GMILCS, Inc. History

GMILCS, Inc. can trace its roots to the 1984 creation of the NH Statewide Union List. The Union List was an effort to pull together into one location a record of all of the books held in all of the libraries in NH. And, of course, by 1984 it was possible to do that with computers and to have that one location be a database.

The project was the brainchild of Shirley Adamovich, the NH State Librarian, who envisioned the State Library staff doing the work. By 1986 it had become apparent that the project was bigger than it had been perceived to be in the beginning, and with telecommunications being both slow and unstable in the 80’s, it was decided that the project would work better if it were decentralized. The state was carved into 5 regions with one centered in Manchester.

The Greater Manchester Integrated Library Cooperative System was born. The regional system was to serve the towns of Amherst, Auburn, Bedford, Brookline, Candia, Chester, Derry, Goffstown, Greenville, Hollis, Hooksett, Hudson, Lyndeboro, Milford, Raymond, Daniel Webster College, UNH and any college or high school in any of the cities or towns. Like a lot of things in NH, the project was conceived and designed before the money had been found to do the work.

The good news was that the NH State Library agreed to:

  1. purchase the software for the system LS2000 from OCLC a good package of library software for the time.
  2. To pay the maintenance on the system
  3. To pay the salaries of 2 staff members, a cataloger/automation consultant and a data entry clerk
The bad news is that nowhere in that picture do we see a computer. Digital Equipment Corporation donated a PDP-1144, which we found was too small to run the LS2000 software, but could be used to compile a Union List of Serials for the state.

About that time a computer fell off the back of a truck over in the seacoast area, almost literally. UNH Durham got a new computer and they no longer needed the Data General MV8000, which they had, and they said that the Greater Manchester region could have it. So Kendall Wiggin, who was Head of Technical Services at the Manchester City Library, and Michael York, who was Director of the Oudens Library at UNH Manchester, commandeered a truck, drove over to Durham, tossed the computer in the back, came back and unloaded into the basement of the City Library, plugged it in.  It seemed to work and we had a system.

By 1989 the office was well established in space donated by the City Library and the organization was providing a variety of services to libraries in all of the cities and towns everything from high school libraries to libraries in law firms to health science libraries, and all sorts of publics and colleges in between.

In addition, 8 libraries were ready to move forward to use the system to its fullest, and that meant to circulate on the LS2000 instead of on paper. It was the plan at the time that any library in the node that wanted to use the system for circulation could do so as long as they did a retroactive conversion into full MARC.

In 1991 the Bedford Public Library came live with circulation on the system, followed quickly by the Manchester City Library. In the next couple of years Merrimack, Milford and Amherst began to circulate. Then Hooksett came up and UNH Manchester and finally, in 1992, the Shapiro Library at Southern NH University came live with circulation.

These 8 libraries funded an upgrade to the system, and very shortly afterward the State Library pulled its regional centers back into Concord taking their money with them. Further upgrades were needed. The technology was exploding around us. The other 4 regional systems folded with the loss of state funds. The GMILCS libraries faced a defining moment. We all had to decide whether to stay automated and whether to stay together or go it alone.

In 1992 GMILCS, Inc. was born.

The name actually changed at this point. The officers of the Greater Manchester Integrated Library Cooperative System drew up Bylaws and Articles of Agreement, had them approved by the membership, and went to Concord to register with the State of NH as a nonprofit organization. The driving force behind this formal organization was Art Bryan, Director of the Wadleigh Library in Milford. When the officers got to Concord with documents and a check for $50 in hand, they were told that we couldn’t be the Greater Manchester Integrated Library Cooperative System because in the State of NH you can’t be a cooperative unless you are either a financial organization or an agricultural venture. Art and his band were a pragmatic group, and they didn’t have a lot of time to waste by starting over, so they simply crossed the words Greater Manchester Integrated Library Cooperative System off the top of the documents, and said, "We are GMILCS, Inc.".

All of the member libraries, which we saw earlier, were invited to stay in the consortium with the stipulation that anyone who stayed in must agree to support the consortium financially. We would now be an independently funded organization, and needed to support it professionally.  There was no more state funded staff and we didn’t have money in the consortium to hire staff, so each library would have to pull from its existing staff to keep the machines running and the telecommunications up, to learn the applications and teach them to others.

Only the 8 circulating libraries decided to stay in the consortium. Much of the work fell to 4 staff members at the Manchester City Library. The Head of Technical Services took on the additional title of LS2000 Coordinator, and other staff members learned how to keep the machine running. It was in fact in their basement. In 1993, we migrated to the Dynix software on an IBM RS6000. It was a better system, bigger and more modern. Once the current members got settled on Dynix, it offered us the possibility of growth.

There were libraries that were interested in joining the consortium. In 1996 the Kelley Library in Salem came live on the system, followed by the Derry Public Library and by 1998 Goffstown was circulating on Dynix. In 1999, UNH Manchester left GMILCS, having been absorbed appropriately by UNH Durham’s system. It was important then to round out the consortium with another academic library. In 2001, the Danforth Library at New England College came live and the newly created library at the NH Institute of Art joined the consortium.

In 2002 GMILCS migrated from Dynix to Horizon. This was a major upgrade for the member libraries. It was a difficult growing “experience” as networking and bandwidth issues occurred. Horizon was our first automation system with an online catalog which allowed for better interaction with our patrons.

At our retreat in 2007 the consortium voted, as our top priority, the investigation of a new automation system. At this time the newer Horizon upgrade was nixed by the parent company SirsiDynix leaving GMILCS libraries feeling there was a lack of commitment to current customers. A task force was named to investigate other automation systems on the market. Extensive research, site visits and demos to member libraries were a part of the process. In February of 2008 the task force recommended we migrate to Polaris. After extensive training, profiling and data mapping GMILCS went live on its newest automation system on August 27, 2008.

As GMILCS continues to grow as a consortium, services between the libraries have changed. Our most recent consortial sharing is “open holds” which was also an item the board voted to address at our retreat of 2007. This service enables our patrons to request items from other libraries within GMILCS to be sent to their chosen pick up library. This service went live in March of 2008 and has been a huge success. It offers our patrons more control of their holds and shows the cooperative nature of GMILCS.

In February of 2009 GMILCS once again held a retreat in which we re-evaluated our structure. It was determined that the time had come to revamp our subgroups such as Committees and SIGS to create a more direct line of communication with the full board. The Board worked to create a more uniform process for agendas, group minutes and reporting back to the board.

This reflects the cooperation and growth of GMILCS, Inc. as an organization and its commitment to its member libraries.

In July 2011, the Shapiro library left the consortium as they acquired their own stand-alone ILS. Their leaving left room for at least one more library and the GMILCS board decided it was time to go recruiting. After much discussion, we approached the Nesmith Library in Windham, and they joined almost immediately.

During 2012, GMILCS undertook two new initiatives, furthering our commitment to shared library services. First, due to the success of the open requests, we outgrew the ability of the NHSL to move our materials around and we contracted with a delivery service to transfer materials between the libraries. Second, acknowledging the increasing role of libraries in lending ebooks, and impressed with the integration with Polaris, GMILCS purchased access to the 3M Cloud Library, and has begun purchasing a shared ebook collection.

GMILCS, Inc. was conceived as an automation consortium, but it has become much more.

Organization and Governance

New Hampshire’s unique funding scheme for libraries makes it a challenge to structure a consortium. We would like to give you an idea of what has worked for us.

The consortium is governed by a Board of Directors. In a truly democratic spirit each library sends one official representative and one alternate to the board. Each library has one vote. The board meets at least monthly and we work very hard on this board to make sure that the needs of each different institution are met. We have 2 staff members Marilyn Borgendale is our System Administrator and Kevin French is our Systems Librarian. Our offices are located at the Hooksett Public Library and we do quite a bit of meeting and training with that library as our gracious hostess.

The Executive Board is elected by the Board of Directors from among its members. We have a number of committees which work to address various aspects of our service and operation. Most committees are made up of library workers who deal with our systems and resources directly with our customers. They meet to help us design the best results for our patrons. All of the committees report to the Board of Directors. No important decisions are made in the organization without going through the board.

Planning and Budgeting

The planning and budgeting in GMILCS is a 3-part process.

  • Each year we evaluate both our resources and our activities.
  • Then we sit down to develop a strategic plan in which we outline our goals and objectives.
  • We prepare the budget by costing out the activities in the strategic plan.

The goals are both practical and lofty, and they drive our organization both philosophically and pragmatically. The key elements of the budget are that we provide for the operation of the automation system. We provide for the operation of the office.

We compensate our personnel for their work. Every year we address capital expense in the budget knowing that, if we are in the automation business, we are always in need of capital improvement. And we do allow ourselves to dream by considering growth and improvement in our services. GMILCS, Inc. is funded largely by the dues collected from the member libraries.

Once the budget is prepared we run it through a formula so that each library is assessed according to its use of the system and the shared resources. Our treasurer invests carefully to glean some income from the money we collect. And we look for grants whenever we can.

As a consortium:

  • We started as a shared database.
  • We grew into automated circulation.
  • Then we began to offer our catalogs online within the library buildings.
  • And we moved to make those catalogs available from remote locations so that our patrons could work from home, school or office.
  • And then we began to develop into much more. We began to share resources.
  • We worked together to purchase databases more economically.
  • And then we began purchasing a shared ebook collection.
  • And finally the consortium has become an important source of education and support for those of us working in and for the member libraries.

By: Mary Ann List, Spring 2003

At the time she wrote this and put together her presentation, Mary Ann List was the director at the Amherst Town Library.

Updated by Denise van Zanten, Director, Manchester City Library, Summer 2009.
Updated by Marilyn Borgendale, System Administrator, Autumn 2011, Summer 2013