Column Description: A discussion of the development of the integrated public library system and other technology used in the library today


The point of this column is to help libraries make the best technology decisions for their community and staff. The obvious first topic given where we are as a planet is curbside resources. Originally, I was planning on covering the various curbside products that are available for libraries to use, in one column. However, I now believe that two columns would be of greater benefit. Here are the products I am going to write about across both columns.

  • MyLibro (My library uses this resource)
  • OCLC Capira – Capira technologies now owned by OCLC
  • Communico – Founded and Owned by Paul Qulech
  • Unique – from Unique Management Services
  • Sodus 

At the bottom of this column is an excel spreadsheet that compares the products by functionality. I will post next to the product name a rating 1 to 10 the latter being rock star quality. This is my very subjective rating.  All of the products under review use the same basic workflow. Patron searches for title, places hold, staff trap the hold and the ils notifies patrons that hold is ready. The difference between the various resources is there an app involved or a website? Secondly, how integrated is the product to the ILS? Anything that I list with particular respect to MyLibro is my personal experience, if it’s a criticism it may be a result of my library choosing not to implement a partcular feature. Please speak to your sales rep and ask specific questions preferably and for your benefit ask questions that require a YES or NO answer.


7/10 - Mylibro

As stated above my library uses MyLibro to manage our curbside pickups a well as browsing/PC reservation. Overall I like this product. There are a few quirks that are bothersome but overall it’s easy to use and deeply integrated to our ILS.

Patron View
This is an app that patrons use to find materials, place a hold and schedule/manage pick up appointments. Further patrons, can tell staff when they are on the way and have arrived at the library. As well as the spot they are parked in. All within the Mylibro app. Patrons do not have to use the mylibro app to place a hold, schedule a pickup appointment or book a PC /browsing.  Typically what happens (in my library) is that a patron places the hold request via the OPAC, by calling reference staff, or the MyLibro app. Then the patron is notified via the ILS that a hold is available and they call the library to schedule an appointment.

From the patron side the Mylibro app integrates with the library ILS (in our case Polaris) extremely well. The entire process of placing a hold can be done outside of the ILS. 

As you can see form the screen shot Patrons can search manage their account schedule a pickup as well as schedule an in-person library visit.  Search the library collections can be done by Keyword, Title, Author and Subject. Once the material is displayed patrons can further narrow the search by selecting format, audio, book, digital book others. Finally patrons can select if they want to search a specific branch or the entire system. 

Under My Account Patrons have the options listed below. One of the more interesting features that MyLibro offers is that the app will speak to you.  If you click on List Hold the app says to you “you have X items on hold what else can I do for you.”

When scheduling a pick up or in person appointment MyLibro gives you the option of selecting the location (I wish it would default to my home library) indicate if this is a PC or browsing appointment and then the patron selects the day and time of the appointment, only those available will display. Patrons can add a note to the staff as well as add the appointment to my mobile device’s calendar.  Here patron can also modify the appointment should they need to change the day or time.

 

Staff View
Patrons arrive at the library, call the library and staff brings out their out. Our library did put up two signs that indicate this parking spot is for hold pick up with the appropriate information to notify staff that you are at the library. Overall, the staff view/ workflow is pretty simple.  Patrons schedule and show up.  Typically, our patrons call to schedule and do not use the app I believe that is a function of the demographics of my branches patrons rather than a commentary on the app’s ease of use. A patron calls asked for a time/appointment we click schedule a X then input their name and or barcode this is up to the staff member. Select date and time they want, At this point I confirm the appointment and let them go about their day.

Behind the scenes there is a drop down to select the date and time and then I copy the patron name and go into the ILS, search for and bring up their record in the checkout screen and then check out the materials to the patron. I then copy the patron barcode and paste it back into My Libro appointment work form.  This last step is not required but some information has to be input into the patron barcode field in the MyLibro work form. Some colleagues input automobile information. 


My nitpicking with the above is I believe that MyLibro should have SIP integration with the ILS so that I can input the patron’s barcode and MyLibro should auto-populate the patrons name etc. Also in order to see all the available times, I need to click, every time, a box to see a complete list of times. Also if I accidently select a resource appointment I cannot change it to a hold pick up, the opposite is also true, and this was more of an issue at the beginning than recently. Staff can view all upcoming appointments as well as change the status i.e. in process, ready completed.

As you can see from the spreadsheet Mylibro provides usage reports, which are helpful for discovering the busy times where staff levels may want to be adjusted.    

 

8/10 - OCLC Capira

In addition to attending several webinars and speaking with Capira employees I spoke with a library that uses Capira Curbside. This product is available both as part of the Capira mobile app and a separate stand-alone web product. The library that I spoke to uses the Capira mobile app so they felt the choice to use Capira curbside was pretty easy.  I have broken down there feedback under positive and negative.

Positive

  • I'd say for the public the product is very user friendly.  
  • We get very few complaints/questions from users having difficulty--most confusion has stemmed from when we over complicated matters ourselves by overdoing it in the free text instructional sections when trying to describe particular locations' setups :)  
  • The staff appointment module is also working well for staff--they can view all their upcoming appointments, mark when they have them packed up, and mark appointments completed when they are done.  Capira added greater flexibility for staff to be able to insert appointments on the fly, which has been a big help.  
  • As an administrator it's very easy to go in and change settings for locations and see the systemwide analytics/appointments all in one place.  Setting up new locations is quick and easy. 
  • Negative 
  • Probably the biggest annoyance on the staff side is that appointments cannot be edited to a different timeslot--if a user calls to rebook staff must cancel the original appointment and start over.  However, Capira has told us that edit appointment functionality will be included in an upcoming release, so that hopefully won't be an issue much longer.
  • One minor annoyance on the patron side is that since Capira is built to accommodate libraries that do both walk up and bringing the materials out to the car there are a few mentions of "vehicle" in the boilerplate that we can't get to completely disappear (we do walk up only.)  We're hoping that goes away in a future release, but hasn't really confused users too much as far as we can tell.

Final Comments
The main feature on my wish list is the ability to cancel appointments and generate a notice to users (like if a facility has to unexpectedly close.)  The appointment report output we can get is nice and includes all the necessary info for staff to individually call/email users to cancel when they will be closed for a day or so, but when we've had a couple of multi-day closures at busy branches we ended up having to get the appointment report output and dumping it in our mass mailer email program to notify users.  Not the end of the world, but I'm hoping that functionality will be built in eventually.


Overall Capira Curbside is working quite well for us. MyLibro and Capira both have positives and negatives, nothing is perfect. They both seem like they would work pretty well for a library offering curbside.


Terry Morris has his MLS from the State University of New York at Buffalo, after graduating in the summer of 1997 he moved to Syracuse to work for Gaylord Information Systems as implementation, training, and support manager. After 3 years he moved into Polaris Sales Support and then finally became a Polaris Account Manager. He worked in every corner of the United States except the North East. After 15 years with Polaris Terry moved over to Bibliotheca to try his hand at RFID sales where he made the largest sale of his career! The last vendor Terry worked for was GALE. Terry has nothing bad to say about GALE except as a technology guy he was bored selling databases. An opportunity arose at the Northern Onondaga Public Library to become a substitute librarian, soon after there was a need for a teen librarian and currently, Terry is an Adult librarian.