The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for facilities such as university libraries to be able to monitor and control how many people enter a building, to ensure social distancing guidelines can be adhered to, and to keep staff and students safe.
Having worked with the University of Limerick to install access control at their Glucksman Library in 2014, the library recently got in touch to ask for our recommendation for tracking capacity management.
Telepen’s Barney Yabbacome, Account Manager (Midlands and North UK, NI and Eire), said,” The university wanted to offer an end-to-end booking system, which would allow students to reserve a specific space within the library online, and that would work with their existing Fastlane Glasswing turnstiles.”
“We had been using another room booking system within the library, but quickly found that we needed one that that could be linked with the gates in the library,” explained Mary Dundon, Head of Reader Services at the university.
Mary continues, “Not only did we need the system to integrate with the gates, but we also wanted students to have the ability to book specific seats within the library, so that should there be a Covid-19 case, we could pinpoint exactly where the student had sat and notify others where necessary.”
Telepen’s Juno StudyTime ™ software has been specifically designed for academic libraries, connecting with Fastlane turnstiles to ensure that only authorised users gain access to the facilities.
StudyTime ™ can be set up with different rules according on the facility’s requirements, such as limiting the length of a booking, or penalising users who fail to use their booking – a ‘no show’.
“Initially we didn’t have too many rules in place for the system”, Mary comments, “but after a third wave of Covid we had to limit the number of seats that were available in the library, we couldn’t have students just casually not turning up or not cancelling.”
The ‘no show’ feature has been very beneficial for the library, as a way of deterring students from making bookings and not using them. If a student makes a booking, but doesn’t use or cancel it in advance, after their second consecutive ‘no-show’, the student receives a seven-day ban from the system. “Since using StudyTime ™ cancellations have being going up and ‘no shows’ are coming down, which is brilliant.” Mary says, “We know the students like using the system too, it’s very intuitive.”
During the pandemic, the library has been one of the few places on campus where students can come in and sit down, so adhering to strict health and safety guidelines is critical. Through using the StudyTime ™ system with the turnstiles, the library has been able to gather statistics and report on how many people are coming in and out of the library, or not arriving for their dedicated time slot. “It allows us to demonstrate how many seats we have available and whether we are at capacity.” Louise O’Shea, Administration Librarian, comments.
There have been clear advantages of having the seat booking system in place during the pandemic, but it will also be an invaluable tool for when things return to ‘normal’. “Twice a year, as we come up to exam time, there are more students than seats in the library,” explains Louise, “Students might come into the library and claim a seat by leaving their bag or coat on a chair and go off to a lecture, causing frustration for other students unable to find a seat. Previously, students were employed to patrol the library, and any seat left unattended for a period would receive a note on the desk, and after an allotted period of time, the bag or coat removed and taken to reception. It’s hoped that this is something that we won’t need to do now we have the new booking system in place.”
Installation of the system was scheduled to take place over the summer break, so that it would be in place by the time students returned to the university in September. Due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, installation for the system was completed remotely. Barney Yabbacombe comments,” We worked very closely with the Systems team at the university to ensure the system would meet their requirements. It was all hands on deck our side to ensure the project was delivered within a tight timeframe.”
Commenting on the project overall, Louise says “We needed to get the system up and running quickly and Telepen were very responsive. The system really has made a difference in adding another level of security, both to students and us as staff.”
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