Operations and Outreach - Fall 2022 report | January | 2023 | Blog | Gottesman Libraries | Teachers College, Columbia University (2023)

Fall 2022 - Operations and Web Services and Systems Report

The Gottesman Libraries and, more specifically, the Operations and Outreach team, welcome Tim Conley, Web Services and Systems Librarian, in October 2022. This is a new position that was created to oversee the library’s online presence, to manage the software that supports the library services, to support the Library Management System administrator and to develop user assessments and usability studies to help the librarians plan how to better serve patrons. Tim is off to a wonderful start with the publication of the library’s first newsletter.

What follows is our team's first report.



  • Prepared and submitted application for the 2022-23 CCDA grant from NY State and the library received $10,140 for library acquisitions.
  • Prepared the virtual (email, phone, duo account, network id, Banner access, etc.) and physical space to receive Ralph Baylor, Head of Reference and User Experience Librarian and Tim Conley, Web Services and Systems Librarian. Both started on 10/19/2022.
  • After conversations with Human Resources strategizing about a vacant position in the Technical Services Unit, the Library Assistant position was revised and posted. Once the finalists were selected, participated in interviews and provided feedback to the hiring manager. Conducted the reference checks for the finalist.
  • Prepared the virtual and physical space for Tresha Antoine, the new Library Assistant.
  • Paid 87 invoices for a total of $480,052.00. Aiming to include all of the library units in budget planning so that their needs are collected and considered going forward.
  • Provided the Budget Office with the first of three expense projections requested.
  • Monthly reconciliation of the P-card.
  • Coordinated assistance with the College’s Carpenter Team to install and de-install two art exhibits in the Offit Gallery. The team provided invaluable assistance to the Lead Designer and the Art & Design Library Associate.
  • Assisted the Technical Services Unit with restructuring and organizing their work space.
  • Continue to support LibCal-Spaces. Manage the requests for reservations of RH 305/RH 306, and the inquiries and requests for reservations from the executive offices. See Room Reservations statistics at the end of this report.
  • Worked with the Office of the General Counsel and the Office of Financial Aid to prepare award letters and process award payments for the 2022 Myers Art commissions.
  • Started a conversation with the Office of the Controller and the General Counsel Office to find a solution on how to pay awards to students.
  • Continued decluttering the storage rooms and reorganizing the space usage


  • The Media Services team finished installing new video conferencing equipment in 11 of the library’s meeting rooms. The equipment consists of an external camera for video conferencing and a Sharelink box that allows the user to connect wirelessly to the large monitor in the room. Also, in the four small meeting rooms located on the third floor, new monitors were hung from the wall. To help patrons use the new equipment, instructions on using the equipment were prepared and made accessible through the room reservation webpage.
  • Coordinated meetings with three vendors - Traf-sys, Occuspace and V-count - to find the product that best fit the Gottesman Libraries for counting patrons. See more information under the Web Services and Systems Report.
  • Continue to support the website by keeping the “Our Staff” webpage up to date and addressing any questions or problems that come up.
  • Last year, after IT upgraded the Mac Minis supporting the e-boards, we regained access to the e-boards via the ServiceNow Desk. Created a Google slide presentation displaying the flyers about upcoming events and used the presentation in the e-boards. However, the slide presentation needed to be refreshed on average a few times per week and that meant submitting a ticket to have IT refreshed the slide presentation. To gain some control over the seven e-boards we requested access to the software used by IT.The library received approval to use the software and we purchased a Splashtop license. Now that we have access to all of the e-boards, we are planning to diversify what is displayed on the e-boards.
  • In an effort to bring the “library” to the community, we requested access to Marketing Cloud, the software used by college offices to distribute newsletters to their stakeholders. We started to familiarize ourselves with the software and to talk about the contents of the newsletter.
  • Discovered an issue with LibCal Room Reservation module - the system was allowing CU and Barnard students to reserve meeting rooms even though the login system was defined to only allow access to the TC community. Reported the problem to IT and found a workaround to keep the number of these reservations to a minimum until the login system is fixed.

Professional Development

  • Accelerators – 6 Critical Practices for Managing a Team, training offered by Columbia University’s Human Resources - Learning and Development Group on how to establish best practices when working in a team. The 6 critical practices that were covered: mindset, one on ones, feedback, getting results, change, and time management.
  • Understanding your LibCal Data, offered by Springshare

Web Services and Systems Report

The Systems at a Glance

The Fall 2022 semester was a transitional period for the Gottesman Web Services team, as the principal role of Web Services & Systems Librarian was unfilled until the arrival of Tim Conley in mid-October. Upon the formation of the team, work immediately began to gain an understanding of the library’s current systems in place, as well as the relationships among those systems.

The library’s cataloging, ordering, fulfillment, and circulation of materials are all conducted through Alma, an Ex Libris product. Within Alma is Leganto, a subsystem also made by Ex Libris to designate course reserves. Alma’s catalog of materials, including these reserves, is displayed to patrons through EduCat+, a Teachers College branded iteration of Primo VE, Ex Libris discovery-product. Patrons interact with EduCat+ through the library’s website, which is governed by a content management system called Terminalfour. Librarians use Terminalfour to author blog posts, news items, and event listings which also display on the site. Not all of what is seen on the site is written in Terminalfour, however: self-bookable rooms – a valuable commodity at Gottesman – are governed through LibCal, the library’s hours and space management platform. Furthermore, the site boasts an “Ask Us” platform where most of Gottesman’s reference is conducted, and it is powered by Freshworks. (Users also access Freshworks through its chat module, which is administered by library associates.) Finally, the library’s digital assets are stored and accessed through PocketKnowledge, a homegrown proprietary system. The library is migrating from that system to Alma Digital, another Ex Libris product designed to manage digital assets by way of their interface, which is already familiar to Gottesman staff.

Clearly, the library’s systems are an important bridge for library business. Therefore, ensuring that Tim be certified as an administrator of both Primo and Alma was a high priority, and his certifications were issued by the end of the semester.

Despite the robustness of the technology complement at Gottesman, lacunae still persis: there is a lack of a gate entry counting system; the workflow for managing RSVPs is inefficient and vulnerable to mishandling; and the space management system suffers from misuse by uncredentialed users from the larger Columbia University ecosystem. Addressing those deficits were the principal tasks of the Web Services & Systems Librarian in October and November.

Digital Upgrades for Physical Libraries

The team researched a variety of people counting systems and performed a comparative analysis of prices and features of different hardware and software in the industry. Before long, the team had narrowed their consideration to three vendors, and met with each to have the products demonstrated. Ultimately, the team selected a product called Occuspace, which boasts a clear-cut pricing model, easy installation, and the added ability of leveraging its occupancy data with public-facing APIs. The team envisions using these features to help inform patrons of the availability of space in the library, and to help the library plan around peak activity periods. Installation of the platform is anticipated for the Fall ’23 semester.

The library routinely faces two versions of the same problem with its study spaces: Teachers College students are unable to use them because they become occupied by Columbia students early in the day. One version of this problem is readily apparent when one moves from floor to floor around midday on a Wednesday or Thursday of most weeks: virtually every chair, table and surface is occupied by a student. This is not a problem in-and-of-itself: the library’s space is a valuable and useful commodity to its patrons. However, there are several libraries on the Columbia campus intended to serve those students, and the Gottesman Libraries’ prized assets ought to be reserved for TC students. Because of the congestion, many go without.

The other version of this problem is less readily apparent. The library’s ten bookable study rooms are reservable through the library’s LibCal app, which is accessed on the library’s website. Although the library’s LibCal is configured to only accept bookings from Teachers College students, faculty and staff, library staff has been finding that CU students are able to complete bookings, a problem that confounded internal and vendor staff. The IT staff are currently working on a new login system that will prevent non-affiliates from logging into LibCal and reserving rooms.

In order to address both of the above problems, the library needed to explore ways to refine its booking strategy. Fortunately, LibCal’s vendor Springshare provided a prospective solution: a booking system for every seat throughout the library to mirror the room reservation system. This product is called Seats, and it operates very similarly to room reservations: one picks a seat on one of the three floors and reserves it without any need for mediation from library staff.

Parallel to the Seats system, the library also began exploring a product offered by Springshare called Interactive Maps, which – just as its name suggests – offers users the ability to see where bookable spaces and seats are located in the building through a clickable visualization.

In adopting Seats, the library ought to be able to preserve space for Teachers College students, especially during boom periods such as finals week. It is believed that with the addition of Maps and Occuspace that users will be able to fine-tune their space needs to the availability of it displayed online. The library anticipates the adoption of all three products in Fall ’23.

Making Events Make Sense

Interestingly, Springshare’s LibCal would ultimately provide a solution to the library’s RSVP problem, as well. Prior to it, the library had been using its Freshworks ticketing platform as its registration system for events. This posed a problem because of the high degree of use of that platform: Freshworks had also served as the principal reference channel for the library, as well as the central route for all communications to and from all parties. This meant that event organizers had to sort through hundreds of tickets in order to find and contact the registrants for their events, lending itself to a high degree of user error. Furthermore, statistics for event attendance were unavailable without significant manipulation.

Upgrading to LibCal was an easy choice: the library already subscribed to LibCal to manage its public hours configuration, so using Events would come at no additional cost, and the creation of events required staff to simply copy content from pre-existing event listings in the TerminalFour content management system. (At the time the discussion began, there were already several upcoming events on the calendar.) The team tested the LibCal configuration with a reference workshop in December, and found almost immediately that having the list of registrants visible to event staff made managing the event easier. Event staff also agreed that mass emailing capabilities programmed into the LibCal interface were an irreplaceable feature. LibCal continues to be the preferred event registration platform, and continues to be used in the Spring semester. The team anticipates one day programming the events interface to populate automatically in TerminalFour events shells, which would reduce clicks for the user while still remaining visible on the campus calendar. Work has already begun to prepare a simpler, more brand-focused iteration of the stock LibCal event page layout.

Expanding Resources

In addition to answering to the above problems faced by Gottesman, the Web Services team also worked on the library’s LibGuides collection through two projects. The first project was to work with the Technical Services team to implement an import profile in Alma that would make the LibGuides findable in EduCat+ like other items and resources. Tasks on the project included researching problems with the import profile and addressing concerns about the appearance of the web resource in the catalog, which were each addressed before the end of the semester. The second project was to make the LibGuides themselves conform more closely to College branding by re-writing the LibGuides’ style code. That project continues into the present, and the import profile for viewing LibGuides in EduCat+ is expected to be activated sometime in the Spring Semester.

All the News That Fits

Finally, the Web Services team was charged in November with developing a newsletter aimed at the TC Community to introduce Gottesman’s services, events, and opportunities. The newsletter would be a curated selection of items from the library’s news roll and blog posts, as well as event listings and contributions from the librarians.

Work began by investigating Marketing Cloud, the platform for issuing college-wide email and SMS communications. Various departments had already been using Marketing Cloud, so not only did Gottesman have the support of a well-versed community of end users, but also a wide assortment of examples in our own inboxes. After meeting with the Marketing Cloud administrator, the team began assembling a template for future newsletters. The idea at this stage was to issue a newsletter monthly that could be built around layout blocks, which would allow us to simply plug content into a pre-existing template. From there, we sketched what such a schedule of content would look like: a fixed slate of introductory notes and events every month, and the occasional appearance of sections on archival collections, research and reference news, and new acquisitions.

Much of the newsletter’s content would not come to fruition until the first two weeks of the new year, after the Fall semester had already ended, but once that content emerged, it was clear that our expectations of the process would need to be fully re-calibrated for a monthly content delivery. Even so, with the first issue published, the team looks forward to analyzing the traffic the product may have generated and bracketing that knowledge with future issues and other digital products.

Information about the Self-Bookable meeting rooms

from 9/6/2022 to 12/23/2022

Reservations Summary

Average Reservation
Duration (minutes)

Most popular hours, per day

Day of
the week


Most Popular

# of reservations
at most popular hour


12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

2 p.m.



11 a.m. to 5 p.m.




11 a.m. to 5 p.m.




12 p.m. to 5 p.m.




2 p.m. to 4 p.m.




1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

2p.m. and 3p.m.

Tied at 126


2 p.m. to 8 p.m.



The Self-bookable rooms were booked 87.5% of the available time.

Tuesday is the day of the week with highest percentage of occupancy - 92.09%

Monday had 100% occupancy from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Rooms 202 and 303 had the most reservations, tied at 610.

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