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:
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.
- Purchase the software for the system LS2000 from OCLC (a good package of library
software for the time).
- Pay the maintenance on the system.
- Pay the salaries
of 2 staff members, a cataloger/automation consultant and a data entry clerk.
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
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.
In 2018, GMILCS began publishing library linked data to the world wide web. This raises the visibility of our library collections to both current and potential patrons.
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 Kevin French is our System Administrator and Sarah
St. Martin 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
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.
Updated by Kevin French, Systems Librarian, Autumn 2018.
Updated by Kevin French, System Administrator, Spring 2021.