Thing 8: Google Calendar

I’ve been using Google Calendar for years. I don’t consider it to be an amazing tool, but it does the job, and it has a few distinct advantages:

  • It’s online: I can access it from anywhere I need to (as long as I have a connection of course). This became much more useful once I joined the smartphone world.
  • It’s free. This one speaks for itself.
  • It’s user-friendly: I can do what I need to do on it without much hassle or a steep learning curve; well done, Google.
  • It’s integrated into my Google account: This helps because it’s within a single-sign-on login with other tools I use often, like Gmail, Reader, etc. Simple is best.
  • A lot of people I know use it: The Achilles heel of Google+ (as I mentioned in my last post) is one of this tool’s biggest strengths. I can synchronize my calendar with those of friends and loved ones, and see them side by side in the same interface. I can also easily turn other calendars off with a single click to avoid clutter, and turn them right back on when I need the information. With data, the key is not just about having access to as much as possible, but being able to control what you don’t see a swell as what you do see at any one time.

As far as negatives, adoption in the business community is the main one. My employer uses Outlook, which means I have to keep up two calendars, especially if I want to keep my personal life private. I did use Google Calendar Synch for a while at one job, but I found that the synchronizing algorithm was losing some entries on both ends, Google and Outlook, and I could not find a solution to the problem (and neither could our IT department). Since I’ve gone back to keeping separate calendars, I’ve come to appreciate the value of keeping my personal appointments off my work calendar to avoid clutter. Another solution would be to keep two Google Calendars, professional and personal, synch the former to Outlook, and make them both viewable on a single Google account. This would eliminate the need for double entries, but that just seems like a lot of work and does not solve the missing events problem. A far more elegant solution is to use the calendar on my Android smartphone and feed both Google and work calendar information to it. This is what I do right now.

As far as libraries using the tool for scheduling purposes, I think it has a lot of potential for all of the same reasons listed above. A library could create internal and external Google accounts, and share them appropriately with staff and the general public. Imagine if a student was able to access an academic library’s calendar directly from his smartphone calendar application rather than relying on a browser and the library’s ability to optimize its website for mobile devices or even the various types of browsers that are available. By outsourcing that work to Google, the library would greatly enhance its ability to reach patrons and educate them about services and events in user-friendly way.

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