Reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms involve the deep nesting of highly irregular computation patterns, each of which typically exhibits opportunities for distributed computation. We argue for distributing RL components in a composable way by adapting algorithms for top-down hierarchical control, thereby encapsulating parallelism and resource requirements within short-running compute tasks. We demonstrate the benefits of this principle through RLlib: a library that provides scalable software primitives for RL. These primitives enable a broad range of algorithms to be implemented with high performance, scalability, and substantial code reuse. RLlib is available as part of the open source Ray project.