Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ask the Masses: Info Lit Instruction Schedules

Anne Marie asks:

I'm wondering how, at the program level, various institutions organize library instruction schedules. Currently we have a master spreadsheet with all library instruction sessions listed (day, date, time, course #, section #, instructor, librarian, location, assistants if any, and short notes/content).

This is replicated, for sessions held in the library instruction computer lab, in Outlook, with appointments sent to assigned librarians for those sessions (we meet periodically to divvy out all the Core/gen ed sessions & librarians take others in their liaison areas). We need to be able to see all sessions in one place (spreadsheet) as well as manage the room we administer (Outlook room calendar).

We have done it this way for a long time as the program has grown significantly, with now about 500 sessions per year, and I'm wondering if this is still the best way. Any ideas for improving and perhaps streamlining our process?

Share your answers/observations/experiences in the comments section below!


  1. I think your library is in a very unique situation, Anne Marie! It’s incredible to be providing that many IL sessions at a small, private institution, and I know how tricky that type of scheduling can be. There are so many different factors to consider. Right now the institution where I work provides about 300 fewer sessions than you do...So we’re not exactly comparable, but I’ll share how we figure things out here anyway.

    In the summer we begin preparing for fall info lit sessions. We have a User Services and Instructional Design Librarian who serves as the central IL coordinator/scheduler. He puts out a message in the late summer (or later part of the fall semester for spring IL requests) to faculty encouraging them to begin scheduling one-shot IL sessions right away. He then adds the lab bookings on an Outlook shared calendar; sessions are confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis. As the semester grows nearer, the librarians meet to assign one-shot IL sessions. Anything that comes in after this meeting is typically assigned via email exchanges between the professor, the User Services and Instructional Design Librarian, and myself or the other two librarians.

    We also have faculty participating in the embedded librarian program (where we teach between 5-8 sessions with a particular course section) and we handle scheduling those multiple-session classes a little differently. Once embedded librarian/course assignments have been established the assigned librarian meets with the professor to develop a schedule. The assigned librarian then adds those sessions to the shared calendar (which can be viewed and edited by all staff). These sessions include ones that are taught in our library instruction lab, and when we travel to other labs & classrooms on campus.

    Because you have such an extensive IL program, you might consider examining how larger institutions from around the state schedule their IL. I have read about using Google Forms (rather than email) to collect instruction requests, but that doesn’t help with the actual scheduling and room reservation coordination.

    Anyone else have ideas or suggestions? How do you schedule your IL sessions?

  2. We also use Excel to collect all of the information about our instruction sessions. Last year, I designed a database with an interface in Access to serve this purpose, since I wanted to start collecting more data, but ultimately, we decided it wasn't worth the hassle. While I believe my database design was solid, the interface was kind of clunky, and I was concerned about preserving data integrity, since I often begin records and then go back and add or edit information after sessions are finished. We ended up sticking with Excel, but divided up our records by year, with a new sheet for each academic year. I also added pivot tables to automatically collect information we needed for annual reports (# of sessions, # and type of students, by semester and by year), which made things a little easier. However, we have a much smaller amount of instruction sessions each year. In your case, I wonder if there's a way to integrate Google forms (for scheduling -- both internal and external users could use the form to initially submit, then edit in the spreadsheet) and Google calendar. It would be worth checking into! Just let me know if you'd like to see the database I came up with.