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      Israeli Technology Powers World's Libraries

      First Publish: 4/18/2004, 8:48 PM / Last Update: 4/18/2004, 10:42 PM

      It has become widely known that many of America’s top universities and colleges have become hotbeds of anti-Israel thought and activity, with Israel’s very right to exist often assailed from lecture-hall podiums. But in an ironic twist, Israel21c reports that many of these very same universities and colleges have their academic libraries powered by Israeli technology.

      Israeli company Ex Libris has developed a system which has quickly acquired prestige among leading academic and national libraries as well as national banking institutions around the world.

      The company's Aleph system permits libraries to order and receive stock, set up and control budgets, catalogue and display books, maintain an inventory, conduct searches, locate books and manage circulation.

      Libraries currently equipped with the Aleph system range from Harvard University and the University of California (with twenty-four million titles) to the British Library, the China National Library and the Historical Department of the French Army, which selected the Aleph 500 integrated system for its scientific library.

      The development of Ex Libris’ prized system began in 1980 when a team of librarians, systems analysts and computer programmers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem set out to create an automated library system for the university that was efficient, user-friendly and multilingual. The result was Aleph, which stands for the Automated Library Expandable Program.

      Following implementation in most of Israel’s universities, the university's commercial arm, Yissum, saw the potential to sell Aleph abroad and hired a veteran Israeli software expert, Azriel Morag, to translate the concept into a commercial reality. Today Ex Libris has grown into a multinational company and a world leader in library and information management systems.

      Ex Libris systems are now used by more than three-million people at about one-thousand-three-hundred sites in fifty countries on six continents. Its systems are customized to suit the particular language and culture of each library and information center that it serves. It offers twenty interface languages that use many character sets. Additional languages and character sets are constantly under implementation to turn new ideas into cutting-edge technologies.

      In addition to the British Library and the China National Library, the Ex Libris system has been used to computerize and manage some eighteen other national libraries and seven national banks, including the European Central Bank, De Nederlandsche Bank NV, Banco de Espana, Banca d`Italia, the National Bank of Belgium, Banco de Mexico and the Central Bank of Iceland.

      Morag isn't surprised by the widespread success of Ex Libris. It seems natural to him that Israeli technology is powering some of the world's most prestigious institutions. "Israelis have a kind of chutzpah," he told Israel21c. "They will undertake tasks which they might not believe they are able to achieve. Sometimes they fail, but when they succeed they do so in a very big way. Israelis," he adds, "have become people of the world. We understand how to approach the world."

      Ex Libris remains privately owned, although the Hebrew University is the single-largest shareholder. Much of the continuing development work is still conducted in Israel, where about one-hundred staff members work on development and support, marketing and sales. Among the Ex Libris staff are the original Hebrew University of Jerusalem team, which includes highly qualified librarians and expert software engineers.