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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).