Retrospective: LibCal Migration

compiled by Anna VanderJagt and Michele Mizejewski – This is a living document which we will update as necessary.


Springshare deprecated the LibCal Room Bookings module over a year ago and suspended development, so the UX Team needed to migrate to the new LibCal Spaces module instead. We also had to shift some items to the LibCal Equipment module, since they had been set up as spaces before the Equipment module was available. Summer was targeted as the best time to do the migration/upgrade because traffic is lowest during this time.

Improvements gained

  • Mobile-Friendliness – Spaces and equipment are now reservable through an updated and responsive interface.
  • Accessibility – Springshare conducted a robust accessibility and usability review of Spaces to ensure that LibCal Spaces works for all users.
  • Consistency – Room Bookings that were actually equipment items have been moved to the appropriate module for a more consistent user experience.
  • Availability Governed by the Hours Module – Hours now cascade down eliminating the need to re-enter availability over and over for each space or item.
  • Patron Booking – Patrons can now book rooms by defining a start time and an end time. They no longer have to select multiple availability times. 
  • Connected to Equipment Module – Patrons can reserve a room and related equipment in a single reservation.

Things that went wrong

  • URL Redirects – Link redirect for Makers Lab unexpectedly took several days to be implemented by Springshare.
  • Space Reservation Parameters – Booking time limits and email notifications were not automatically carried over during the migration, and this caused confusion.

Feedback examples from the first few days:

  • Reservations all start at 7:45am instead of 8am
  • The required lead time or length of reservation for a given space was not correct
  • Expected redirects did not all work
  • The interface for staff booking is different and not clear
  • The old system worked perfectly
  • Booking faculty carrels does not select the whole day
  • Faculty carrels bookings are not generating the right email notifications
  • The date chooser doesn’t default to displaying the start of the day which is confusing
  • The calendar scroll bar and date search interface is confusing

Actions taken

  • During the 1-2 days after the migration, we rapidly addressed problems reported by staff and users.
  • We also reached out to affected staff to confirm reservation parameters and recreate them where necessary.
  • When needed, we opened tickets with Springshare on behalf of stakeholders and shared those responses.
  • During the 1-2 weeks after the migration, we gathered feedback from stakeholders and patrons and opened tickets with Springshare reporting workflow and UI issues (not due to the migration process, but simply the updated UI).
  • Based on staff feedback, we wrote a post on Off the Shelf to further explain the new UI workflow for reservations.
  • Once the initial issues were fixed, we reviewed all hours, spaces, and equipment to double-check that settings were correct.

Root causes

  • Underestimated Complexity – The migration and its implications were more complicated than Springshare made it sound.
  • Convoluted Documentation – Even with two of us reading the documentation, we missed some key things.
  • No Test Environment – We could have caught any errors before going live if LibCal included a test environment. 
  • Capacity Overload – The planned migration day focus was disrupted by other last-minute needs.

What we’ve learned

  • Centralize Content Management – LibCal had many cooks, and it was very time-consuming tracking down information and reasoning. More controlled editing would have prevented this problem.
  • Test Environment – When possible, we should avoid using products that don’t provide a test environment. 
  • Back-up of Settings – Because LibCal lacked a test environment, we should have taken the very time-consuming step of making screenshots of every settings screen for every space and every piece of equipment as a reference.
  • Ask More Questions – Don’t fully rely on the vendor documentation, especially when they have a history of being confusing. Despite all our planning and preparation, we still missed some things.
  • Future-proof URLs – For promotional purposes (especially for print materials,) only list URLs that we control (e.g., to avoid relying on a redirection by a product vendor.
  • Visualize Project Tasks – Utilize a project management application for complicated projects that have multiple touchpoints to keep track of tasks, to-dos, and pending actions.
  • Benchmark – Research and consider other products even when the present one is entrenched. At a certain point, sticking with an existing product ceases to be a good value, if there is a lot of time wasted and the user interface fails to meet needs or provides a poor experience.

2 thoughts on “Retrospective: LibCal Migration”

  1. Excellent write-up, thank you for posting Anna and Michele! Because of your hard work, Makers Lab patrons are now using the new reservation system with ease. Here is a bit of feedback for future migrations of this scale:

    With the number of stakeholders involved, it would be great to have an in-person (or zoom) kick-off meeting. This would allow Library groups to ask questions, provide initial feedback, and identify similar issues/concerns. Like you mentioned in the post, Libcal has many cooks.

    Use a project management tool (e.g. trello, asana, etc) to manage the migration for all groups. I felt bad slacking you all of the tasks and issues and it could be tricky to track. A project management tool would also allow for more transparency and provide a better idea of the scope of the migration.

    It may have been helpful to do more user testing before the migration and provide this feedback to Library departments (or even have Library staff participate in the testing). Springshare did not provide a test environment, but we have been using Space/Equipment for some time and could have generated some helpful information well before the migration.

    There will be unexpected hiccups with any migration, but if wasn’t for your diligence and attention to detail it would have been much more time-consuming. Thank you both!

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