Setting up and customizing Space Bookings

The LibCal Space Bookings module is an online platform for managing room reservations at your library. You can set up different categories of spaces at multiple locations, each with their own booking limits and availability times. Patrons can then reserve your spaces using a simple online booking page, or through a space bookings widget that you can add to almost any webpage. 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 space 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 room 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.
  • Billing: you can charge patrons for booking spaces, and even collect payments online via credit card.
  • Private or staff-only spaces: you can limit the availability of certain spaces to private groups or even make some spaces available only to logged-in LibCal users.

This Springboard is intended for Admin users who will be responsible for setting up spaces. This includes creating locations, categories, and spaces; 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 Space Bookings Springboard.

Migrating from Room Bookings to Spaces: if you are still using the legacy Room Bookings module, we encourage you to migrate your rooms and bookings over to Spaces to enjoy all the new features and improved functionality. To learn more, please check out our tutorial How to migrate from Room Bookings to Spaces.

Getting started

To get up and running with Spaces, there are a few essential steps. The sections below will guide you through the process of creating locations, adding categories & spaces to your location, and setting up the hours your spaces 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, spaces are broadly organized by location. You must have at least one location in order to create spaces, 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, spaces are grouped into categories. This creates a hierarchy similar to the following (locations are highlighted in bold):

  • Location: Main Library
    • Category: Study Rooms
      • Space: Room 110
      • Space: Room 120
    • Category: Classrooms
      • Space: Classroom A
      • Space: Classroom B
  • Location: Branch Library
    • Category: Study Rooms
      • Space: Room 208
      • Space: Room 310
    • Category: Meeting Rooms
      • Space: Community Room
      • Space: Small Meeting Room

Each location has its own operating hours, which is the schedule used to determine when spaces 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 spaces. For example, if you have a Maker Space 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 authenticating 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 space bookings are managed in each category's settings (i.e. how long a space 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 spaces are grouped into categories. You must have at least one category in a location in order to add individual spaces, 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: Study Rooms
      • Space: Room 110
      • Space: Room 120
    • Category: Classrooms
      • Space: Classroom A
      • Space: Classroom B
  • Location: Branch Library
    • Category: Study Rooms
      • Space: Room 208
      • Space: Room 310
    • Category: Meeting Rooms
      • Space: Community Room
      • Space: Small Meeting Room

Because spaces in a category share the same booking limits (i.e. how long patrons can book spaces) and public booking pages, it can be helpful to create a separate category for each type of space your library provides. For example, you could create categories for individual study rooms, group study rooms, meeting rooms, classrooms, computer labs, maker spaces, community rooms, etc. That would allow you to set different limits for different type of spaces, so your study rooms could have a maximum duration of 2 hours per booking with a weekly limit of 12 hours, while your maker spaces could have a maximum duration of 4 hours per booking with a weekly limit of 2 bookings.

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 spaces, 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 spaces in the category. Unlike booking limits, however, you can also set up billing charges for individual spaces, 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 spaces to categories

Once you've created your categories, you're ready to add spaces to them. Spaces are the individual rooms and areas that your patrons will be reserving, each using the booking limits defined in their parent category's settings. Using the hierarchy we created in the previous sections, spaces are the third level (highlighted in bold):

  • Location: Main Library
    • Category: Study Rooms
      • Space: Room 110
      • Space: Room 120
    • Category: Classrooms
      • Space: Classroom A
      • Space: Classroom B
  • Location: Branch Library
    • Category: Study Rooms
      • Space: Room 208
      • Space: Room 310
    • Category: Meeting Rooms
      • Space: Community Room
      • Space: Small Meeting Room

You can add helpful information to each space, such as a description, maximum capacity, directions, 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 room to reserve. They will also be able to filter your spaces by capacity, as well, so they can more easily find rooms that are big enough for their needs. If you need to hide an individual space from the public due to renovations or repairs, you can update its status to Inactive until it's ready to be booked again.

To help you with setting up a lot of similar spaces, you can easily create copies of existing spaces. When you copy a space, it'll start with the same details, photo, etc. as the original. That way, you only need to customize the details that are different, rather than starting completely from scratch.

If you use Microsoft Exchange Resources, you can link each space in LibCal to an Exchange resource to enable two-way synchronization. That way, if you book a space in an Outlook event, it will also appear as booked in LibCal -- and, if a space is booked in LibCal, it will appear as busy if you look it up in Outlook (more on setting this up in the Syncing your space bookings with Outlook/Exchange resources section below).

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Setting up your hours and adding exceptions

Before patrons can begin booking your spaces, you must first set up your hours for each location. These are used to determine which times each day that your spaces 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 rooms 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 spaces 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 spaces, too. This can come in handy if you have a category of rooms or individual spaces that are available at different times. For example, even though your study rooms are available from opening to closing each day of the week, your Maker Spaces 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 space, 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 Spaces. Instead, you can link a location, category, or space to any library or department in your Hours module. When linked, the opening and closing times for those spaces will mirror the current hours of that library/department -- including exceptions. If you generally allow patrons to book spaces 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 spaces 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 space, 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.
  • Use period-based scheduling: if you are a K-12 library, your spaces may only be available during certain class periods each day -- and these periods could vary in length each day of the week. As a result, using a weekly hours template (where patrons can select any time between opening and closing) may not be an option. To help with this, we provide a special K12 booking mode that allows you to create period-based daily hours templates. These are templates designed to be applied to individual days of the week, with multiple time slots added to each day. For example, you could create a daily template for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with time slots aligned to the class periods on those days of the week.

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 space. (If you are using period-based scheduling, though, please keep in mind that this is applied at the location level: if you enable it for a location, all the spaces in that location will be switched to that mode.) When a category or space 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, the category will appear as Closed. Categories and spaces 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, spaces, and hours, you've covered the essentials for getting started with Spaces. To learn more about additional customization options, including customized booking forms, billing, and Outlook/Exchange syncing, 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 & spaces. When a location, category, and/or space 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 Spaces 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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Setting up Billing and managing charges

If you charge patrons for space 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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Syncing your space bookings with Outlook/Exchange resources

LibCal allows you to set up a 2-way sync between Exchange calendars and LibCal spaces, so that reservations you make via Exchange will automatically block off availability in the Spaces module, and reservations made via Spaces are automatically pushed to Exchange!  This is a huge win for libraries with spaces that can be reserved both by the public (via LibCal) and by staff (via meeting requests in Exchange). This integration will keep your reservations in sync, no matter where a booking request originates. What's more, your LibCal platform will become a go-to place to get awesome statistics on the usage of your spaces and equipment from both sources.

Here’s another really cool thing about the Exchange support: it will make it even easier to integrate with touchscreen panels. LibCal Spaces offers full read/write APIs for integration with these types of panels, and many of these panels already support integration with Exchange. This means you can potentially integrate LibCal Spaces with these types of panels, without having to do any custom coding. This new integration means that availability stays synchronized across all possible booking points, with minimal setup effort.

To get started, you'll first need to connect your Spaces location to your Outlook/Exchange account. Then, you will be able to link individual spaces in that location to the corresponding resource in Exchange. To do this, you will need to know the email address of each resource (don't worry: your Exchange administrator can help with this if you're unsure).

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Public booking page settings

The primary way patrons will submit bookings is via LibCal's public space booking page. Patrons will be able to browse by location, with options to filter spaces by category and/or space capacity. 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 space and date. From there, they'll be guided through the rest of the booking process, including viewing any terms & conditions for your spaces, LibAuth authentication (if enabled), and submitting the booking form.

If a space category has public nicknames enabled, patrons will also be able to browse a list of upcoming confirmed bookings. This can be helpful, for example, if a student is trying to find which room a teaching assistant has booked for a study session.

Although the public space booking page does not have a page editor, like the Homepage, there are still ways that you can customize its appearance and functionality. This includes customizing 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.

The public spaces settings

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, window limit, and public nicknames.

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Creating space booking widgets

In addition to the public booking page, you can also create space booking widgets. These are buttons that you can embed on your library website, in a LibGuide, or another webpage that. When a user clicks the button, a modal window will appear where they can browse space availability and submit a booking -- all without leaving the page. To get started, log into LibCal and go to Spaces > Widgets.

The widget builder page

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