Google Calendar for resource scheduling

We’re investigating our options for software to do equipment scheduling for us–i.e., mobile videoconference units, document cameras, projectors, and a lot of other bits and pieces that we provide as instructional technology support to the programs in our facility.  One option is to use Millennium, our library management software.  Currently, some other units in the Library use Millennium to track and check out equipment like laptops, video games, and microphones.

Millennium isn’t problem-free, though, and from what I understand it doesn’t do a very good job of giving us what we need in this situation:  a bird’s-eye view of the whole equipment schedule, rather than the ability to look up an individual piece of equipment and see where it’s committed for the next x weeks.  We don’t need to check items out to borrowers right now (though we may want to do that in future) so we’re not too concerned with creating item records in the catalog for these things.  What we really really REALLY need is a scheduling system that we can share with staff whether or not they’re in the Library (because we collaborate across units here like crazy), and that will show us who’s booked the document camera for a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday class for the next ten weeks.

So, like a good child of the 21st century*, I turned to Google.  And here’s what I’ve figured out so far:

GCal Resource Scheduling:  The Shakedown
Pros: GCal is lightweight and easy to use, and we can share it easily across units without exposing patron or item records and causing privacy concerns.  Gives a bird’s-eye view of the whole equipment calendar to help avoid double-booking and let us see around corners.  No time limit on booking into the future (i.e. flexible).  Has good features for booking repeating events.  Multiple users can book.  Web-based, so you can check and book from your iPhone etc.  No proprietary software or accounts needed for setup.

Cons: No equipment tracking/barcoding feature, so if we want barcodes we’ll still have to create item records in Millennium.  Not sure if we can restrict to different levels of permission—i.e. some can view the calendar but not add/delete events, others can add/delete.  Only a tracking system; permits double-booking if users insist; doesn’t block users from double-booking.

Google has clearly already thought about people using its tool for purposes like this:  check out their help feature on this topic.  I haven’t explored all those options yet, but so far GCal is looking pretty good as we hurtle towards fall quarter.  Now I just wish they’d include a good task feature for my professional calendar…

*  Apologies to Siva Vaidhyanathan.

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New blog to watch

A quick link to a new blog that’s definitely worth watching and RSS-ing:  Command-f.  It’s an ongoing conversation written by Rachel Bridgewater, Anne-Marie Deitering, and Caleb Tucker-Raymond.  In other words, it’s going to be about libraries, technology, information policy, copyright, teaching, learning, and probably chickens.  Hey, there are already chickens in there!  Look at that!

Three great minds that go great together–that should be their tagline, I’m thinking…

Wikipedia in print

The last few weeks have been very busy at my new job, but I’ve got an overflowing inbox of interesting items, so here’s one to start with:

Bertelsmann Lexicon publishes print version of German Wikipedia (thanks to The Guardian for the link.)  The idea is to “reach people who do not use Wikipedia online.”  This is a fascinating development for Wikipedia and for traditional print reference sources, I think.  What if collaborative authoring could combine with traditional print publishing to create more up-to-date, comprehensive print sources?  Funny how this sort of looks misguided, and sort of looks genius.  I guess that’s what innovation usually looks like.

Mashing Congress article now up in Dttp: Documents to the People

I’m very happy to be able to link to “Mashing Congress,” the article that Jesse Silva and I wrote for Dttp:  Documents to the People, detailing our wiki mash-up tool for Congressional research.  (ALA login required, rassenfrassen.)

If you’re not interested in Congressional research (and who isn’t?) I think this is still an interesting application for wikis and screencasts.  Basically, we used a wiki framework to open screencast tutorials simultaneously with live database windows for learners to practice their skills in.  No frames, no clicking back and forth between windows.  A little bit of scrolling may be required, depending on your monitor size.  But generally speaking, a more immediate and elegant way to provide active learning opportunities (read:  hands-on practice) and feedback for your tutorial users.

Thanks, Jesse!  And thanks, DttP!

Pointer: should links open in new windows?

This very question was asked at our ALA preconference, and it’s a perennial one for web designers, librarians, and anyone who spends time on the web. Smashing Magazine has a lengthy and interesting answer, pointing out some new technologies that may, in some cases, make this question moot.

For my own self, I think it’s all about context. I usually open links from this blog in new windows, because when I read blogs I appreciate not losing where I am as I click through all the pointers to other comments and perspectives. Google Reader, my preferred blog reading tool, opens links in new windows so I don’t lose my place in the blog queue. That’s a good use of a new window, I think. There are definitely some good arguments against, though. Stepping stone links within a single site? No new windows!

ETA:  Amusingly, the link in this post does NOT open in a new window, b/c WordPress was having a tantrum and I’m a little too harried to go in and fix it in the code.  Caveat clicker!