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

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