I went to lunch with one of my most favorite graduate school colleagues a few weeks ago. She recalled my blog post, “Toughest Teacher Paves Career Path” and asked me how that actually happened. Here is the next part of the story.
Professor West worked with a small consulting company (R&D Consultants) that became Information Access Company (IAC). I already talked about how I produced a marketing/media presentation on their first product the “Magazine Index.”
What I didn’t mention was IAC hosted a reception to introduce the presentation to the local library community. Attendees were a virtual Who’s Who of San Francisco Bay Area library leaders.
All of the founders of IAC attended – Brett Butler, Martha West, Buster Spiwak, Lyle Priest, and Dick Kollin.
Library Directors including David C. Weber (Stanford), Richard Dougherty (UC Berkeley) and Bruce Bajema (Marin County) were there. Other attendees included Anne Lipow, Sue Martin, and Walt Crawford, also from UC Berkeley, and many individuals from emerging library technology companies such as Jerry Kline and Steve Silberstein, the founders of Innovative Interfaces.
R&D Consultants was involved in the development of the Library of Congress MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) standard, the basis of online catalogs, with many studies led by Brett Butler who became the first president of IAC.
Innovative Interfaces operated in the integrated systems for library management space, especially online catalogs which were replacing the card catalog. Innovative was one of several emerging library technology companies, along with Dialog and IAC, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Fran Spigai, who was Director of Marketing at Dialog, was also there. Dialog was already well known as one of the first online library services designed for reference use. I had a chance to meet and talk with all of these influential members of the local library community.
A few weeks later I was sitting at the Reference Desk at the San Jose State University Library, where I worked, and received a phone call. “Hello, I’d like to speak with George Plosker.”
“This is he.”
“This is Fran Spigai from Dialog. We met at the IAC reception for the Magazine Index.”
“Yes, I enjoyed talking with you.”
“Would you be interested in coming to Dialog this Friday to talk about a junior position in our Marketing Department? You would report to me.”
“I think you have the wrong person.”
Fran said – “why do you say that?”
“I have no experience searching Dialog. I have not even looked over someone’s shoulder as they did a search. I don’t see how I can help you.”
“Are you sitting at a Reference Desk? Did you produce the Magazine Index marketing presentation?”
“We are interested in you. You will receive all the training you need once you are on the team.”
We agreed I would come to Dialog that Friday and I should expect to spend several hours doing interviews.
That day, I drove to Palo Alto and met all kinds of people. Other members of the Marketing Department. Several individuals from Dialog Customer Service who answered search questions from librarians via an 800 number and were closely linked to the Marketing team. The head of publications (Barbara Anderson) who produced the highly regarded Dialog documentation. All three heads of the Content teams from Chemistry/Sci-Tech (Peter Rusch), Social Sciences (Charlie Bourne) and Business (Geoff Sharp).
By the time I had finished these interviews it was late afternoon. Fran asked if I could come back on Monday to talk with Roger Summit.
Roger was the Program Manager and the top person at Dialog. He was also the founder. Roger had a big reputation and I had all weekend to think about talking with him and not being intimidated. It was not a relaxing weekend.
After I arrived Monday morning, I was ushered in to see Roger and met his administrative assistant, Bea Cosgrove. She was very protective of Roger’s time and told me to take a seat. After a few minutes, she said, “Dr. Summit will see you now.” The lilt and tone of her voice was unforgettable.
After initial greetings, Summit asked me, “what do you think you can do to help Dialog?”
I replied by describing the bibliographic instruction/library skills activities I was doing at SJSU including training, library tours, classroom presentations, “how-to” guides, and audiovisual modules. I talked about overview-oriented talks and subject specific examples.
I said something like – “if DIALOG is going to be successful in customer environments, the users and their affiliates need to understand how the content related to their projects and problems, how the service would be able to provide this content faster and more effectively than any prior methodology, and ultimately help their organization and themselves succeed in their business and project objectives.”
Summit clearly understood the close relationship between library skills instruction and Dialog marketing strategies. He said – “very good you can go back to Fran now.”
As many of you know, I got the job. More importantly, the foundation for all my future work, and for the overall marketing of information services was established in my mind.
During the course of my career I was fortunate to have many fabulous colleagues, work with terrific leaders, and even mentors. I count Professor West, Brett Butler, Fran and Roger as members of all three of these categories. Looking back it is clear these early experiences set me on the right course.
In my next entry we will look at the things that made Dialog a true market leader, especially how Roger Summit drove alignment to meet customer needs and to shape the early online market.