Stephen Abram to Leave SirsiDynix

December 18, 2009

SirsiDynix today announced that Stephen Abram, who has been vice president of innovation since 2004, will leave the company December 31 but will “continue to be a resource for the SirsiDynix Institute and for SirsiDynix User Groups, among other programs in the future.” In a phone interview yesterday, Abram told American Libraries that he was leaving SirsiDynix to take a position at Gale Cengage Learning as vice president for strategic partnerships and markets.

“Stephen has been a voice of change in the library industry, and we look forward to seeing how he drives the conversation about tomorrow’s technology,” said SirsiDynix CEO Gary Rautenstrauch in a press release (PDF file) announcing the departure. “We share his dedication to the betterment of the library community through thoughtful technology development, and so we support Stephen in his transition.”

“My passion is the content,” Abram said yesterday, explaining that he would be doing many of the same things at Gale that he had done for SirsiDynix early on, especially with Schoolrooms. “I’m pretty good at drawing attention to things that need drawing attention to,” Abram quipped. Gale has long been known as a “directory publisher,” he said, but needs to be “known more as a content publisher and a portal publisher.” Part of what he will be doing for the company is imagining what “the Library 3.0 environment is going to look like” and delivering products that are “experience based, community based, and learning based.”

Asked what he thought the challenges would be, Abram first noted the “up side,” which is the fact that “every single library in the world is a Gale Cengage client, and they also have a massive vault of content.” He then said the challenge would be “preparing the market for this modality that we can create library experiences and environments where people are transformed,” adding, ”I don’t think staff understand their own enormous potential.”

Asked if his resignation from SirsiDynix was connected to the lawsuit against the company recently filed by Queens Public Library, he said, ”Nothing, no connection whatsoever. I was never involved in the Queens thing.”

Abram was, however, involved in a recent flap over open source integrated library systems and the threat they pose to companies like SirsiDynix that sell proprietary systems. Abram said the reason he was contacting American Libraries directly to announce the departure was to head off gossip and speculation. “I don’t want people to think that I’m rejecting SirsiDynix,” he said, noting that “the recession is now materially impacting the public sector and librarians, and they are having some emotional reactions.” Abram said he wanted to be a voice of reason in the storm, and his new position at Gale would enable him to do that. “This is a cycle; we will work through this. It’s not the end of libraries, and it’s not the end of information.”