Setting up and customizing Equipment Bookings

The LibCal Equipment Bookings module is an online platform for managing equipment lending at your library. You can set up different categories of equipment at multiple locations, each with their own booking limits and availability times. Patrons can then reserve items using a simple online booking page, or staff users can create single or recurring bookings for patrons within LibCal's staff interface. Depending upon your local policies, you can add various restrictions and requirements to the booking process, including:

  • Maximum duration per booking: you can customize the amount of time each item can be reserved per booking.
  • Daily, weekly, monthly, and/or yearly limits: you can restrict patrons to a certain number of bookings and/or minutes booked per day, week, month, or year.
  • Booking window: you can limit how far in advance patrons can view item availability and submit bookings.
  • Mediation: designated staff members must approve bookings in a category before they are confirmed.
  • Patron authentication using LibAuth: patrons will be prompted to authenticate via LibAuth before they can submit a booking.
  • Overdue fines: you can configure and assess fines for overdue items, as well as update items to lost/broken or inactive status to take them out of circulation.
  • Billing: you can charge patrons for booking equipment, and even collect payments online via credit card.
  • Private or staff-only equipment: you can limit the availability of certain items to private groups or even make some items available only to logged-in LibCal users.

This Springboard is intended for Admin users who will be responsible for setting up equipment bookings. This includes creating locations, categories, and items; customizing booking limits; setting up availability times; and other system-level settings. If you are a Regular user or just looking for more info about submitting and managing patron bookings, check out our Managing Equipment Bookings Springboard.


Getting started

To get up and running with equipment bookings, there are a few essential steps. The sections below will guide you through the process of creating locations, adding categories & items to your location, and setting up the hours your items are available to be booked. Admins will find these options by going to Admin > Equipment & Spaces.

Navigating to the Manage Equipment & Spaces page from the Admin menu

Creating and customizing locations

In LibCal, equipment items are broadly organized by location. You must have at least one location in order to create equipment, but you can add multiple locations if needed. For example, you may have separate locations for different libraries on the same campus, branch libraries, schools, campuses, etc.

Within each location, equipment items are grouped into categories. This creates a hierarchy similar to the following (locations are highlighted in bold):

  • Location: Main Library
    • Category: Laptops
      • Item: MacBook Air
      • Item: Surface Pro
    • Category: Video Cameras
      • Item: Canon
      • Item: GoPro
  • Location: Branch Library
    • Category: Tablets
      • Item: iPad
      • Item: Kindle Fire
    • Category: Laptops
      • Item: MacBook
      • Item: ThinkPad

Each location has its own operating hours, which is the schedule used to determine when items are available each day (more on this in the Setting up your hours section below). However, if needed, you can define separate hours for specific categories and items. For example, if you have specialized A/V equipment that has limited hours only during weekdays, you could create custom hours just for that category.

You can also enable or disable certain booking restrictions for each location, as well. These include:

  • Requiring LibAuth authentication: if your LibApps Admin(s) has set up LibAuth, you can require patrons to first authenticate with your institution before they can submit bookings.
  • Requiring 2 step email verification: if you're not using LibAuth, you can choose to require 2-step email verification instead. When enabled, patrons will have a limited period of time (that you define) to click on a link in their booking confirmation emails. If they don't click the link in time, then their tentative booking will expire and other patrons will be able to book those times.
  • Limiting bookings to specific email domain names: you can choose to limit bookings to users with specific email domain names. For example, if your institution's email addresses end in @springyu.edu, you could limit bookings to only addresses ending in @springyu.edu. This would prevent users from submitting a booking from other email domains, such as @gmail.com, @outlook.com, etc.

The actual duration limits for your equipment bookings are managed in each category's settings (i.e. how long an item can be reserved per booking).

Throughout the booking lifecycle, there are several email notifications that a patron can receive. These are created by LibCal using each location's email templates, which feature customizable subject lines and bodies. For example, if you wanted to customize the message patrons receive when submitting a booking, you could customize the "Confirmed / Mediated Tentative / Verified". When customizing a template, you'll be able to use text, basic HTML code for formatting (such as <strong> or <em> tags), and specialized template tags that insert a booking's details into each email. 

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Adding categories to locations

Within each location, your individual equipment items are grouped into categories. You must have at least one category in a location in order to add individual items, but you can create multiple categories if needed. Using the hierarchy we created in the previous section, categories are the second level (highlighted in bold):

  • Location: Main Library
    • Category: Laptops
      • Item: MacBook Air
      • Item: Surface Pro
    • Category: Video Cameras
      • Item: Canon
      • Item: GoPro
  • Location: Branch Library
    • Category: Tablets
      • Item: iPad
      • Item: Kindle Fire
    • Category: Laptops
      • Item: MacBook
      • Item: ThinkPad

Because items in a category share the same booking limits (i.e. how long patrons can book equipment) and public booking pages, it can be helpful to create a separate category for each type of equipment your library provides. For example, you could create categories for laptops, video cameras, tablets, graphing calculators, etc. That would allow you to set different limits for different type of equipment (in hours or days), so your laptops could have a maximum duration of 4 hours per booking with a weekly limit of 12 hours, while your video cameras could have a maximum duration of 7 days per booking with a limit of 1 camera at a time.

You can also enable booking mediation for individual categories, too. When enabled, designated staff members must manually review new bookings submitted via your public booking pages. If a booking is approved, the booking will be confirmed; otherwise, the booking will be canceled and the time slots made available for others to reserve. In both cases, the patron will receive email notifications which can also include a note from staff explaining their decision.

If you charge patrons money for reserving certain items, these charges can be defined at the category level, too. Similar to your booking limits, this lets you define the same fees and/or hourly rates for all items in the category. Unlike booking limits, however, you can also set up billing charges for individual items, too -- even overriding the category billing charges, if needed (more on setting up billing in the Setting up Billing and managing charges section below).

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Adding items to categories

Once you've created your categories, you're ready to add items to them. Items are the individual pieces of equipment that your patrons will be borrowing, each using the booking limits defined in their parent category's settings. Using the hierarchy we created in the previous sections, items are the third level (highlighted in bold):

  • Location: Main Library
    • Category: Laptops
      • Item: MacBook Air
      • Item: Surface Pro
    • Category: Video Cameras
      • Item: Canon
      • Item: GoPro
  • Location: Branch Library
    • Category: Tablets
      • Item: iPad
      • Item: Kindle Fire
    • Category: Laptops
      • Item: MacBook
      • Item: ThinkPad

To help you better manage your equipment inventory, each item can be assigned a barcode, serial number, asset number, acquisition date, value, and replacement cost. The barcode is especially helpful when you have more than one of the same item, as it'll let you more easily retrieve and circulate the correct item. 

You can also add helpful information to each item, such as a description, model info, instructions, terms & conditions, and a photo. When patrons are viewing your public booking page, they'll be able to view these details to help them decide which item to reserve and even how to use it. If you need to hide an individual item from the public due to repairs, you can update its status to Inactive or Lost/Broken until it's ready to be booked again.

When you have more than one copy of the same item, you can also assign one item to serve as the master item record for all of the others. This makes managing your items easier, as each item linked to the master record will inherit its description, photo, model info, and other details. To help you with setting up a lot of similar items, you can easily create copies of existing ones. When you copy an item, LibCal will automatically link your new item to the original, which will serve as the master record. That way, you only need to customize the new item's unique info (e.g. barcode, serial number, etc.), rather than starting completely from scratch.

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Setting up your hours and adding exceptions

Before patrons can begin booking your equipment, you must first set up your hours for each location. These are used to determine which times each day that your items are available. Between those opening and closing times, the booking limits you defined for each category will determine when bookings can start and the maximum number of minutes they can be booked. For example, let's say your location opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. on a given day. If a category's booking start times are set to begin every 30 minutes, patrons could book items in 30 minute slots starting at 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 9 a.m., etc., with the final slot starting at 9:30 p.m. If items in that category can be booked for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 120 minutes, a booking could start at 10:30 a.m. and end at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12 p.m., or 12:30 p.m.

You can set up your hours for an entire location at once, but you can also set up custom hours for individual categories and items, too. This can come in handy if you have a category of equipment or individual items that are available at different times. For example, even though your laptops are available from opening to closing each day of the week, your A/V equipment may only be available from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Example of adding custom hours to a location

To set up the hours for a location, category, or item, you have a few different options:

  • Link to a library or department from Admin > Hours: if you are already using the LibCal Hours module to manage & publicize your library hours, you don't need to completely recreate those for your equipment. Instead, you can link a location, category, or item to any library or department in your Hours module. When linked, the opening and closing times for those items will mirror the current hours of that library/department -- including exceptions. If you generally allow patrons to book equipment from opening to closing each day, then using linked hours can be a real time saver.
  • Create custom hours just for your spaces: if you prefer not to use or link to the LibCal Hours module, or if your items are available at different times than the rest of your library, you can set up custom hours instead.
    • The first step is to create one or more weekly hours templates, which allows you to define when you open and close each day of the week. You can create templates for certain times of year, such as semesters, winter break, summer break, etc., as well as for individual locations.
    • For each location, category, or item, you will tell LibCal which dates to apply your templates. This allows you to create schedules in advance -- for example, you can apply your Fall Semester weekly hours template from August to November, your Finals Week template from December 1-15, your Winter Break template from December 15-January 15, and so on.
    • If you need to plan for holidays or other one-time schedule changes, you can also create individual exceptions on specific dates. This would allow you to be closed on Thanksgiving, for example, without having to move around your entire schedule.
    • When using custom hours, please keep in mind that dates not covered by a weekly hours template will be treated as Closed.

If needed, you can combine the above options. For example, you could link a location's hours to a library or department from the Hours module, and use custom hours for just a specific category or item. When a category or item has its own separate hours, those will override the hours set at the location level. This includes dates where no hours are defined -- for example, if a category is using custom hours and a specific date is not covered by a weekly hours template, all items in the category will appear as Closed. Categories and items will not automatically switch back to the location's hours if their own schedules run out.

Fortunately, you can set up your hours far in advance. That way, you can prepare for an entire academic or calendar year at one time. You can make changes to your hours templates, booking limits, or exceptions, at any time and your booking availability times will update automatically.

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Optional customizations

Once you've added your locations, categories, items, and hours, you've covered the essentials for getting started with equipment bookings. To learn more about additional customization options, including customized booking forms, fines, and billing, check out the sections below. These are all optional, but you may find them helpful for your local policies, preferences, and workflows.

Creating booking forms

Booking forms are what patrons submit in order to place a booking. When a user submits a booking, they're required to enter their name and email address by default. However, if you'd like to gather more information from users, you can create customized booking forms with additional questions. For example, you could add fields for gathering a patron's phone number or ID number, or you could ask patrons if they need any amenities for spaces, help with equipment, or just general feedback.

Example of adding questions to a booking form

You can apply booking forms to entire locations, and/or individual categories & items. When a location, category, and/or item has a booking form assigned to it, the questions in each will combined into a single form for the patron to fill out. Although there's no limit to the number of questions you can add to a form, try to limit the number of required fields -- too many fields can turn away some users.

Data from your booking forms will be displayed in the booking's details throughout the Equipment module. This includes the Booking Explorer, where you can also filter bookings by form responses. They're even included in your Booking Explorer exports, as well.

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Customizing fines and user banning options

The Equipment Bookings module allows you to calculate, assess, and record payments for fines for overdue equipment. You can choose to apply fines to an entire category, or just for individual items in a category.

Fines are calculated using fine templates, which define how much money you want to charge for overdue items. You can create multiple fine templates to use with entire categories of equipment, or just for specific items. Each template allows you to define how overdue fines are calculated, how much to charge, minimum and maximum amounts, and even when to assess replacement charges for lost items.

Once you've created your fine templates, you can apply them to those categories and/or items. Fines will begin to accrue on all overdue bookings from that point forward. You can track and manage all overdues under Equipment > Overdue. Patrons will have the option to pay fines at check-in, or you can record or waive fines at any time under Equipment > Fines.

Depending upon your library's policies, you can set up LibCal to automatically ban users from booking items because of overdue items and/or unpaid fines. Admin users can also manually add and remove bans at any time under Admin > Equipment & Spaces > Banned Users.

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Setting up Billing and managing charges

If you charge patrons for equipment bookings, you can use LibCal's billing functionality to allow them to quickly, easily, and securely pay online during the booking process. By connecting to a third-party payment processor, you will be able to collect credit card payments and deposit them into your library's merchant account. All charges, payments, and refunds are tracked automatically in LibCal so you can easily see the payment history for all billed bookings.

Before you begin collecting payments, an Admin user must first configure your billing settings in LibCal. The first step is to connect LibCal to a supported third-party payment processor, which will be used to actually handle all credit card transactions. If you have not already, your library will need to sign up for an account with one of these payment processors. Please keep in mind that each payment processor charges different transaction fees for things like handling payments and issuing refunds. These fees are part of the merchant agreement each library will have to agree to with their chosen payment processor. Please note that:

  • Springshare does not collect any fees. Inquiries about charges, refunds, and transaction fees should be directed to your payment processor, accordingly.
  • Springshare has no direct contact with credit card information during the payment process. All of the actual payment information passes directly from the payment page to the payment processor.
  • Only one payment processor can be used to collect payments at a time. Once you start collecting payments, your settings will be locked in and you will not be able to switch between payment processors. Please contact the Springy Support team if you need to change these settings.

In addition to setting up a payment processor, you will also want to select the local currency to use for your credit card payments. This is important, as all transactions with your payment processor will be made using the selected currency.

When charges are assessed, patrons will be prompted to pay online via credit card after submitting their booking or registration. This includes a button on the confirmation screens, but also links in the various confirmation emails sent by LibCal. As with other email notificaitons, these have customizable templates that can be found in your space location settings.

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Public booking page settings

The primary way patrons will submit bookings is via LibCal's public equipment booking page. Patrons will be able to browse by location, with options to filter by category and item keyword. As they browse, they will be presented with a grid of available time slots for each space, which allows them to browse availability by date (up to a category's Window Limit). Available time slots will appear as green, while unavailable time slots will appear as red, making it easy to identify available times (these colors can be customized, too).

Public booking page example

To start a booking, a patron just needs to select an available start time from the grid for the desired item and date. From there, they can either check out right away, or they can add more items to their booking. When they're ready to check out, they'll be guided through the rest of the booking process, including viewing any terms & conditions for your items, LibAuth authentication (if enabled), and submitting the booking form.

Although the public equipment booking page does not have a full page editor, like the Homepage, there are still ways that you can customize its appearance and functionality. This includes customizing the templates for individual items, the colors used in the availability grid, the default category to display, and how many days of availability to display at once, just to name a few. You can find these options by going to Admin > Equipment & Spaces and clicking on the Settings tab.

Don't forget that there are also location and category settings that can have an impact on your booking page, as well, including public/private/admin-only access and window limit.

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