Today is the day when we say goodbye to our leader and colleague Jim Michalko. Rather than wallowing in our loss, we’d like this post to celebrate Jim’s accomplishments and acknowledge his many wonderful qualities.
Before OCLC, Jim was the president of the Research Libraries Group. He came to RLG from the administration team at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries in 1980. In those relatively early days of library automation, RLG was very much a chaotic start up. Jim, with both a MLS and an MBA, came on as the business manager and as part of the senior administrative team helped to get the organization on more stable footing. He was named RLG president in 1989.
In 2006, Jim once again played a key role in a time of uncertainty, helping to bring RLG into the OCLC fold. This included both integrating RLG data assets into OCLC services and bringing forward programmatic activities into OCLC Research. A key part of those programmatic activities is collaboration with the research library community, and the OCLC Research Library Partnership is a key component in driving our work agenda. Under Jim’s leadership, the Partnership has grown from 110 in 2006 to over 170 institutions now, including libraries at 25 of the top 30 universities in the Times Higher Education World University rankings.
Jim is a wise and gentle leader with a sardonic sense of humor. We’ve appreciated his ability to foster experimentation (and his patience while those experiments played out), his willingness to get obstacles out of our way so that we can get our work done, his tolerance of our quirks and other personal qualities, and his ability to maximize our strengths.
Jim’s retirement is part of a larger story that is playing out in the larger research library community as those who have overseen generations of change in technology, education, and policy are moving on. We will honor these leaders by following in their footsteps, while reminding ourselves that the path they set was marked by innovation.