Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alberta Bound

It was great to get out of the office on some customer visits earlier this month. While a colleague who shall remain nameless elected to explore Alberta via the commercial airlines, another colleague and I have a much better sense of the geography between Edmonton, Lethbridge, and Calgary via our many hours in a flex fuel car. We also gained a strong appreciation for daylight until 11 p.m though the return of daylight at 3:30 a.m. was not so welcome.

During our travels we received an excellent history of how Alberta libraries have provided better service across the province via grass roots and increasingly more formal cooperation over many years. Check out The Alberta Library for great examples and thanks to Ernie Ingles, Vice Provost & Chief Librarian at the University of Alberta for the details. Shortly after we left the U of A campus we also heard the good news that Ernie has been appointed President of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries for a two year term ending in 2011.

We headed south to Lethbridge to visit with Chinook Arch and Shortgrass Library Systems. Both provide consortial services to libraries of varying types and sizes across a wide geographical region. Both systems are expanding their public interfaces to provide better access to both the traditional collection and electronic resources. Maggie Macdonald, Chief Executive Officer of Chinook Arch, shared that they have incorporated search of their electronic subscriptions into every catalog search to ensure that their users can easily take advantage of the libraries’ traditional and electronic resources.

Back in Calgary we enjoyed a visit with Calgary Public Library, who recently implemented SirsiDynix Symphony. One of the things that struck me as I walked into the Main Library was how Calgary Public has taken advantage of a few simple technologies to offer extraordinarily efficient services to users who may have just a few minutes to visit the library, check out popular items or pick up holds. Calgary offers a self service hold pickup area and so could you! Calgary prints out hold wrappers that make finding items on hold straightforward while protecting user privacy; self check units stand ready for immediate check out and go.

Now we’re all back home and looking forward to other forays.

VP of Product Development

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Friend and Colleague, Jim Michael

Last weekend we in the St. Louis office of SirsiDynix were saddened to learn of the death of Jim Michael. Many of the former DRA Classic customers will remember that Jim was one of the founding partners of DRA. Jim was the librarian in the group of people that started the company.

Jim had a significant impact on library automation and on my career! During the time that Jim worked in the library automation industry he had a major influence on standards, online catalogs, educating the library community and in shaping what could be offered to libraries by companies such as ours.

As a kid starting in this industry in 1987 I was impressed with Jim the moment I met him. After all he was a librarian, I am a librarian, and he influenced the way libraries worked all over the world. To use a current cliché, he thought outside the box.

Plus how could you not like Jim? He was a big cuddly man that loved everything. He relished food and good restaurants. He was an actor in the community playhouses in the St. Louis area. In his role as a minister one of his claims to fame is that he married Tony Jenneman (long time SirsiDynix employee) and his wife. A ceremony that staff in St. Louis still talk about because of the record breaking 7 minutes from beginning to end. Previously, performing a ceremony or giving a short speech was not one of Jim’s claims to fame!

One of my favorite memories of Jim started with our next generation online catalog module, something we called Information Gateway. As we got deeper into that project Jim formed a team of people that met once a week to ensure that the product was everything that it could be. As always we were all busy and there was no such thing as Outlook calendar to conveniently remind us of the meeting. In order to gather the crowd Jim would announce over the office intercom, ‘It’s 3 o’clock in the blue room’. This was our signal to head to the meeting room. Once we gathered we would all ask the question that we continue to ask today, ‘what is it that the public really wants in their interface?’ Generating huge discussions about functionality and exactly who is our audience for the public access module. What constitutes a good first generation release? The questions remain the same even after all these years.

Certainly Jim’s contribution to this industry is a great one and I greatly appreciate the fact that I once worked with a man of such integrity and foresight.

Anne Arthur
Product Manager, Engineering