Alex Bassa is one of the few people ever to be bodyslammed at a librarian convention.
He and three other employees of Huntsville's Sirsi Corp. got into a pitched brawl Thursday in front of 450 librarians at the Von Braun Center - but the battle was a staged, costumed, pro-wrestling style allegory about the power of Sirsi's library-automation software.
''OK, I want a good clean fight,'' said referee Jeremy Clute, dressed like a Disney wizard. ''No rebooting.''
Software analyst Bassa faced Sirsi Vice President Greg Hathorn, both men dressed in gaudy, masked, wrestling outfits.
Bassa, dressed similar to Batman's archenemy, the Riddler, was the first half of a tag team named Confusion and Inefficiency. He and his partner were ready to rumble against Hathorn's character, the WorkFlows Warrior, who represented Sirsi's product offerings and services.
''I see you've been working out, Warrior ... working out the bugs, that is!'' sneered Bassa to Hathorn, who wore huge, fake muscles.
''I only see one bug around here, and I'm gonna stomp it!'' Hathorn replied.
Because Sirsi products can multitask, Hathorn was able to conquer both Confusion and Inefficiency, a suggestively dressed foe wielding a baseball bat.
Inefficiency, played by Sara Deason, momentarily stunned Hathorn by stealing his computer mouse. Then he realized Sirsi software doesn't need a mouse, and he knocked her out.
''Looks like it's time for the Remove User command,'' joked announcer Chet Wright.
Suddenly, a third, 260-pound challenger called the Blue Screen of Death appeared. He blasted into the ring to the musical strains of Darth Vader's theme from ''The Empire Strikes Back.''
Blue Screen, also known as Eric Cohen, temporarily struck Hathorn senseless, leaving him hanging on the ropes. But Hathorn called Sirsi technical support from a cellular phone, upgraded his muscles, and won the match decisively.
Trading his mask and leotard for a business suit, Hathorn then proceeded to tell librarians in the audience about how Sirsi is working to make their lives easier.
Sirsi President Jacky Young had just finished discussing some of the company's customer-service initiatives, which have included several reorganizations of Sirsi's phone center and an expansion of online help.
Sirsi has started several new Internet forums to collect customer complaints, suggestions and ideas relating to products, said Young.
Online discussions with customers helped shape the latest release of Sirsi's Unicorn software product, and are helping shape its heir, Unicorn 2000, scheduled for release Sept. 25, said Hathorn.
Sirsi is also working harder online to get news to customers about how to deal with potential problems, Young said. Sirsi is also spreading information about software-training seminars, and similar educational events.
Sirsi guarantees that customer updates will be online every Friday, and sometimes every day.
Sirsi is adding several new features to Unicorn, said Mike Murdock, chief technical officer of Sirsi.
For instance, Sirsi software that currently puts libraries' card catalogs on the Internet can link catalog listings to book reviews, can track the tastes of library patrons, and can alert individual patrons when books they might like have been added to a library's collection.
In spite of repeated difficulties crafting a phone-support system that pleases everyone, Sirsi has had many successes in the past year, said Young. Sirsi has attracted 168 new customers, who have each paid at least $25,000 for Unicorn software.
Sirsi is building a strong foreign customer base, said Peter Gethin, who leads Sirsi operations in Europe.
About 35 percent of Sirsi's annual sales are outside the United States, and about 20 percent of Sirsi's total existing customers are outside the United States, said Gethin.
Sirsi software is now used to automate operations of five universities in China, including both the biggest and the oldest, said Young.
''If current trends continue, in the fullness of time it is inevitable that we'll have more (customer) sites outside the U.S. than inside,'' said Gethin.
Besides the United States, Sirsi's largest source of customers is the United Kingdom, followed by Spain and South America, said Gethin.
Sirsi started in 1979 and is led by co-founders Jim Young, the company's chief executive officer; his wife, President Jacky Young; and Murdock.