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

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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