Friday, April 2, 2010

Libraries and Google Calender

Google calender is a top notch online calender with many powerful features (see overview). One of the most important feature is that libraries can offer library events as public google calenders, and users who add that to their google calenders can get free SMS reminders (this works worldwide!)  In this post, I will review how libraries have being using Google calender.

These uses include

(1) Embedding Google calender events in list view, or as calender views & allowing users to subscribe to these events using RSS, iCal or adding directly to Google Calender

(2) Linking the library management system to Google Calender, allowing users to receive sms alerts about personalised library events such as reminders of date due books, arrival of reserved books etc.

(3) Librarians setting up reminders of electronic resource renewals

(4) Other ideas?

1a Display library events using Google calender - display as list

The idea here is simple, you add library events to a Google calender then embed a widget on your page. The widget is pretty customizable but the main decision is whether to display news events in a list view or in a calender view. The former is done by choosing "agenda" as default view, see this

Here are some interesting examples.

This example from Scarborough Public Library  shows the most common way this is done.

Basically there is one calender and users can subscribe to this calender by clicking on the +Google Calendar which will add it to the user's Google Calender.

However chances are you might want to allow users the opportunity to choose between different categories of events to subscribe to.

The University of Mary Washington  seems to show only one calender, but when you click to subscribe, it shows you that what was actually one calender is actually made of multiple calenders, and you can choose to subscribe to one or all of them.

To do this, create multiple Google calendars for each class of event. Then Select the “Customise the color, size and other options” in the “Embed the Calendar” area.

 Then select multiple calenders to display

The last example is from Everette Public Library

This is a very nice design (home-brewed html for tabs), clicking on the tabs at the top allow users to look at different categories of events also in list/agenda view. A similar design with only 2 tabs can be found at Glencoe Public Library.

Users can subscribe to events in two ways.

Firstly similarly to the second example above by clicking on the +GoogleCalendar (on the bottom right) , allows the user to decide which if any of the calenders to subscribe to in their own google calendars.

Below the listing of events, the library also provides RSS feeds for those who prefer to subscribe that way.

 To be honest, I don't quite understand the system they set up. At the top of the calender they have 5 tabs, and when you click on the add google calender button you get to choose from 5 calenders.

But there seems to be 7 RSS feeds, and the color legend shows there are 7 categories?


1b Display library events using Google calender - display as calendar view 

You can of course choose the calender view as default view.  Libraries and Universities such as Franklin Public Library, Delaware State University have done so.

Typically if you list events this way, you can add a little link to a sign up register page. This can be linked to a Google docs form.

There isn't much more to say here, except DSU offers 3 different ways to subscribe to the calendar.

As can be seen above, each calender is offered as a RSS feed, a  google calendar button as well as a iCal button. The last allows the user to subscribe to events in any calendar software that supports ical, this includes Microsoft Outlook 2007, Lotus Notes, Yahoo Calender, even Facebook?

Of course, one is not limited to adding Google calenders to library homepages, librarians have added them to IGoogle pages, as well as to LibGuides (see instructions).

Individual librarians can also use this to display their own particular busy/free schedules for users who might want to arrange an appointment etc.

2. Linking personal library events (e.g. due dates of books borrowed) to Google calender

Adding general library events to calenders can be useful, but even better would be able to add personal library related events such as due dates of books. Doing this of course isn't easy, you will have to do some hacking to get your library management system to talk to Google calender using the Google calender API. Certainly this is beyond me.

But I found this page by the Hong Kong Institute of Education which provides a service where "users will receive a SMS alert when a book is due in 3 days, overdue, recalled or ready to pick up." As noted on the page , the user needs to create a Google calender account for this to work.

There isn't much more information about this beyond what is stated here.

 "We’re using Google Calendar to provide an SMS service to deliver library notices. Google Calendar allows for creating, editing and deleting events. These events are, in fact, our library email notices, generated from the library catalog and converted using the Google Calendar Data API. The API converts each notice “event” and constructs it as an SMS message, ready to be sent out. As with other online calendars, a specific time can be set to alert users of a forthcoming event.

Also see this conference paper (abstract only)

HongKong libraries seem to be quite advanced in this area, I also found one more example.

Like many libraries mentioned above using Google calender, the Hong Kong Baptist University library offers a library news events in ical format.  

But they go beyond this. As explained here , registered users can subscribe to a personal library calender, which lists events such as due dates of books, pick up of inter-library loans, booking of discussion rooms etc.

The detailed items borrowed are not displayed in calender, just generic information (e.g. 3 items due), see image below. 

                                            Source [HKBU MyLibrary help page]

While users can of course subscribe to this with any app that supports ical, Google calender is the logical choice (recommended by the library on their help page), as it allows the user to set up sms alerts! So with this setup, you get sms alerts of library events , such as date due of books.

Compared to the Hong Kong Institute of Education method, this doesn't directly use the Google Calender service and may actually be a superior method since users aren't locked into using just Google Calender, though Google calender users can still get SMS alerts.

3. Using Google Calendar as an Email Alert System for Electronic Resource Renewals

Librarians subscribe to many journals and need some way to keep track of renewal and payment dates. This article[PDF] suggests that for libraries without expensive Electronic Resource Management systems a clever way of handling this would be to use Google calender to set up reminders.

Other ideas?

Any other creative ideas ? How about using Google calender to schedule and keep track of bookings of rooms or equipment? Though it seems Tungle etc  might do better? Jon Udell has written quite a bit on Calendar curation, though I admit I don't quite understand it yet.

This article here , suggests that Google calendar can be used for staff scheduling. Perhaps I don't quite understand but I'm not convinced. Say I'm setting up a roster for staff to man the desk. I can of course setup a calender to share with library staff the schedule , but if any library staff added the calender it would mess up their calender as it will contain all shifts, not just their own.

Anyone have any ideas?

Also one is not limited to Google calender for online calenders apps. Have any of you tried using 30 boxes? Or even event feeds in library facebook fan pages?

If you have any ideas please share in the comments!
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