Contributor GALINA VELGACH is an Editorial Assistant for the Public Library Association in Chicago. If any new library products have caught your eye lately, please contact Galina at gvelgach@ala .org. Galina is currently reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.
This issue of Public Libraries deals not only with confronting professional failings, but also with learning from them. This New Product News column features products and services that can help libraries improve on common shortcomings.
Internal Communication and Project Management
A shared pitfall for any business organization is a lack of effective communication or project oversight. Libraries are no different. Whether its revamping the marketing department or launching a new program or policy, librarians need to be productive and accountable to one another. These services offer focused and adaptable solutions for pervasive communication issues.
Wrike is an award-winning online collaboration platform with four customizable packages for different teams: marketing, creative, project management, and product development. Each package’s basic features allow teams to store and manage files; live edit and collaborate on files and documents; manage contacts and resources; organize schedules and timelines; and track deadlines, employee timesheets, and budgets. The platform is easy to tailor, widely used apps and services integrate seamlessly, and it syncs across devices.
The goal of the platform is to increase team productivity, transparency, and accountability; its adaptable scope makes it a good tool for individual departments to use, as well as for small-scale or short-term projects.
It is free for up to five users; $9.80/user/month up to fifteen users; or $24.80/ user/month up to twenty users.
Slack is a more targeted internal communication platform, organizable by both project and team. Staff can communicate through group and private messaging, as well as video and audio conference calls, and syncing across devices makes for effortless team-wide memos. Basic features include file sharing and file management, but one of its most notable elements is that every account is “mega-searchable,” so finding archived files and communications is simplified.
Slack enables teams to build up their account to suit individual projects and needs. In addition to the core features, the platform integrates with hundreds of free or inexpensive apps and extensions.
Slack claims to increase internal transparency and reduce (and improve) internal e-mails—in other words, each communication is more direct and effective from the start. Its streamlined format and extreme adaptability makes it ideal for small teams planning projects, events, and programs.
It is free for any sized team to use, stores ten thousand most recent messages, and offers 5GB of total storage; it costs $6–8/user/month for extended allowances.
Streamtime is a basic yet comprehensive management tool, usually used by small businesses but applicable to libraries. Easy-to-track employee timesheets, budgets, invoices, reports, and task managers facilitate team and project oversight.
Streamtime charges a flat $15/user/month rate but offers a two-week free trial.
A close work community and culture is essential for productive work days. Investing in these programs and services can be the key to fostering and maintaining healthy professional relationships.
Fitbit Challenges/Group Health Scheme
“New year, new you” goes the mantra—but it is often quickly forgotten. Opt into or take inspiration from Fitbit challenges, like being the first to reach ten thousand steps in a day or running the most miles in a weekend. Setting group fitness goals boosts personal and team motivation, cultivates healthy competition, and rallies employees—all of which serve to improve interpersonal relations.
Fitbits are pricey investments (the most basic Zip pedometer is $59.99), but bulk purchase discounts are available. A more affordable alternative is organizing a group health scheme, either through Fitbit or internally, and awarding the winner(s) of a challenge with a piece of wearable tech.
Lumosity for Teams
Lumosity is a relatively well-known free online service that offers “brain-training workouts.” Playing brain games is thought to improve skills like memory, cognition, attention, but it’s also a fun activity. Though it is less strenuous than group exercise, it can be just as effective at bringing a team closer together.
Lumosity for Teams (www.lumosity .com/teams) allows for ten to two hundred users. The team package costs $4/ user/month, making it more affordable than the individual paid subscription.
GooseChase is an app-based service that aptly describes itself as a “scavenger hunt for the masses.” Teams of up to five are assigned customizable “missions” ranging from target destinations, collection objectives, and trivia. Organizers can choose from a list of over a hundred existing missions or create new ones to suit their teams’ needs.
The user-friendly service is simple to tailor for group activities, especially for professional development or team-building days. GooseChase only requires one team member to have an iPhone or Android for the app, so players without smartphones can still participate.
The “recreational” package is free to use for up to five teams (twenty-five users total).
Budgeting and Accounting
Libraries without a dedicated bookkeeper or accounting department can face a host of problems. For small libraries, or for libraries needing to compartmentalize for specific projects or programs, these bookkeeping services provide both basic and advanced account support.
Zoho Books is an accounting service that allows organizations to automate banking and finances. It links with most federal and established local banks (Note: it is not FDIC-insured), and tracks budgets and cashflow, and can be set up to send out alerts if income is low or expenses go over budget.
Books integrates with PayPal and Square, and add-ons include an inventory trackers and a two-way subscription manager. The automatic functions eliminate the need for most data entry, making the service a good fit for libraries that need a minimal level of accounting support.
Zoho Books’ basic package allows two users (one administrator and one accountant) to network with fifty contacts and set up invoices, expense trackers, and automatic functions for $9/month. The standard package offers extensions and additional features for $19/month. The service is free to try for two weeks.
FreeAgent is a comprehensive accounting service based out of Edinburgh that centers around a user-friendly design. Its Dashboard feature allows for accessible oversight of estimates, invoices, expenses, projects, time tracking, payroll, and taxes. The service is completely customizable for a library’s needs.
The award-winning platform is used by both qualified accountants and de facto bookkeepers of small organizations. Nonprofessional accountants can learn best practices from the website’s guides and blog, full of tutorials, videos, and factsheets curated by seasoned professionals. For a smooth transition, FreeAgent imports contacts and information from most other accounting systems, even Excel spreadsheets, and it integrates with other payment and analytical software.
After a thirty-day free trial, FreeAgent costs $12/month for six months, then $24/ month.