Governance Structure

Influences | Roles | Concentric Circles | Core Team


This governance model is strongly influenced by the Open Source Way 2.0 and by models in place at Samvera, Koha, Ubuntu, and Kubernetes.  


  • User: An individual at organizations that have implemented or are interested in OpenRS
  • Investor: An organization that has contributed funding to OpenRS, represented by an individual
  • Contributing Partner: An individual, rather than an organization, that has met certain thresholds of activity contributed to the project.
  • Committer: Reserved for individuals with advanced technical expertise, who have been vetted for making commits to the code base

Concentric Circles

The Open Source Way recommends organizing stakeholders in an open source project in concentric circles, with a “core team that…engages with additional groups to gain awareness of concerns or constraints” (p. 17).  

The set of concentric circles for OpenRS is:
Concentric Circles chart with 3 rings. Core Team at middle, surrounded by 5 Teams in middle ring, and 2 Councils on the outer ring.

Core Team

The OpenRS Coalition operates primarily as a “do-ocracy” with elements of the “self-appointed council” and “electoral” open source governance models incorporated.  For the do-ocracy to function, there are a number of foundational precepts that guide the architecture of the coalition. 

Foundational Precepts
  1. We trust that all entities engaged with the project are putting their best effort and sincere intentions into shared work that supports the needs of all involved, whether they directly benefit in the short-term or not.

    More than this, however, we actively work to surface areas where a lack of clarity or transparency may cause tension or distrust and discuss those areas with candor and respect. 
  2. OpenRS operates with a strict separation of funding and technical inputs. According to the Open Source Way:

    “Projects will commonly discuss the extent to which member fees should influence the project’s technical governance. Two dominant models for this governance exist.  The first is a strict separation of funding and technical inputs, where the members who join at the highest membership level have input into (and can influence) project budgetary matters (for example how funds will be disbursed between infrastructure, headcount, marketing, events), but technical merit dictates how the project is governed technically.  The second is a ‘pure member’ organization, where members are entitled to appoint representatives to a technical governing board with oversight on which sub-projects will be adopted in the project, and how the projects will be governed.”  (p. 84)

    Keeping a strict separation of funding and technical inputs acknowledges that librarians and consortial staff have the expertise to inform the use cases and functionalities of the OpenRS software, but they do not typically possess the knowledge to adequately judge the technical specifications of the infrastructure and software stack upon which the functionality is built.  As a result, the Core Team expects and trusts that the technical inputs by Knowledge Integration and other committers are consistent with best practices for security, privacy, containerization, and optimization for the most efficient and effective code base.
  3. Those who do the work make the decisions.

    The Core Team is made up of 9 seats, each of which is a specific role within the Coalition. The primary role of the core team is to listen and communicate. The people elected to serve in those seats must demonstrate a high level of participation in the Coalition, and commit themselves to an ongoing expectation fulfilling the responsibilities associated with each position on the Core Team. This ensures that the appointment to the Core Team is not a casual endeavor, but a significant commitment of one’s time, thought, and effort.

    In order to be elected to a role on the Core Team, an individual must have earned a status as a Contributing Partner. Only individuals can be assigned a Contributing Partner status; organizations cannot hold that role.  While attending meetings is important, a person becomes a Contributing Partner by doing more than that.  The Open Source Way notes that “active participation in a project begins the moment someone cares enough about the software to do more than simply consume it” (p. 48).

    The best pathway for an individual seeking to become a Contributing Partner is to assist or lead work that takes place between meetings.  The Core Team vets individuals for awarding Active Contributor status (metrics and process TBD). Only Contributing Partners can be elected to serve on the Core Team.  
  4. All for one and one for all.

    A central task for the Core Team is to actively seek ways to ensure that every entity associated with the Coalition is successful.  This is not exclusive to libraries and library consortia. The sustainability of OpenRS for its for-profit partners and development partners is equally important to libraries and library consortia receiving the functionality they need from OpenRS.

    The Core Team is responsible for maintaining a long-term view of budget and funding needs, and over the long-term ensuring that contributed funds are used to benefit everyone.  Libraries and library consortia that contribute funds to the Coalition (Investors) do so knowing that shared funds are used to elevate everyone involved, and not just for the benefit of their organization alone.
  5. An essential function of the Core Team is to minimize bureaucracy and remove roadblocks.

    A strength of the do-ocracy model of open source governance is its ability to keep concepts moving from an idea stage, through evaluation and vetting, into a development pipeline, and ultimately into production.  The Core Team is responsible for ensuring the processes needed for ideas to transition into action steps are “just enough” to ensure consensus without being overly burdensome in bureaucratic steps.  
Core Team Roles
  1. User’ Council Lead: The Users’ Council (UC) is considered the foundational level of community engagement, and serves as an entryway for individuals and institutions seeking to become more engaged in the Coalition’s governance.  The Users’ Council Lead is responsible for all activities of the Users’ Council.  This includes the coordination of the adoption assessment process for institutions considering the adoption of OpenRS, conducting usability studies, preparing or revising product documentation, and engaging existing implementers to identify bugs.  The UC Lead assists with the early identification of possible new features or functions.  Finally, the UC Lead serves as a first point of contact for individual members, ensuring that new members are connected with the Onboarding & Mentoring Team.
  2. Investors’ Council Lead: The Investors’ Council (IC) is a group for directors or senior executives of organizations that invest funding in OpenRS development or governance activities.  The investment of funds encompasses one-time capital contributions for specific development projects, hosting or maintenance fees that support the stability of the software, or funding contributed to the activities of the Coalition (such as marketing expenses, OLF membership fees, accounting expenses, etc.).  The IC Lead is responsible for ensuring that the IC meets at least quarterly, providing investors updates on active development projects, soliciting investor feedback on the prioritization of new features or functions under consideration, and helping structure fundraising or outreach efforts.
  3. Workflow Advisory Lead: Each of the features (DCB, ILL, document delivery, CDL) has its own feature advisory team. The workflow advisory teams are responsible for first outlining the use cases and scope of new workflow development, leading to an MVP. After the launch of an MVP, these teams continue to identify further refinements to the workflow, as it becomes more stable and fully-featured. Long-term, the advisory team serves as a sounding board for the integration of the workflow with other newly developed features. Each workflow advisory team has a team lead who is responsible for the leadership of the team. The various workflow advisory team leads select from among themselves a representative to serve on the Core Team.
  4. Onboarding & Mentoring: This position is responsible for ensuring that new members of the Coalition, whether they have implemented the software or not, are provided onboarding activities that provide detail about OpenRS, its charter, purpose, principles, and governance structure. This position also takes leadership for mentoring individuals who might be interested in becoming a Contributing Partner. 
  5. Recruitment & Outreach: This position provides leadership on efforts to seek out new partners, maintain communication with interested or potential partners, and to share funding needs.  This position works closely with the Investors Council.
  6. Communication & Marketing: Where recruitment and outreach are efforts focused at specific organizations or people, the communication and marketing position takes leadership for broad marketing efforts.  This includes social media content, the website, blog posts, press releases, and conference presentations.
  7. Development Project Management Lead: This position has two areas of focus:  coordinating the activities of the developers, and communicating the progress of the project to stakeholders.  As opposed to the Product Owner role, this role is focused on operational details – converting use cases to assignable tasks, coordinating sprints and testing, and providing overall coordination of the work of developers within a defined project.
  8. Chair/President: This role is responsible for designing and maintaining the structure and procedures that help the Coalition function according to its principles, and in alignment with open source best practices.
  9. Product Owner: This role works closely with the development team to ensure that the developers clearly understand the goals and use cases of their work, help with release planning and roadmap management, updating the Core Team and the overall Coalition on development activities, and ensuring that the roadmap and backlog are visible and transparent.

The roles of Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer are held by team leads serving in the Core Team.