SIRSI Corporation was formed by professionally trained librarians in 1979 with the original intention of providing technical consultation services for library automation and information management. The company soon shifted its attention, however, to the development of library automation systems that would be highly parameterized, fully integrated, and based on open system concepts. The Unicorn system, SIRSI's initial product, was introduced in 1982. Marketed as pre-written software for Unix-based computer configurations, it included application modules for cataloging, online catalog access, circulation control, and a reserve book room. A turnkey implementation became available the following year. Modules for acquisitions and serials control were added in 1985. Other capabilities-including authority control, materials booking, reference data bases, and electronic messaging-were implemented in subsequent years. Cibbarelli (1993), Clay and Newport (1991), Dimant (1993), Gethin (1993), Gethin and Dimant (1990), Johnson (1990, 1990a), Warden (1983), Young (1986, 1988), and Young et al. (1994) describe the Unicorn system's characteristics, capabilities, and special features at various points in time.
SIRSI markets the Unicorn system to government agencies as the Scientific and Technical Information Library Automation System (STILAS). Now described as UnicornSTILAS in the company's product literature, it was introduced in 1988 when SIRSI received a contract to implement a library automation system for the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). That contract required functionality specific to the needs of Department of Defense libraries served by DTIC. When the contract was awarded, the federal government wanted a name for the product that would-reflect DTIC's use of the system, hence the STILAS designation. In 1995, SIRSI announced UnicornECOLE, a Unicorn implementation designed specifically for school libraries. UnicornOASIS, an implementation for public libraries, was introduced in 1996.
SIRSI Corporation has direct sales and support operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. SIRSI Limited, a privately owned company formed in 1990, serves the United Kingdom. SIRSI Canada and SIRSI Australia were formed in 1993 and 1994, respectively.
Unicorn is a Unix-based client/server system that employs distributed intelligence concepts. A typical Unicorn installation includes one Unix server and multiple client workstations. In one approach to client/server implementation, data base transactions are processed by the Unicorn system's host computer, which operates as a server for client workstations. To conserve host processing power, certain user interface operations are performed by Unicorn client software at microcomputer-based workstations. Such operations include monitoring of data entry, formatting and display of data received from the host computer, and control of locally installed peripheral devices. Alternatively, both client and server functions can be performed by the same computer. That approach permits the use of conventional terminals, such as VT-100 terminals, as Unicorn workstations. It also allows dial-in access by microcomputers that lack SIRSI's client software or do not have sufficient processing power or memory to run such software.
Unicorn is available as a licensed software product for implementation on customer-supplied Unix servers. Alternatively, SIRSI Corporation can supply a turnkey combination of hardware and software. Over 80 percent of Unicorn installations employ IBM RS/6000 computers as servers. The RS/6000 runs the AIX version of Unix. Other Unix servers employed by Unicorn customers include HP-9000 computers running under HPUX, Sun SPARCstation computers running under SOLARIS, Alpha computers running under Digital Unix, and NCR computers running under Unix System V. …