Map of/Excerpts from Jan. 18, 2017, Interview of Oren Beit-Arie  (by Jerry Specht)  (-- still under review as of 14-Feb-2017)

Link to complete unedited (3-hour) audio recording of interview 

(Firefox and IE work better for me for moving around the recording; the Chrome bar for this is too small.)

In reviewing this recording, Oren and I have realized there were certain omissions:

·         Luis Lacayo was a very early (the first!) Ex Libris U.S. employee.  He played an important role in setting up hardware and systems software for Notre Dame and other early customers -- and in maintaining our own internal systems.


·         Carl Grant, the first Ex Libris U.S. president, played a critical role in the creation/structure of the Ex Libris North America operation.  (Plus, he provided all the photos of the first U.S. office seen at .)


·         Russell McDonald, the first Vice President of Sales & Marketing, was instrumental in signing certain key early Aleph customers.



   Oren Beit-Arie                                          Jerry Specht                                                                                                                                       


Interview map/excerpts


 0:00:00  Introduction 

 0:01:00  Yohanan; ALEPH before Oren (1978-87)

 0:03:45  Yohanan’s pre-Oracle, indexed sequential database

                            Programming  languages

             0:04:30  COBOL, “C”

 0:05:00  Oren hired (1988); improve sorting routine by at least 50%

 0:07:30  COBOL

 0:08:30 “C”; I/O layer / “I/O engine”

 0:10:40  Parallels to Jim Aagaard/Assembler

 0:11:40  COBOL, PL/1, “structured programming”

 0:14:40  Advantages of COBOL

                  *Handle large data

                  *Compile same code for VAX/Unix;  portability

                  * Structure

 0:17:00  C++ for GUI

 0:17:30  Keyword/Boolean

          0:19:30  ALEPH z97/z98/z95

          0:20:20  Proximity for DTV

          0:21:40  z980 (“temporary” z98)

          0:23:00  Google (no proximity; no truncation/wildcard)

          0:23:45  Oren:  ALEPH forced to be compliant

          0:25:00  “incredibly challenging academic exercise that I doubt had any effect on scholarship”

          0:26:20   Browsing; Northwestern University

          0:27:50   “doubleword” for adjacency

0:28:30  “What got them to choose us was the architecture”

0:29:00  Oren/DTU (1989) ALEPH 300 …  “That was my library school”

0:32:30  Jerry:  “Library systems are interesting enough to attract really good programmers”

0:33:50  Oren:  “… serving the mission of the library … the pleasure of working in this field is   not just the challenges … also the people you work with;  librarians are often times very smart …

   It’s always helpful to work with people with passion”.

0:36:50  Fax / paper / telephone;  no remote connection to sites;  no Internet 

0:39:20  Yohanan, traveled;  “Yohanan worked really hard but he also had a really good time”

                                               “A very intense year”   

0:40:20  Oren’s father: Israel National Librarian  “I certainly grew up in a house of books”

               Per Udi:  Oren expert in linguistics

               1991-4 worked on Master’s degree in Theoretical Linguistics

                           Worked part-time for Ex Libris and ALEPH-Yissum

0:46:50  Consortia; mid–‘90’s

            0:48:45  CDL

            0:49:15  SUNY

                  “decoupling of discovery” in 2000’s 

0:51:30  Ghent, Aleph 500

               Herbert von de Sompel / SFX

0:53:30  Jenny Walker, Silverplatter

         “first ideas about how to create linking”

0:54:30  Oren:  programmer, analyst, and …  “it was a time …

              we didn’t know what product management was … we did everything”   

0:56:00  mid-‘90’s high-level pilot work

0:56:45  Omri hired, took on GUI

0:57:20  “More time going places”  Bibliotheque Nationale: 

               “much work … didn’t win the bid … just as well; they had so many requirements”

0:59:45   “We got a lot better at explaining our story”

          1995: “Crucial decision to go with Oracle”; multi-tier architecture; beginning of Aleph 500

1:01:00   Parallels between Aleph and NOTIS (Northwestern On-line Total Integrated System)

1:02:00  Differences:  Aleph/Yohanan openness to outside world

        “Yohanan understood very well that writing a unique solution for the Hebrew University is unsustainable … In order for this to have a long shelf-life … it needs to have an audience and a market larger than just the Hebrew University … Very much aware of sales.”

1:05:20  Important to maintain one source code

1:06:00  Jerry:  “Tensions in what would be developed?”

1:08:00  Big changes in those years

         1:11”15  Client-side programs had to be created from scratch but many server programs could be converted from VAX VMS (COBOL) programs

1:12:30  Harvard/Taos (1998) “object-oriented”  Harvard visited Jerusalem.  Harvard/Wisconsin; Dale Flecker / Nolan Pope.

1:15:55  Why did Taos fail?

                  Jerry: “Developing a system from scratch which meets the needs of all of these kinds of libraries is a daunting task, to say the least”

1:17:10  Ex Libris has pretty much stuck with the academic library market

              Differences between public and academic libraries.  “Are the differences real?” 

                          1:19:20  Oren:  “I actually think both…            

                                       DRA/Taos:  “Use of totally new, unproven object-oriented database technology….  They set themselves to an undoable task, I think.”

                         1:20:30   “With regard to public libraries, I think it’s a little of both: real differences, perceived differences.”

                                        Possible “public library flavor” of Aleph

                         1:23:00   Debate within Ex Libris about whether to go after public libraries

                                          *We didn’t want to get de-focused”

                                          *Public library finances on downward trend … we didn’t see this as an attractive business”  

1:26:00  Alternative paths of growth

                       * Parallel  (other kinds of libraries)

                       * Vertical (associated functions within academic market)

                                 “We definitely took the position of selling more things to the same buyer.”

1:28:10  Ex Libris North America

                        1998  Oren moves to Chicago

                        2001  Oren moves to Boston; SFX

1:30:30  Boston office

                               “Engagement with SUNY”, office closer to Albany

                  1:31:50  Harvard

1:33:30  North American staff

                  “Really good employees attract other really good employees”

                                James Steenbergen - “certainly a key player”     

                                         John Kolman (1)

                  1:40:30  Jerry - Fostered Support Knowledge Base

                                           Oren:  “Respect customers as peers”   

                                           Jerry:  “There’s nothing more interesting you can do with computers than library/information systems”

                  1:48:40  Randy (Menakes)  “You just don’t find people like Randy every day”

                  1:53:45  Marie Bradshaw; Laura Pierson; Maruta

                  1:54:20  John Kolman (2)   “Just not good fit, I suppose”

                                Galen (Charlton)   -- Generic fix routines (fix_doc_do_file_08)  

2:00:30  “Aleph built in a very modular way”

2:01:30  X-Services

              Make the system extensible; unique in having these tools so early?

              edit_field / edit_paragraph / edit_doc

2:05:20  Use of source code by Support in solving problems

2:09:30  Notre Dame

2:10:05  McGill

2:10:40      “They felt Ex Libris had the will and the ability to do the development they were asking for.”

2:11:00  Oren:  “… and think what’s at stake -- this is the operation of a major ARL library”

2:11:20             “I can’t overstate how fortunate we were to get their confidence in us, their trust”

2:12:20  Price (of Aleph)

2:13:20  Jerry:  “Other vendors were offering more fully-developed solutions … but Aleph seemed more malleable”

2:13:40  Oren: “The uniqueness of this space, this sector [academic libraries]”

2:14:30            “These were people who were hired to do a library job, but they ended up, at least for a year, designing a system

2:15:20            ” …  “the right partner is key” 

2:16:05  Jerry:  “That flowchart … did Pat Riva do that?”

2:17:50  Oren:  “Our job wasn’t just to write code; our job was also to map their deep understanding of processes…”

2:18:30             Judy (Levi); Naomi (Leiser/Conforti); Tami (Trotter/Ezra)

2:19:00  Jerry:  Aleph praised praised for its flexibility; criticized for its complexity … two sides of the same coin?

2:19:30             “arbitrary differences” … default values important

2:21:30             preconfiguration of the system for certain kinds of libraries?

2:23:00             “no debugging process for the setup” 

2:24:00             “The only way to know if an option is really needed or not is to start from scratch” … Alma … “a little more conservative in terms of options”.

2:25:10 Jerry:   “It made things interesting for Support.”

2:26:00 Jerry:   “I’d like to give a shout-out to the Ex Libris Aleph programmers!”

2:27:20             “I think the Aleph programs are really good”


2:27:50       SFX/Metalib in year 2000 – expanded the market not just for Primo and Alma, but, even earlier, that for Aleph

                                            2:29:10  “placed a foot in the door … positioned us as innovators”

                          2:29:45  Herbert van de Sompel; SFX as open standard; Herbert and team created “the framework and the product”

                          2:30:50  Jerry:  “Were there competitors, other people who recognized the value?”  … 

                                     SFX “summit” at Ghent

                          2:32:30  Jerry:  “What if Ghent hadn’t bought Aleph and you had never gone to Ghent?”

                          2:34:00             “I think you underestimate your importance”

                          2:35:15 Importance of Knowledge Base

                          2:36:10  Non-Aleph development partners

                          2:36:20  Importance of name:  “Open URL” vs. “SFX URL”          

                          2:37:30  NISO … “think-tank”:  EBSCO, Nature, CNRI

                          2:38:45  NISO Committee AX  -- Eric van der Velde (Caltech)   

                          2:39:00  Jerry:  “I could see how with some companies this could have ended up some kind of proprietary thing … but I think this was a better strategy.”   

                                        Oren:  “It wasn’t any easy pitch [to Ex Libris management] … they got it.”

                          2:40:00             In parallel to this, Metalib was created – Yohanan

                          2:40:45  SFX people:  Vlad; Jenny Walker ;                                   

                          2:41:40  Oren:  “We had two challenges:  sell it to customers plus convince information providers to support the standard (create open URLs)

                                                   Jenny Walker was instrumental

                          2:42:30  Nettie Lagace; Dana (Sharvit); Andres Monroy Hernandez; Vlad; Lieve Rottiers

2:45:40    Verde      “practice” for Alma;  “Verde, I think, was a really important stepping stone for us”

2:46:50              Code name:  “the Green Box”.  “The place where Verde ‘failed’ was the place where Alma excels:  the unification …”

                               hard to create a standalone product … major components missing:  Knowledge Base, bib records, Acquisitions

2:49:20              “Why couldn’t Verde do what Serials Solutions did?” – started from the ERM, added the link resolver to it


2:50:30    “Looking back at these years, 1988 to 2005, what things are you, personally, most proud of having done in connection with Aleph, SFX, Metalib -- and Ex Libris in general?”

              “Probably, if I had to choose one … SFX….  But bringing Aleph to North America would be a close second.” 

              “A lot of people contributed a lot of good things.”