Fifty years ago, many people dreamed of a future filled with technology that’s not that different from what we have today. But it’s one thing to dream, and it’s another thing to be a part of the movement that builds and delivers the technologies that make those dreams come true. And this is where The Library Corporation (TLC) enters the picture. TLC is a woman-owned and privately held company that “provid[es] cutting-edge solutions, while upholding patron privacy and integrity.” Since its founding in 1974, TLC has been there to help libraries get to exactly where they need to be. With a focus on providing libraries and librarians with the best services and products, all backed with some of the best customer service out there, it’s not hard to see why TLC is still around and is as vibrant as ever at the age of 50.
Like how the rings of a tree tell its age, I looked at the many rings of TLC to better understand how this amazing company has stuck around all of these years. The first ring of the TLC tree is in the technology and services that it has delivered to libraries. Did you know that in the 1980s, TLC was the first organization in the world to successfully apply CD-ROM technology to data storage? At that time, TLC had MARCfiche on microfilm, and the Japanese Hitachi company had a CD-ROM. But while Hitachi did not have ideas past using the technology for music, TLC put its MARCfiche product, now called BiblioFile, on CD-ROM to give librarians easier record searching, making it the first time a CD-ROM was used for a read-and-write application. The innovation didn’t stop there—libraries didn’t have access to CD-ROM readers at the time, so TLC went into the business of offering that technology to libraries.
TLC continues to innovate to this day with products such as CARL•Solution, TLC•Cloud Services, and TLC•Go!, all of which have the needs of library staffers at their core. TLC understands that for librarians to do their best work with their communities, they need the best tools.
In a profession in which every year seems to bring about monumental change, TLC has remained a steady presence. That’s a big part of the TLC story and one of the main reasons why the company is celebrating such an amazing milestone this year. But like any good librarian, I kept digging for more information. “There has to be something or someone that’s helped TLC get to this point,” I thought, wondering who or what that mystery force could be. The next ring of the TLC tree was one I had yet to discover.
Meet Annette Harwood Murphy, TLC’s president/CEO and co-founder. I had the chance to chat with Murphy over email about the past, present, and future of TLC and libraries. In that interview and my research that followed, I found the wellspring of TLC’s success in Murphy’s leadership. A big part of TLC’s 50th birthday celebration this year is her story, her vision, and her hard work and dedication to the library profession. “We are excited to share this significant moment with you and express our gratitude for your continued support,” said Murphy. “Thank you for being a part of TLC’s success story for 50 excellent years in the industry, and for many more to come.”
What follows is an edited and condensed version of the interview that I conducted with Murphy in December 2023. I found her words to be an inspiring jolt of energy to ring in the new year of 2024—a year so ripe for potential, positivity, and growth.
AN INTERVIEW WITH CEO ANNETTE HARWOOD MURPHY
So much has happened in the past 50 years. What do you envision the next 50 years to look like?
I was talking to someone the other day about how when we were children growing up, Dick Tracy had a watch that he could talk to. Today, you have a smartwatch that you can talk to. Maybe we need to follow the far-out dreamers because, more often than not, it comes true.
The idea of space travel, sending someone to the moon, launching the first space rocket—all those things were so far-fetched. If you think about 50 years from now and what we will be doing, space travel will not be anything unusual. Maybe we will find other planets to inhabit. There are just so many far-out things that do actually happen.
And if you don’t have the dreamers and the creators, we won’t get there. Humans are not extraordinary; we don’t seem to be growing bigger brains or becoming more intelligent. Yet we learn more; we have more facts before us. So, we are limited only by our imagination. And what you will see in the next 50 years depends on whether or not we listen to the dreamers and people with great imaginations.
What trends do you see for libraries over the next few years?
What I hope to see is to put greater value on and understand what libraries bring to communities and humans in general, especially in schools. I’m so worried that we [as a society] are overlooking that. I have to have faith in the young people that they will defend and keep moving forward with sharing information. Because if we don’t share information and teach, there’s not much hope for the future. So, my great hope is that libraries will always be at the forefront of leading.
And certainly, most librarians will take that role seriously. They are asked to do a lot. If you visit many libraries across the globe and the U.S., you will see so much of that put into practice. They’re open and inviting their communities and people to enjoy the library. And the more libraries I visit, the more I see evidence of that.
The new Winter Park Library in Florida is just an amazing community space. They have included large facilities indoors and outdoors for their community to use, and one whole floor is devoted to children. Many programs are going on there. That’s just a small example because Winter Park is not a great big library, like the libraries in New York or L.A., but it is a very nice community-supported library. And if we can follow that trend, we’ll be doing very well.
Which TLC product or service are you most proud of? Which TLC product or service do you think has made the most transformative impact on libraries and the communities they serve?
Well, I think all of them! I’m proud of so many of our products. Certainly, in the beginning, our MARCfiche (what is now BiblioFile) was a great milestone. And then delivering it on a CD-ROM was very special. Having a fully integrated ILS was a huge milestone for us. We were the first company to offer an online PAC, which was also a terrific success.
What has inspired you throughout your career?
The libraries and the librarians. They are such wonderful people to be with, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of being able to go out and visit with any of them. It makes me want to do more, see what we can do, and better our services.
It has become a very competitive business though. And if you don’t have the heart and the willpower to keep going, it’s so easy just to give up and let somebody else buy the company. I’ve had plenty of offers, but it’s something that I just really feel personally about. It’s like giving away children.
You must have some kind of fortitude to lead in the first place. When I was a younger woman with small children, I was a little different from others I met then. Most people did not want to take the risk and do the things that I’ve done. They were not willing to take a chance, or they thought, “Oh, I couldn’t do that.” I can’t understand that: the fear of believing in yourself. If you don’t have enough confidence, you let others intimidate you. And instead, I thought, “If I want to bake a cake, of course I can … I can read [a recipe]!”
CELEBRATE WITH TLC
Every milestone birthday should be celebrated with the biggest and best parties, and TLC has cooked up a number of amazing opportunities for everyone to join in the fun this year. For example, TLC will be hosting a reception on the first night of PLA 2024 (April 3, 2024) at the Lumin Sky Bar in Columbus, Ohio. The company will also be at the ALA 2024 conference from June 27 to July 2 to celebrate with the many librarians who will travel to San Diego, California. TLC also launched an online store for those wanting to celebrate the big five-oh in style with some great TLC merchandise that was previously only available to those attending library conferences.
About The Library Corporation
TLC has operated continuously under the same ownership since 1974 and employs over 200 people dedicated to delivering enterprise software and hardware solutions to public, school, academic, and special libraries worldwide. TLC’s cumulative products are deployed in more than 1,100 organizations, representing over 5,500 locations in North America and worldwide. TLC is certified by the U.S. General Services Administration, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program. TLC’s Headquarters is based in Inwood, W.Va., and has additional offices in Colorado, Minnesota, and Singapore.
For more information, visit tlcdelivers.com/who-we-are.