL is looking for here – many of our documents on governance and operations are innovated upon need since we are still early in our organization.

      • The committee also had some further questions about transferring the IP to OLF, questions that may be answered in the sample gift agreement that you offered. Could we still have a copy of that sample gift agreement? I think the question is about whether the code itself or the copyright for the CORAL “brand”, so to speak, is the IP that’s being transferred. Because the code is already under that broader open license, it doesn’t seem like that’s the IP being transferred. However, we are not sure how transferring any copyright or branding itself would manifest. How would we see the impact of transferring that IP?

It is important for open source software systems to have clear provenance and authority to forestall code forking and loss of innovation and direction. The Foundation is an instrument to hold the intellectual property of the Foundation projects to provide for that provenance and authority. With permissive licenses like Apache 2.x and GPLv3, understanding where the canonical code is managed and authorized is important for adoption by other libraries and organizations. Using the Foundation to hold these rights doesn’t preclude use or contribution, but makes clear the reliability and security of the code. Additionally, if there _are_ claims against the code of some violation (such as inclusion of code not compatible with the license), the Foundation needs standing (IP ownership) to defend against those claims. It would be the ownership and the copyright that is transferred.

I don’t know if your brand is protected in some explicit way, but that would also become shared asset under the Foundation.

      • Also, when you and I had talked awhile ago, you mentioned that CORAL could potentially leave the OLF if the committee wanted to for some reason. Is that something that’s iterated in an agreement? 

It is not currently articulated in the agreement, but certainly could be. In practice, any project could leave by simply forking the code and moving away from the Foundation. But, I can see the sense in having a policy definition for a community to leave the Foundation, and some process for identifying and disentangling the community’s assets. We could develop such language at the Foundation level, or leave it to each individual project to define in its Charter with the OLF – I do not know the will of the OLF Board in this context. Kristin, perhaps you have some opinions on this.



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This Post Has 3 Comments

    1. It very much does. Thank you for the insight!

  1. Thanks for sharing this post,
    is very helpful article.

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