Scheduling Software for Student Workers and Staff Time Off

The task at hand: find a scheduling software tool that can keep track of all the library schedules (circulation desk, ILL, research help, archives, etc.), everyone can access, and will allow for time off requests.

Admittedly, the task and software review was a fall project but with a semester using one product almost complete, I’d like to reflect on what software was chosen to trial as well as the outcomes of that trial.

To start with, I researched scheduling software options and ended up limiting the initial review to 5 products using a Top Ten Review on employee scheduling software reviews (Note: the link goes to the most recent review and has changed slightly since 2014), word of mouth, and product updates from vendors we already have products with. Then I set up a trial and tested each product against a list of desired features that I gleaned from discussions with our circulation staff and reference librarians. Here are some of my thoughts:

ShiftPlanning

This rated high in many reviews and did have a nice looking interface but it just wasn’t intuitive. There were many times I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to save something or if the system would save it. I also found that if you clicked into an employee, the system didn’t always display who you were looking at and so you had to rely on your memory. This was quickly ruled out.

LibStaffer

I reviewed this at the request of others in my department. Overall, I found its appearance similar to other SpringShare products which was a real plus but as the most expensive scheduling option it offered the least features. At the time, it lacked the ability to email all the workers at once and workers could only swap shifts as opposed to giving them up for others to take. Also the ability to enter your availability (aka class schedule) as a worker meant that you had to request time off, which then had to be approved, and once approved, the system sent an email that included the time of the workers request but not the details of the request. Like all of SpringShare products, I’m sure more features have been added but going into the spring semester, it didn’t meet our needs.

NimbleSchedule

This tool provided a nice mix of features with a more intuitive interface making it super easy to add shifts. However, I had to knock this one out of the running because a student couldn’t just open up their shift to everyone (a must have feature) but rather would have to notify other students individually of the available shift.

Hello Scheduling

This scheduling tool made it into the final round where staff took it for a spin. I thought it was very intuitive and had a nice interface. Setting up the schedule took some time though the process made sense. There was also support documentation with videos for both students and administrators.  At the time, the biggest downside was that students couldn’t enter in preferred working times, only their available times. In the end, the circulation staff chose the next software program not because this one couldn’t meet their needs but because they like the next one better.

WhenToWork

The eventual tool of choice, this one had several recommendations through word of mouth, had the most features/customizations, and ironically was the cheapest software tool. The tool takes preferences into account, allowed color coding of schedules, included time off requests, allows users to adjust their notification settings, and allows differing levels of manager access into the system. The only complaint I heard initially was that the interface looks a little outdated and my complaint is that the auto-scheduling tool doesn’t like to assign workers adjacent shifts (ie Tom to a shift from 10-11 and from 11-12, but rather Tom to 10-11 and Sally to 11-12).

Having used the software for an entire semester I haven’t heard many additional complaints but I have noticed that it took a little bit for staff to get used to the idea that settings affect all the schedules equally (circulation desk, ILL, research help, etc.), managers needed a separate worker account if they wanted to use the system to request time off, and that to copy a weekly schedule to a new week the new week must be unpublished (though you can make individual changes to a published schedule).

Booking Requests in Aleph: A Solution for Key Reservations

Briefly, our library checks out a key to a public speaking lab where students can work on presentation skills. I was asked if there was a way to prevent students from checking the key out when tutors are scheduled to be in the room. After some looking, I discovered that a lot of libraries were using Aleph’s booking feature to reserve rooms. This is not surprising but interesting because Aleph’s documentation refers to reserve material and holds when detailing booking requests.

The simple setup seems to be working fine so far. I say simple because I didn’t need to implement the online reservation calendar. The bookings are just made on the backend and no one but the tutors can check out the key during and just before scheduled tutoring sessions.

I just want to note which files I updated in our 50 library for future reference.

  • tab15
  • tab37_booking_pickup
  • tab_delivery_locations.eng
  • tab_booking
  • tab_100

After updating these files, don’t forget to restart the server.

How to stop displaying inactive course reserves online

Our staff started using Aleph’s course reserve module this past summer and now the online search tool is loaded with fall courses and suppressed items. So the question was posed to me (again) on how we could just show active courses.

The simple answer is that you delete inactive courses and items no longer getting used.

However, if you want to keep some of the course information in your system, you have a few options. Here’s what needs to be done to eliminate outdated material from showing up in your course reserve (xxx30 library) search.

If you don’t want the course to show up in the results, you need to do one of the following:

  • the course needs to be deleted or
  • the period needs to be set to NA (not active), the end date needs to be in the past, and all items associated with that course removed from the course’s Doc List

If you don’t want the item to show up in the search results,

  • Library owned books from your main collection – remove the item from the course doc list
  • Dirty records for personal reserves not owned by your library – the item needs to be deleted (but don’t forget to grab usage statistics first!). You might be tempted to suppress the item but the title will still show up in the search results because the item is still attached to a bib record.

– A special thanks to LACUNY reserves roundtable for sharing their 2009 meeting minutes. Very helpful information.

Voyager 1202g Wireless Scanner

This Voyager 1202g barcode scanner has been great for our inventory project! I’ve had some questions from my co-workers about how much this scanner can really do in batch mode. Well I finally found something that says the scanner can hold 14,000 twelve digit numbers in it’s memory. Even though our barcodes are 14 digits long, I think my colleagues can rest easy…the biggest file students have scanned so far is only 321 barcodes. That’s still a lot of books to manually scan in one sitting, but our scanner can handle it.

Test your z39.50

Migrating to a new integrated library system? Library software, such as ILLiad, not connecting to your catalog? Don’t make my mistake and assume your public access catalog equals your library’s z39.50 connection.

The Library of Congress has a great search tool buried in their z39.50 gateway page that can test your z39.50 connection: http://www.loc.gov/z3950/test.html

If your test has errors, you either have the wrong information or something is amiss on the server/setting side.

 

Campus Delivery Integration Into EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS)

The third technical component of our new campus delivery service involves integrating this service into our discovery layer. This turned out to be fairly easy to implement. Working with EBSCO, I was able to  add a link “Request Item from the Library” that takes users directly to our interlibrary loan login (we use ILLiad).

Campus Delivery Link in EDSWhen users login, they are taken to a pre-filled request form. Open url standards allow information such as title, author, date, and ISxN to transfer between the two systems. In addition, to this basic information, the “Cited In” field is filled in with “EBSCO: (catalog reference within EDS).” I used this information to set up a routing rule so that all requests originated from EDS go directly into “Awaiting Request Processing” in Document Delivery. Because we have a Direct Request rule that automatically processes requests with ISBN’s, I made the EDS Doc Del rule the first routing rule. See below for all the gory details.

Routing Rule "t.CitedIn = 'EBSCO:cat(yourcatalognumber)'"