I readily admit that no one ever called me “Pollyanna” until I came to OCLC. But I can be annoyingly optimistic about the future of library automation and OCLC’s role in that future, so throw a little success our way and look out!
A long time ago, my work nickname was “Mr. Crabby” (I still own the mrcrabby@hotmail account that I created as my dummy email address in 1995…don’t expect replies, your messages will be buried amongst various political mailings, retail store sign-ups, and mountains of spam). Later, I dubbed myself “the cynical optimist,” a moniker that stuck for a while. My default mode is usually that things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.
Then one of my colleagues started calling me “Smiley.” I suspected this was a joke about the giddy-looking mugshot that accompanies this blog and many other website postings, but she pointed out to me that I was usually smiling even when the chips were down or the news bad. Credit goes to Leonard Kniffel at ALA for picking that photo out a pile to use as my old column pic…he said the smile matched my enthusiasm for the profession. It’s true that a smile (even a forced one) can get one through the tougher times.
But every once in a while you have one of those weeks, fortnights, months, quarters, or years where you look back and say, “man, did all those great things really happen?” I can’t pinpoint when it started, but I think I’ll start with the first (virtual) Web-scale Management Services community meeting. As we ended our phase of early adoption in the U.S. and transitioned to a member-led community group, the excitement among the teams and the libraries was palpable. The software was real. The community was fully engaged and excited.
Then every time I turned around, one of the early adopters was saying something nice about their transition to the cloud, to web scale, or to WMS. For some libraries, WMS was a re-introduction to OCLC in general. As much as I love a good product pitch, nothing warms my heart more than hearing actual users talk about WMS. You can see a bunch of them on the OCLC Youtube channel.
Next, a (seemingly never-ending!) stream of presentations and talks went really well. I really like talking to libraries about new ideas and solutions. I used to call this “practical advocacy” and the raison d’être of systems librarianship. I never had much stomach for professorial sounding sophistry, long meetings designed to “admire the problem,” and waterfall development strategies that resulted in a long slog toward a product that had lost its focus on the problem it was designed to solve. I’m a “solutions now” kind of guy. Anyway, meeting after meeting with libraries, partners, and third parties was affirming our strategic direction. Affirmation of a good strategy is nice.
But no one simply wants their strategy admired, either. Show me the true believers. Then, wow, we reached a milestone in our early adopter phase for WMS with over 30 signed libraries in the U.S. Fifteen of those libraries are already using the service in production! Are we ready for general release on July 1? You bet we are. What could top that? Well how about a first sale in Canada at The University of New Brunswick and our first sale in the Netherlands at Tilburg University! [Dutch news release].
Throw in the over 100 libraries in Norway who have committed to WMS and we’re pushing 150 libraries in the rapidly growing community. I tried to recall the last time that 150 libraries had committed to a brand new library management system in the first 10 months of its existence. Somebody pinch me.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the best research, project management, product, development, implementation, training, customer support, systems, marketing, sales, communications, and corporate support teams on the planet. Combine that team with an awesome group of libraries and you get happiness. Seriously, these efforts are backed by a true underpinning of “fidelity to a worthy purpose”–fidelity in the sense of faithfulness to the project, but also in the stereophonic sense, a team that brings true balance to the sound we are creating.
Oh. Did I mention my wife just got a new job, my daughter completed her first year of middle school on the honor roll, and my son’s baseball team has an awesomely winning record? Things are never so good that they can’t just keep getting better. Just call me “Smiley.”