Monday, January 9, 2017

Thirty Years of Ex Libris – Personal Recollections

Barbara Rad-El, Senior Librarian, Ex Libris

This year Ex Libris is celebrating its 30th anniversary. This remarkable milestone caused me to stop, pause, and think about my own personal journey with this amazing company.

I joined Ex Libris in 1991. At that time there were actually two companies – Aleph Yissum, located at the Hebrew University, which developed the Aleph software, and Ex Libris, which marketed it. These two companies merged a few years later.

Many of my activities in those early years involved travelling abroad to demonstrate Aleph to various university libraries. What did this mean in those pre-Internet days? I travelled with the Aleph software copied onto a disk (at first a Digital TK50 disk with a stunning 94mb of memory…) and had to first install it on one of the university’s computers before I could start my presentation. If I ran into difficulties I would then have to phone the head office, to get the help of our brilliant programmer, Yohanan Spruch, who was always able to visualize what I had done wrong, and would always help me eventually get it right.

Some years passed and the computer revolution was well under way. Aleph was ported from VAX/VMS to UNIX. Eventually I found myself travelling with a small UNIX machine (no more of those tricky installations); we progressed from Aleph 200, to Aleph 300, and then to Aleph 500, with a new graphic user interface, client server—all the buzz words. For me this meant that I could travel with two laptops—one a server, and the other the client. (Not much room for personal hand luggage with those two…)

Thinking back over those years, I remember a few landmarks – the first Aleph System Seminar in Israel in 1992 with 40 participants; the first American Aleph Users meeting (no name for the group at that time) held in a hotel suite at an ALA in San Antonio with about 8-10 participants; how the user groups ICAU and NAAUG and SMUG (!) grew into IGeLU and ELUNA with hundreds of members.

As Ex Libris grew, we developed additional products: SFX, MetaLib, Verde, Primo, and now of course Alma. Who in those far off days could have envisioned the changes in the computer world? If the word ‘cloud’ was mentioned – it was just about the weather; SaaS – you did mean ‘sassy’, right?

I am still with Ex Libris, now a devotee of Alma as I was (and still am) a devotee of Aleph. I am sure that the company will continue to grow and expand, with the vision that it has so ably demonstrated for all the many long years of its existence.

What memories do you have from the past 30 years with Ex Libris? Let us know in the comments below!


  1. I have been working with Ex Libris products since 2000. I started with a project to select and implement a Library software and ALEPH was the winner. I started to learn ALEPH in 2001, documets from Yoel Kortic and other was a grat help but my menthor was Jerry Spetch from Ex Libris USA. In 2008 I developed and install the first integratión between SIS and ALEPH in my country and was great. In 2011 I began to work with the distributor of south america and in 2014 I went to ELUNA meeting held in Minesota and here I meet Jerry, Yoel and others Ex Libris mates. When ALMA was release it was a challenge, so I start to learn it until get a certification last year. I'm not an Ex Libris employee, but I would like to be, because it is the most important company arround the world in Library automation. For me it is a icon, it’s a symbol of a great job and I hope Ex Libris would keeps on that way. Congratulation for this 30 years.

    Luis Fernando.

    1. Thanks for this - I enjoyed reading about your Ex Libris memories and experiences.

  2. Dear Barbara,
    congrats to your anniversary - since being an Ex Libris's customer I remember you being there - and that's was always good to know there is a librarian who knows what you are talking about! And that call numbers are finally there now as promised in Haifa ;-)

    Take care and all the best for 2017! Jirka

    1. Hi Jirka,
      Thanks for this. I too am glad that you can now see the call numbers where you need to see them :)

  3. Dear Barbara,

    Sincere congratulations!

    Indeed it's a landmark and I still recall the days back in 1999 when we implemented Aleph 500 (12.1) at the Utrecht University Library in the Netherlands.

    Eversince we implemented also SFX and both products are now hosted by Ex Libris in their EU datacenter in Amsterdam.

    Eventually I got active in the International User Community and I attended first to the 2002 System Seminar at Cyprus and later on to many other System Seminars and User Conferences.

    It's good to see Ex Libris growing and evolving to the professional company serving many customers a full set of library management and discovery services.

    I wish you and the company all the best for the future and hope to benefit from the creativity and reliability of the developers and all who help manage and support your products.

    Theo Engelman
    IGeLU Chair

    1. Theo,

      Thanks for this. I enjoyed reading about your recollections of 'life with Ex Libris'

  4. Hi Barbara,

    Congratulation to this incredible milestone with Ex Libris. Its been a great learning journey working with you in Asia and you have been absolutely awesome. All the best!


  5. Barbara! Thanks for everything. I hope to still enjoy cooperation with You and your lovely BRBR at the end of the email.

  6. Thanks to Jerry Specht's links I discovered your "recollections". Hats off to you --- succinct, but says it all. Weren't we lucky, to be at the right place at the right time! We've come a long way, and we can be proud. Judy Levi