or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




Library Events Calendar Roundup

   October 13th, 2009 Brian Herzog


library calendarAn important function of the library is communicating our upcoming events to the community. There are lots of ways to do this, one of which is by having an online calendar.

Of course, there are also lots of software for online calendars and for patrons to reserve meeting rooms. My library just switched calendars, and so did the Blue Hill (ME) Public Library. Since we each evaluated a number of different calendar options, Rich Boulet and I combined our notes, in the hopes of saving other libraries a bit of legwork when looking at calendars.

There are more calendars than what is listed here (in no particular order), and our pro/con notes reflect the needs, requirements and situations of our individual libraries. If you have questions about how we made our decisions, you can contact me through my contact form, and Rich through Blue Hill Library's staff page.

Library Insight     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Groton (MA) Public Library for example
  • Patrons can submit room requests online
  • Comes with 1200 images
  • Marquee of upcoming available for index page
  • SIP2 compliant
  • Will not disclose how many clients use product, but says they are "in 20 states"
  • $695/year plus $600 setup fee
  • Contact: Steve Bolduc / 978-808-1089
  • More info: http://libraryinsight.com/products/rmInsight.htm

Google Calendar     (Rich)

Evanced     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Chelmsford (MA) Public Library and Blue Hill (ME) Public Library (calendar, room reservation) for examples
  • Looks like most comprehensive product available
  • Used by Maine State Library, Web Junction and many public libraries
  • Allows user-initiated requests for room reservation
  • Allows attendee registration and cancellation
  • Somewhat pricey relative to others in market, but unlimited in number of listed events, and no module pricing (except credit card processing is extra)
  • Allows some design customization, to make it look like your website
  • Most powerful calendar search options
  • Locally-hosted installation requires Microsoft IIS 4.0 or higher and has more up-front costs, plus 18%/year maintenance fees
  • Remotely hosted solution carries ongoing subscription costs
  • Seamless integration between web calendar and room reservation software allows users to click off on room policy
  • Calendar allows events to be downloaded to Outlook
  • Offers customizable rss feeds based n search criteria
  • Can be used to track program stats
  • Contact: Claudia Hackworth / 317-352-2188 x109
  • More info & demos: http://evancedsolutions.com/demo.asp

Calandarix     (Rich)

  • See Rockport (ME) Public Library for example
  • Very attractive and very affordable web calendar
  • Does not apparently allow patron-initiated requesting of rooms
  • Compatible with Apache or IIS
  • No remote hosting option, requires local install
  • Cost: Advanced edition is $50 for non-profits; also comes in a
    free basic version
  • More info: http://www.calendarix.com

Eventkeeper     (Rich, Brian)

  • See Hingham (MA) Public Library for example
  • Seems to do everything that Evanced does, but in a very different style
  • Pricing is generally less than Evanced, but is somewhat variable based on modules and number of events
  • Can customize and brand calendar for additional one-time fee, integrate it more with the look and feel of the rest of your web site
  • Also "EK Feed" can can be rss feed marquee of upcoming events for library's homepage
  • Only available as remotely hosted product, no local installation
  • Currently have 1200 customers
  • Exceptional customer support
  • Can be used to track program statistics
  • No maintenance fees (other than annual hosting)
  • Eventkeeper: $275/year; EK Rooms: $250/year; EK Feed (marquee)
  • Contact: Jim Stewart / 508-942-4209
  • More info: http://www.eventkeeper.com

Meeting Room Manager     (Rich)

ConnectDaily     (Brian)

  • See San Bruno (CA) Library for example
  • Reasonably priced
  • Remotely hosted with varying contract lengths
  • Allows a great deal of design customization, to integrate with the look of your website
  • Serves as both a calendar and meeting room reservation system
  • A limitation is that it is designed as an "in-house" product (example, a school would use it for the teachers to reserve meeting rooms). It does have a public room reservation form, but take a little work to customize to be easy enough for the public to use
  • Allows for multiple calendars (Childrens, Adult, Teen, etc) all to be fed up into one master calendar
  • Events available in rss and iCal formats
  • More info: http://www.mhsoftware.com/connectdaily.htm

Calcium     (Brian)



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New(ish) Reading Suggestion Websites

   January 6th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Here are a couple reading suggestions website I came across recently that I liked:

The first is TheBookCalendar.com, which is simply a book-a-day online calendar. It shows the cover, a description (and sometimes author video), includes an Amazon link, and also has email and rss options. via lisnews.org

ReadingTrails.com logoThe second one might not be all that new, but I just learn about it a few weeks ago. ReadingTrails.com and provides a reading suggestions by linking related books into a chain.

Sound odd? I first heard of this form of readers advisory during an RA workshop in the SLIS program at Kent State University. The idea behind it is to identify one theme from the book that the reader likes, then find another book that contains the same theme. Next, pick something from that second book the reader likes and, based on that second criteria, link it to a third book that has that criteria, and on and on and on in a long chain of connected books.

An example: for someone who liked the magical aspect of the Narnia books, you might suggest they read Harry Potter. Then, since the Harry Potter series is based in England, you could link it to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.

Sort of like a six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but for books. It's a neat idea, but tough to do mentally - which is why it's a perfect task for a database. Or, in this case, "an innovative new social network for book lovers." They say:

Reading Trails is a wonderful way to discover books to read, meet new people, and most importantly, to share your reading experiences with friends by creating trails. In particular, Reading Trails is a great tool for book clubs....

Because a book can appear on more than one trail, trails intersect. The result is a network of trails that can be browsed to find unexpected reading pleasures.

I checked out the site, and it seemed typical of new and innovative ideas - it's a great idea, and I got some useful information from it, but the site doesn't always work the way I expect.

It can be used without signing into an account, which is good. And you can search for books or themes, and from there scroll up and down the "reading trail" of that book to find other reading suggestions. Great.

Other good things:

  • Fairly easy to use, and the trails are visual and useful and pretty cool
  • Lets people write reviews of the books
  • Provides links to Amazon to buy the book and WorldCat to find the book at a library
  • Provides widget code to embed into your website, like this:

A few technical glitches I noticed:

  • On the search results page, each book had a little checkbox next to it, and I couldn't figure out what that was for
  • Each book also had an odd little box under it, which only becomes useful when you are logged in (if it's not useful, it shouldn't be shown)
  • For the searches I ran, the bottom of the screen would say something like "Viewing 1-7 of 7 matches" and yet there would be twelve books displayed. None of the searches I performed displayed a number of books that matched what was listed on the bottom of the page
  • Some of the trail themes I searched for did not exist (Vietnam, Iraq, poverty, aliens) but most others did
  • There doesn't seem to be a way to view details of any book - just see where it falls in various trails
  • They don't seem to explain why books are linked in a chain - I'd be curious to see what theme connects them

Most of these cons are probably due to the newness of the website, and will likely be improved as the site grows.

I don't think I'll use these much on a personal level (unlike LibraryThing), but I will keep both in mind for readers advisory at the reference desk.



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Using The Tools At Hand

   July 15th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Chelmsford Volunteers logoA project we've been kicking around at my library for a long time is creating some kind of town-wide centralized volunteer listing. The library is a natural place for such a resource, but it's a big project.

To fill this need, we just launched ChelmsfordVolunteers.org. The end product was not really the goal we set out with - and I don't think it's the last version of the resource, either.

Originally, we wanted a tool that would list groups in the area that need volunteers, and also a calendar of upcoming events with volunteer opportunities. We also wanted the local organizations to be able to update their listing and event information themselves, without any library staff intervention.

As part of a grant, a local high school student explored a few different software options. We started with a WordPress version, then a Drupal version, then a WebCalendar version, but we kept running into the same problem: the tool did either the database part well, or the events calendar part well, but not both. Each solution also had other pros and cons, which is why we kept looking at different options.

The current iteration of volunteer listing actually uses two existing tools, which are combined under one domain name (chelmsfordvolunteers.org). From a single web page, we link to each tool, but tried to make it look like it was all integrated together.

The two tools are the Community Information database, which is run by the consortium and is (supposed to) list all non-profit groups in all communities of the consortium. I edited the records of the Chelmsford organizations to make sure they all had a reference to "volunteers," and these records provide all the contact information for the groups.

The other tool is the Calcium Calendar from Brown Bear. The library has been using this as our main events calendar for years, so it was easy to set up another one just for volunteer events.

Between these two tools, we've got both an events listing and an organizations database, although they are not connected. Using Comm Info is nice in that we don't need to maintain two records for each organizations, but we are limited at the same time to only non-profit groups - which excludes some hospitals and other businesses that offer volunteer opportunities.

Another drawback of the current setup is that the organizations do not have direct access to update their information and events. We set up two web forms to handle submissions and updates, but it's an extra layer and more of a hassle for everyone involved than it needs to be.

But it works, and it's better than nothing until we find the ideal solution. So if anyone knows of a tool that will fill this need, or another library doing something similar, I would appreciate hearing about it.



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