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


Reference Question of the Week – 2/28/10

   March 6th, 2010 Brian Herzog

catapultI only got involved with this towards the end, but in plenty of time for the punch line. A woman called in to reserve a meeting room for later that day, and during the process, apparently she asked:

Can the ceilings of any of your meeting rooms be raised?

I didn't hear about this until the next day, but it should have been a tip-off that trouble lay ahead. However, she was told there was an available room, and she would need to fill out our online reservation form to reserve it.

That night the woman came in with her group, which is when I got involved. It turns out she never did actually reserve a room, but just showed up expecting one. All our rooms were in use by then, so after much scrambling around trying to find an available space, I ended up dividing our large meeting room with the movable wall - then I went back downstairs to the Reference Desk feeling satisfied about accommodating a patron's request.

About ten minutes later, the Children's Librarian came down to see me. Our Children's Room is right next to the meeting room, so she can often hear what's going on in there, even at moderate noise levels. I thought she was going to commiserate about our online room booking system or not having enough meeting space to meet community demand, but instead she asked:

Did you tell that group they could use a catapult?

Ha. Apparently, this group was a school group, and for a science project they built and are experimenting with a catapult. It wasn't quiet as large as the one in the picture, but still it was too big, too loud, and too dangerous for us to let them use it in the library. I'm actually a little bit in awe of them for apparently thinking it would be perfectly okay.

Now, you know I like medieval siege weapons, but perhaps this is a good rule of thumb: if the library's ceiling is too low to do something, then that is something you cannot do in the library.



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Museum Pass Software

   March 20th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Plymouth Rocket logoMy library is in the process of changing over to a new software package to manage our museum passes. I don't know about other libraries, but the museum passes we provide to patrons (which actually are all paid for by our Friends group) are many, and are very popular.

For about the two years, we've been using Library Insight's product, which for the most part worked very well. Their interface was clean and simple, and, as far as I know, the software overall was pretty stable.

But, it is also fairly expensive and not very flexible. Museum passes vary greatly in requirements, and the limitations of the software prohibited us from doing some of what we wanted to do. We approached the vendor on a few different occasions, but they never seemed all that open to modifications.

So, we're switching to Plymouth Rocket's TixKeeper software. We visited their booth at the last NELA show, and have been in touch with them over the last few months, waiting to launch until our Library Insight contract expired.

And as far as being in contact with them, they have been great. Their interface (demo mode) is very different than what we (and our patrons) were used to, but they've been very accommodating in listening to us and suggesting areas that could be modified. I just had a phone training session with their Customer Service manager, and even though we go live on April 1st (just two weeks), she is still willing to tweak things based on our questions.

As I said, their interface is a little different. After their first demo sales call, I created a very basic side-by-side comparison [pdf] of the two systems, showing the different screens a patron would see in each to accomplish the same thing. TixKeeper took almost twice as many screens to reserve a pass, which I did not like. In response, Ric Bailey (Plymouth Rocket's president and lead developer) streamlined the reservation process and cut out some of the unnecessary steps - now that is fantastic customer service.

And TixKeeper is just one product Plymouth Rocket offers. Their two other products, EventKeeper and EKRooms, are also packages we're considering adopting. EventKeeper is an online events calendar, and EKRooms is an online meeting room reservation system.

The beauty of their software is that if you have all three, they work together in an integrated way. Plus, they allow more functionality than our current systems. We have an events calendar, which is functional, but basic. Something I liked about EventKeeper is that it allows RSS streaming of events. And EKRooms would be a huge upgrade for us, considering we still book all our meetings rooms using a paper-based system. EKRooms allows patrons to initiate the process themselves, via our website, which will cut down dramatically on staff time spent managing the room reservations.

But the best part, as far as the budget is concerned, is that we can get all three of these packages for just about the same cost as Library Insight. We decided to go ahead with TixKeeper and hold off on the other two for now, just so we can get them working one by one, rather than trying to get everything set up all at once.

I think Plymouth Rocket has been around for awhile, and is currently working with over 700 organizations (libraries, towns, churches, etc.) in 38 states. I cannot emphasize enough how pleasant and accommodating their staff has been so far in the process, so if anyone is looking for web-enabled museum pass, event calendar or meeting room software, I would recommended checking them out.

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