In this case study Lorensbergs talks to Allen Major, Director, and Josh Bennett, Archivist, at Indiana University Bloomington’s Media School about introducing connect2 to manage and support equipment lending.
The Media School at Indiana University teaches and promotes the creation and study of media in all its forms. In 2016 the University had brought together the schools of Journalism, Radio/TV, and Communication and Culture in a $21m renovation project incorporating the latest media technologies. The facilities at the new unified school include two checkout stores serving students in the various Journalism and Radio and TV classes. The stores issue students with specialized equipment and materials to support their media studies.
The checkout stores previously operated using separate proprietary systems to manage the equipment lending process. With the departments coming together in the new school, staff needed a single centralized system to pool inventory management for more efficient administration and support.
A system to meet all needs
“After an initial presentation, we had time to look at what connect2 could do. I liked the system’s interface right away,” says Allen. “We also learnt that the system could be installed on our local network unobtrusively, without needing access to our servers, which suited our IT department.”
The University’s IT department carried out network security testing, with scans for both the Server and OS vulnerability and Web Application and IIS vulnerability for the connect2 system. They were pleased to see that connect2 comfortably passed all security tests.
With their IT colleagues’ approval, the Media School proceeded with purchasing connect2 for the main centers of equipment lending. The School’s different departments would be able to continue providing separate checkout operations from their buildings, so serving the needs of different cohorts of students, but with the efficiencies of a centralized online system.
The Journalism Department has an inventory of over 2000 items of equipment available for student loan – including DSLRs, audio, camcorders, lenses and tripods – plus a library of nearly 5,000 films. The film archive was especially in need of the new system. Previously it used only a paper system which was very unreliable. Many students failed to write down details of what they were borrowing from the film archive, and would turn up randomly to return items, sometimes with over a year’s worth of borrowed DVDs and videos at a time. At last count, more than half of the stock had gone missing.
In the Radio/TV department, the checkout store houses approximately 3,000 items for student loan. Often students borrow up to 100 items at a time, for example when preparing to produce a short film. Connect2 also introduced the means for students to make advance self-service reservations in the online system, which would lead to substantial time-savings for staff. Both checkout locations were excited about the improvements connect2 would bring.
The Media School and connect2
Since installation, the experience of rolling out connect2 for staff and student use has been very smooth.
“It’s been really good working with Lorensbergs. The system is very stable. We’ve found it to be rock solid. The fact that we don’t need to maintain connect2 in place of our proprietary system is a big help, and that it’s always working,” says Allen.
Allen is also pleased with how students have picked up using connect2 without any problems: “We talk to the classes and show them connect2. But it’s pretty simple for the end user to just add items to their basket, that’s pretty much all they need to know.”
Josh adds: “The students were used to helping themselves to films off the shelf. Sometimes they would write down what they took, but often they didn’t, and they didn’t know how long they could borrow them for. With so many films going missing, the system clearly wasn’t working.
“Now they can see an online catalogue in connect2, searchable by director, actor, genre or year, and with each title displaying an image. Students simply reserve what they want to borrow for an agreed amount of time. They find it easy to use connect2 and accept that this is the new way of working. It’s easy for them to figure out how to use connect2 – they pick it up right away. It’s a great improvement compared to what we had.
“Now we know where our items are. We know who to contact if they haven’t been returned on time or not at all.”
Life is easier with advance reservations
Students are asked to make their own equipment reservations in the online connect2 interface rather than turning up to checkout items speculatively.
“Checkouts are now much faster due to having advance bookings,” comments Allen. “We didn’t used to have these. Students would walk up to the counter and say ‘I want a camera’. With an advance booking, it probably cuts the checkout time in half,” says Allen.
“Quite a few of our students book using their phones with the connect2 system being mobile-friendly. If they come up to the desk and haven’t reserved items yet, they can do it there and then using their phone.
“And each morning, with advance bookings, we know what’s headed our way, and can get it ready in advance. In the Radio/TV department, they may need to get up to 100 items ready for a single checkout. For example, students with short film projects need a full film set load out. You can imagine how much easier it’s now become!”
Easily accessible inventory information
Allen described to us how the inventory details are displayed in connect2 to help students find what they need:
“If students know what they want, it’s right there in connect2. If they need to dig down deeper, they can click on the item and get a more detailed description. And students can only see the resources in connect2 that are relevant to their classes. What they can see and are allowed to book is tied to their schedule.”
In this way, students are clearer on the equipment they should be using and there are no more mistakes with students borrowing the wrong items.
“And if they don’t see it, then they probably won’t ask about it, which keeps things simple,” adds Josh.
Better tracking and communication
“Another benefit is that connect2 has much more comprehensive information for tracking. You can see when an item was checked out, and who by,” says Allen.
“We also use the automated communications in connect2 to remind students to bring items back on time which means fewer late items. The emails are strongly worded to avoid students ignoring them – 7 days’ late and items are reported stolen. And if students still fail to return items they are suspended in connect2 from borrowing further items so it encourages more prompt returns.”
Invaluable analytics in connect2
The data and reporting functionality in connect2 has been a big help at the Media School for both managing existing inventory and for planning ahead.
“We use the connect2 data to see what’s being checked out the most, and to make sure that the same camera isn’t being checked out over and over because it’s the first one on the shelf. It’s nice to know exactly how many times each item is being checked out,” says Allen.
“I use the data in connect2 to see what to buy more of next, or if items aren’t been used, to retire them. I’ll be looking at the data very soon as part of our review at the end of the summer semester, and it’s also good timing for when we get back from viewing new equipment at the annual NAB show. With the connect2 data we’ll know what we need and what we’re going to use.
“It’s great to have the numbers in connect2 to back up what you’re asking for. We take a three year view on what’s going to be needed for our bigger purchases. And we’re growing as a department with classes expanding by about 70-80 more students so there are some big investments required. It’s nice to be able to show our colleagues who are writing the checks that the new cameras are going to be used, that they won’t just be sitting on the shelf.”
The future with connect2
“As far as using connect2, it’s been great,” says Josh.
“The support team is very responsive to requests. They acknowledge our communications quickly and any issues get fixed overnight. Everything’s been really positive and we look forward to continue working together,” adds Allen.
“The improvements they’ve made in the last couple of releases following feedback from us have been very good and we have no hesitation in continuing to recommend connect2 for use at other universities.”
With thanks to Allen Major, Josh Bennett and their colleagues at Indiana University’s Media School.