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Volume 9 Issue 3 Spring 2009(1)

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Reserve a Group Study Room Online

by Jennifer McCabe and Jennifer Keach

Wouldn’t it be great to reserve a room ahead of time for your study group to practice your presentation or work together viewing data on a large screen?  Now you can, with the new Book a Group Study web application available on the Libraries’ web page Quick Links.ECL Group Study Room

Group study rooms are one of the prime features of the new East Campus Library.  The building offers 45 of them, all of which are equipped with white boards and wireless internet access.  In addition, nine of ECL’s group study rooms have large flat-panel LCD screens that can be connected to laptop computers to display and practice presentations.  The group study rooms have proved so popular, in fact, that ECL is putting some new policies and reservation tools in place to make the rooms more accessible to groups.

Staff at ECL conducted a survey last semester, and found that most users expressed great satisfaction with the building, citing its beautiful views, comfortable furniture, collections, and friendly staff as reasons for their visits.  Many users also listed the group study rooms as their favorite place in the library, but group study rooms also surfaced as an area for potential improvement.  Specifically, users asked repeatedly for stronger enforcement of the “two to a room” policy, noting their frustration with seeing single individuals using the rooms. Carrier Library staff also reported that group study rooms there were often used by single users rather than groups. This feedback from students in the surveys, the popularity of all the group studies in both buildings, and a new web application for booking group studies prompted us to make some changes.

To increase the availability of ECL’s group study rooms with flat panel screens, Libraries & Educational Technologies’ Digital Services unit has developed a new web application that members of the JMU community can use to book these rooms in advance.  With the Book a Group Study web application, booking a room is as easy as going to the nearest computer workstation or your laptop and picking a room, day and time.

Book a Group Study screenshot

To maximize the availability of the rooms, the application places certain parameters on reserving a room:

Library staff created the Book a Group Study application specifically to support this new service.  With the features we wanted in mind, we evaluated commercial and open source software options that are already out there. Among our highest priorities was to make sure that:

We also wanted to be sure that the behind-the-scenes options for library staff were easy to use.

Book a Group Study floorplans screen

In the end, we decided that creating the web application ourselves would give us all we wanted and would be less expensive than our top candidates. Greg Spitzer, Library Systems Developer, and Harper Holsinger, Web Specialist, with Jennifer Keach as project manager, created our new Book a Group Study web application. The new application was programmed in ASP.NET with Visual Basic and uses SQL Server databases behind-the-scenes. It has all the features on our wish list, plus users can browse for group studies by building floor plans, and see when the buildings are closed. In addition to the nine rooms in ECL, we plan to add bookable group study rooms in Carrier Library (three group study rooms in Carrier will be equipped with flat-panel LCD screens in the near future).

If you are a JMU student, faculty or staff member, you can log in right now and try it out.  On the East Campus Library website, look for the Book a Group Study logo.

The remaining group study rooms in the ECL and all the group study rooms in Carrier Library for now continue to be on a first-come, first-served  basis.  They can be used by groups of two or more users without prior reservation and are available for use by any library user.  The library reserves the right for any of the group studies--bookable and first-come, first-served--to ask groups to leave if they are exhibiting inappropriate, loud, or disruptive behavior, or if they are using the rooms for commercial purposes.

The “two or more” users policy is now being enforced by library staff.  Staff may ask individuals occupying group study rooms by themselves to leave.  Likewise, we encourage groups who observe individuals in group study rooms alone to seek assistance from library staff in enforcing the group study room policies.  It is important to remember that depositing their belongings (backpacks, coats, text-books, etc.) in a group study room does not “reserve” that room.  Personal possessions left in group study rooms are vulnerable to theft and vandalism, and subject to removal by library staff.

We plan to continue to monitor group study room use closely, to identify additional issues related to reserving rooms, and to assure that equal access is available to all library users.  Our mission is to enable people to connect to ideas and each other to discover, create, and share knowledge.  Group study rooms are one place where those valuable connections are made.


Reba Leiding and Johlene Hess, Editors

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