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Flashback: Book Knowledge Managers

In 1998, the full impact of the Internet and the manifold applications it may have were just coming to be understood. Three years later, “irrational exuberance” over the dotcom potential would get a long way ahead of the reality.

But solid companies positioned to capitalize on the Internet by 1998 were well established in the new information age and ready to reinvent themselves as “knowledge managers.”

“There is a new phrase that is coming into use — ‘knowledge management.’ We are finding ways to use computer technology to manage information and deliver that information in an intelligent way,” said Jim Young, one of the three founders of Sirsi Corp., in our May, 1998 issue. “This is much more than what computers have done traditionally — store and transmit information.”

Young and his wife, Jacky, and partner, Mike Murdock, the founders of Huntsville-based Sirsi, got an early start in the information age by writing software that automated one of the biggest stashes of knowledge going — libraries. They started creating software for their library at Georgia Tech. They continued after leaving their first jobs, at Huntsville’s Intergraph Corp., long before the fruition of the Internet, forming Sirsi in 1979.

By 1998, they were competing head-to-head with giants in the field, companies like Ameritec and DRA, and landing contracts with major universities like Stanford and Peking University.

“They have millions of documents and a substantial archive,” Young told Business Alabama of the recent contract coup in Peking. “Some of the books in their library are thousands of years old. Some of the relics they have are incredible.”

By 2000, Sirsi had 132 employees in Huntsville and 212 employees worldwide.

In 2005, Sirsi, still a private company, merged with Dynix Corp., based in Lehi, Utah, forming SirsiDynix, the world’s leading provider of library technology systems, serving 23,000 libraries.

In 2010, SirsiDynix closed its offices in Huntsville and St. Louis, moving non-field employees to Utah.

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