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.