ITAV Community Case Study: Fetch

The Library of Congress (LC) has partnered with a community of academic libraries to conceive a new open source system for the inventory management needs of off-site storage facilities. The collaboration, led by LC along with Harvard University, The New York Public Library, the Research Collections and Preservation Consortium (ReCAP), and Yale University Library, produced a common vision and consolidated requirements for building a robust solution for high-density storage environments managing collections of millions of items. In July 2023, the Library of Congress initiated a software development project based on these requirements and informed by community stakeholders, and will release this as an Open Source inventory management system named FETCH (Finding EnvironmenT for Collected Holdings) in late summer / early fall 2024.

In fall 2023, representatives from LC, ReCAP, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, the Five College Library Repository Collection, and the New York Public Library participated in an ITAV workshop facilitated by Megan Forbes, Program Manager for the Open Source Programs Office at Johns Hopkins University and former Co-Director of the ITAV project. The workshop was designed to identify the breadth of FETCH stakeholders and consider goals for each; outline a governance structure to support the program as it transitions from an LC-led software development project to a sustainable, community-led program; and assess which services the community will need in the future and discuss plans for identifying which organizations can provide those services.

As is often the case when jumping in with ITAV, the first activity of the day was Who Is Your Community. Workshop participants brainstormed lists of stakeholders and then placed those stakeholders on an influence/interest matrix to help determine the most productive way to engage with each stakeholder group. We were able to discuss several groups during the meeting, with follow-up discussions for other high priority groups saved for future FETCH team meetings.

Next up was the activity Choose Your Own Governance. This conversation was held in two parts: first, thinking about FETCH as it is governed now, with LC taking the lead on most of the decision-making, and second, thinking about how that might change in the future as the project transitions to community leadership. Once a draft governance structure was up on the whiteboard, the group walked through several hypothetical scenarios (e.g. disagreement over adding new features) to determine how their draft governance model might manage the situation. Follow-up work on the model will be guided by the Documenting and Implementing a Governance Structure activity.

The final activity of the day was Future Program Services, from the Resources facet. In addition to thinking ahead to a future governance structure, FETCH participants also need to determine the best structure to provide long-term support for the application - e.g. housed in a participating university, managed by a 3rd party organizational home, etc. Understanding which services would be critical for the new organization is a useful first step in determining what type of organizational structure would be appropriate and feasible.

Overall, the planning workshop was a success, bringing together key stakeholders in person for the first time for an engaging and productive dialogue. Through interactive exercises and collaborative discussions, FETCH participants identified critical decision points, mapped out future program services, and drafted a governance structure for the evolving project. Follow-up activities are already underway to translate these insights into tangible action, and move FETCH further along the path to long-term, community-led sustainability.