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History of DRA

DRA Direct [First Quarter, 2000]

Copyright (c) 2000 Data Research Associates, Inc.

Since its founding in 1975, Data Research Associates has moved hand-in-hand with the ever-changing automation industry. Today, we are on what is known as the fourth generation computer system the microprocessor a far cry from the first generation mastodon, the Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer (ENIAC). It took time to build that first generation computer. ENIAC, built from 1942 to 1945, weighed 30 tons, contained 18,000 vacuum tubes and measured 100 ft x 10 ft x 3 ft. With all due respect to this noble ancestor, we've come a long way to the sleek personal computer of today, some of which weigh less than two pounds.

DRA entered the industry a mere 32 years after this first large-scale computer. President, CEO and founder Mike Mellinger believed that the computer would interconnect our lives in such a way that the development of specific standards was mandatory in order to prepare for growth and expansion. In the specific realm of library automation, he believed that by integrating diverse library functions around a single bibliographic database based on the MARC standard, the entire library profession would benefit.

Created in 1966, MAchine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) records enable computers to manipulate and display data elements for a variety of purposes. MARC records facilitate information sharing and reduce the need for individual libraries to prepare original cataloging for common acquisitions. DRA realized that as automation increased the interdependency of libraries, further development of standards was essential.

DRA continues to this day to promote, develop and implement standards. Our solid commitment is illustrated by participation on standards committees such as MARBI, the ZIG and IPIG, ISO and NISO. Most recently, this commitment has been strongly demonstrated by our work on the draft of the Z39.50 OPAC Holdings Schema. Stated simply, DRA believes that Z39.50 will be most effective when it allows clear communication of holdings data among diverse systems. We have thus worked very hard to implement an appropriate enhancement to the Z39.50 standard.

DRA's devotion to standards, therefore, is directly related to the technological advancement of the library profession. We have always held that in order to understand and serve this profession, we must be an integral participant in it. DRA currently employs more than 60 full-time librarians. These librarians work as account managers, trainers, software developers, product implementers, help desk specialists and support personnel. All are dedicated to making the DRA family of products more in tune with our customers' needs.

Because of our emphasis on standards, DRA was quick to recognize and anticipate the benefits of networking. DRA forged early electronic networking for library information access with its first Wide Area Network between St. Louis, Missouri and Cleveland, Ohio in 1977. Soon after this in the early 1980s DRA began marketing DRA Net, a dedicated Wide Area Network whose initial purpose was primarily to provide DRA libraries with an efficient, cost-effective cataloging utility, which eventually grew to encompass a concept called "transparency." Transparency allows a library user to connect directly to and search remote databases using the local interface searching an IAC magazine index, for example, using DRA Web or a terminal-based PAC. By embracing transparency, DRA Net moved DRA ahead of other networking organizations that required the remote user to know specific log-in commands and passwords, as well search techniques. DRA Net was, and continues to be, the premier means for libraries to connect to the Internet.

The 1980s brought significant changes to DRA, establishing us firmly in the library automation marketplace. Because of our innately flexible policy files and key software enhancements, DRA was able to extend our initial focus on public libraries to the academic community. Originally, DRA moved toward the academic library by supplying four-year colleges and smaller universities with our technological advances. This group grew to include community colleges and, as of this writing, more than a dozen members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

During the early '90s, several achievements and honors highlighted our stability and success as a forerunning automation vendor. On July 1, 1992, DRA successfully completed an initial public offering of 1.5 million shares of common stock. DRA is now publicly traded on NASDAQ under the symbol DRAI. On the standards and professional fronts, President and CEO Mike Mellinger was elected to the Board of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), while Vice President James Michael received the LITA/Gaylord Award for lifetime achievement in automation.

All the while, DRA continued focusing on the future of library automation. By late 1992, the concept for what is now Taos, the next-generation library automation system, began to emerge. Initially aspiring to give our products a friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI), DRA set out to develop a system that would accommodate library workflows, rather than forcing those workflows to accommodate the automation system.

The development process clearly showed that a GUI would be just one of several requirements for a viable next-generation system. The system needed to accommodate global information and resource sharing, which meant integral support for non-Roman character sets through Unicode standards. It also needed to employ the portability offered by Unix and Windows NT operating systems. And, the system needed to provide functionality equivalent to that of our existing systems, along with a smooth evolutionary path for our existing customers.

By 1993, DRA understood the positive impact that its evolution to the new product could have on the library industry and wanted to be poised to bring the system into the global market. Relying on our long-term stability, and acceptance in the industry, DRA purchased both Inlex, a 100-site library automation system supported out of Monterey, California; and Starlite Library Management System, an Australasian-based 38-site system, headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. These purchases allowed DRA to expand its market share and move into the global arena.

Our next expansion move led DRA to the north. The MultiLIS automation system, acquired in 1994 and headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, simultaneously supports English, French and Spanish. This automation system is installed at more than 200 customer sites in the United States, Canada, Europe and South America. Both Inlex and MultiLIS systems continue their development efforts, by enhancing current software functionality and versatility. All members of the DRA family will eventually migrate all of their customers to Taos, the next-generation DRA system.

The history of DRA is rich with technical advancements and achievements. Today, we are stronger and more stable than ever. In developing Taos, the next-generation library automation system, DRA is continuing a tradition by remaining a leader in the industry. It really is true that with Taos, the future is here.

View Citation
Publication Year:2000
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: DRA Direct
Publication Info:Volume 7 Number 1
Issue:First Quarter, 2000
Publisher:Data Research Associates, Inc.
Place of Publication:St. Louis, MO
Company: Data Research Associates, Inc.
Products: DRA
Subject: Library automation -- historical development
Online access:
Record Number:7989
Last Update:2012-12-29 14:06:47
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00