About the SCHOSS Project

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Last updated April 15, 2014.

Sustainability of open source software in libraries and other cultural heritage organizations is challenged by several factors. Many open source applications are developed by a single institution for local use, with no mandate to sustain them for a larger community. Adopters often add additional code to meet their own needs (which is part of the value of the open source paradigm). However, it also results in multiple variations of the same software, perhaps with no single organization/person/group responsible for maintaining it. In other words, there is often no governance over code development and maintenance.

More mature open source projects often depend on communities of “volunteer” developers for maintenance (some of whom are employed by libraries), which does not provide a reliable infrastructure if institutional interests or needs shift over time. In many cases there isn't a source of code-related revenue for development, supporting other users, documentation, communications, promotion, and community engagement. Sustainability depends on having the financial, staff, technical, and communication resources to maintain an open source application, provide access to it, and ensure that it is updated regularly and remains viable for current and potential users. Putting the code out there is the easy part; persuading others to pick it up and contribute back is hard.

To identify factors in open source project sustainability and develop techniques or methods for the cultural heritage community, LYRASIS proposed a series of meetings in a grant request to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In contrast with the Code4Lib conference, which connects programmers, the Supporting Cultural Heritage Open Source Software (SCHOSS) meetings would connect project leaders, software adopters, support companies, and granting agencies that have stakes in planning, implementation, integration, and institutional support for open source products and programs. Each of these constituencies is dealing or will have to deal with sustainability, so the conference will consider issues and solutions that impact sustainability, present models, and identify ways for projects/institutions to work together on sustainability. The first meeting is an invitation-only symposium on the topic, to be followed by an open webinar summit to a wider audience.