Rob Cullin and Rodd Cutler thought there must be a way to adapt their knowledge of factory-automation technology to libraries, even though the two industries appeared worlds apart.
Turns out, automation is automation, Cullin says. By developing the right software, just about anything can be automated and made more efficient.
Cullin, who had worked with Cutler for years, was downsized by the company they worked for about five years ago, but wanted to keep his hands in technology.
"I had always been in a fast-moving, innovative environment," Cullin said. "I knew I wanted to try and leverage the Web technology that's out there."
So when the two heard that the Mooresville Library had a grant idea for creating an e-mail notification system for patrons, they jumped at it.
But it wasn't enough to create an e-mail system to notify patrons of new or overdue books. After listening to library staff discuss day-to-day problems, the techies knew what they really needed was software library patrons could also use to sign up for classes, book rooms and manage summer reading programs.
"Todd just whipped it out for the Mooresville library," Cullin said.
And E-vanced Solutions was formed.
The Plainfield-based company's software allows patrons to link to a calendar on the library's Web site and sign up for programs. It also manages attendance, easing administration for the staff. Other components include E-roomreserve, E-notify and Summer rE-ader. While the two designed the entire suite of services for the Mooresville library, the products can be purchased a la carte. Cullin and Cutler took their software idea to libraries in Brownsburg and Plainfield next. "We started thinking we had a real product," Cullin said. That they do. Today, about 165 county and public libraries from California to New York use one or more E-vanced Solutions products. And the software is relatively inexpensive, Cullin says.
A typical suburban library pays about $2,000 for a site license. The software is also available as a subscription for libraries without their own servers or IT staff.
And they've begun pitching their products to academic libraries, and have already landed contracts with Cornell University, the University of Illinois and the Bobst Library at New York University.
While the two got started with a smallbusiness loan and personal funds, they have put more than money into the venture that started slowly before experiencing a growth spurt over the last couple of years.
"There's a lot of sweat equity in it," Cullin said. "We're on the road all the time."