Goin mobile: VCU Libraries' mobile study room reservation system
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Goin mobile: VCU Libraries' mobile study room reservation system



In the fall of 2010, Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University implemented on online group study room booking system which eliminates the requirement for access services staff intervention, ...

In the fall of 2010, Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University implemented on online group study room booking system which eliminates the requirement for access services staff intervention, and allows students to easily reserve space for their collaborative needs. These 30 rooms are never locked; patrons self-enforce the rules; and everyone has the chance to reserve space up to two weeks in advance, using a helpful calendar interface which shows an image of the room, lists the equipment available, and how many seats are provided (from 2 - 10). Students love it and staff appreciate not having to mediate the competing needs of our patrons. This open source system was developed by Ball State University Libraries, and our library IT folks added some improvements to fit our preferences. Our Web Applications Developer, Erin White, and her team created a mobile version of this reservation system which was made available in the spring of 2011; available to view at m.library.vcu.edu (choose study rooms at either Cabell Library or Tompkins-McCaw Library).
This presentation was given at the ALA Annual Conference held in Anaheim, CA, on July 24, 2012, as part of the session "FEAST: Future and Emerging Public Access Trends" (sponsored by LLAMA-SASS).



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  • Some background:Two years ago, James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University was bursting at the seams. We had originally been built in the 1970s to house up to a million volumes, and to serve a student population of less than 20,000. In 2010, we were nearing our 2 millionth volume, and serving more than 30,000 students. Our Provost was able to help out, by giving us one-time funding for a project which would have immediate impact on student success – our project was to remove all the bound journals from the second floor of our 4 story library and create a collaborative environment for student work in that space. We created 12 new group study rooms, bringing the total of study rooms in our library to 27.
  • We had anticipated student demand for these study spaces, and looked at options for allowing students to reserve the space they needed. We had already created one room, a practice presentation studio, which students could book through our ILS, but the interface was awkward and it would not scale up to this level of use. We did not want to check out keys to our patrons, nor charge overdue fines, or really, have staff involved in any way, if possible. What we found was a system developed by Ball State University Library called OpenRoom. It fit all our needs and our small but powerful Library Information Systems department was willing to give it a try. I have only one bit of technical information to share, since I’m more comfortable with the public services side of this implementation. OpenRoom uses a “lamp stack”. Linux box (or operating system), Apache server, MySql database, and PHP programming. For more details, contact my colleague in crime, Erin White at erwhite@vcu.eduWe customized the OpenRoom open source program a bit and hit the ground running at the beginning of the fall semester, 2010 with our online study room reservation system. Like ducks to water, our students jumped right in.
  • We implemented our web version of the reservation system in the fall of 2010. Just six months later, in the spring of 2011,our team had created a mobile version of the reservation site, with a much friendlier interface. Although the old-fashioned website requires authentication prior to searching for a room, the mobile version does not, so feel free to join me as I walk through the options. Address is m.library.vcu.edu, and I’ll be using the James Branch Cabell Library “study rooms” button.
  • The room search defaults to finding a room “right now”, and gives options for how long a user wants a room, and how many people are in the group. All of our study room specs are loaded into the database, which helps students find just what they need. Out of the box, OpenRoom supports libraries' weird business rules, specifically restrictions on length and frequency of reservations and changing building hours. People seem incredulous when we tell them this; kudos to Ball State! We chose to allow patrons to have 3 reservations in a 7 day period, up to 2 hours at a time (in 30 minute increments) and up to 14 days in advance.
  • If a patron is looking for a room for a date in the future, it’s easy to choose a specific date, and to change the time, using nice app-like features.
  • Once the user has made a choice, they will see the equipment details of the room and have the choice to reserve it, or scroll down to other available rooms.
  • At this point, users are prompted to log in with their VCU eID. Our Library Information Systems head worked with campus IT to get the CAS logon screenoptimized for mobile, which helps usability a whole lot.
  • Voila, reservation accomplished. An email confirmation is automatically sent to the patron, reminding them of the date, time, and room. It also includes the reminder that if they do not arrive to claim the room they have reserved within 15 minutes of the start time, the reservation will be forfeited, and the room will be available to any group which cares to use it.
  • Just for comparison, this is what the desktop version of the website looks like, after a patron is authenticated (at the very beginning of the process, after landing on “library.vcu.edu/rooms/”. All our rooms are laid out in a grid format, with each room a different column, and each row a half hour block of time. You will notice that the day begins at midnight ; we were unable to customize this, and I think our users have just gotten used to it. Keygreen box indicates a room that it open and availablegreyed out box indicates library building closed timesred X marks a reservation made by someone elseyellow check mark indicates your reservation (we chose yellow/gold because it is one of our school colors; it also works well thematically with the green and red icons we chose for the other status indicators)As the mouse moves across the columns, the image on the left will change to show each room, with its equipment and size. Each floor of the building has its own tab, and the calendar allows for easy jumping to different dates.
  • A “bingo” is what we call it when every room has been reserved at the same time – as you can see, it’s not hard to accomplish :o) Statistics from launch day on 9/7/2010 to end of FY 6/30/2011: total reservations:35,265 unique users:6,648 repeat users:4761 (71.6% of all users) average reservations/user:5.3 total #s in groups: 112,240 average group size: 3.2 number of bingos (half-hour segments in which all rooms were booked):425 (approximate) mobile reservations: 504 (from implementation on 3/31 to 6/30)
  • Thanks to Paul and LLAMA-SASS for giving me the opportunity to talk about this program. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at mtdohert@vcu.edu. If your questions are more technical than policy or procedure, I will most likely direct you to my colleague Erin White, Web Applications Developer at VCU Libraries, at erwhite@vcu.edu.

Goin mobile: VCU Libraries' mobile study room reservation system Goin mobile: VCU Libraries' mobile study room reservation system Document Transcript

  • Goin’ Mobile VCU Libraries’ groupstudy room reservation system, available for mobile devicesTeresa Doherty :: mtdohert@vcu.edu
  • Problem: 27 study rooms inone library; “first-come,first-served” doesn’t workSolution: implementOpenRoom, developed byBall State UniversityLibrary, an online groupstudy room reservationsystem created especiallyto meet library needs
  • Mobile site
  • Right now?
  • A different day?
  • Here’s a good room
  • Gotta get authenticated
  • Done
  • Room grid, web version
  • Bingo!
  • Questions?VCU Libraries’ mobile version ofthe OpenRoom online studyroom reservation system wasdeveloped by our in-housestaff, especially my colleagueErin White (erwhite@vcu.edu).mtdohert@vcu.edu