Great Finds: What’s up, Doc?

nighthawk309 —  May 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

google_apps_logoMy library recently transitioned to the Land of Gmail for our email service.  As a dedicated Gmail user, I was thrilled with the move.  My happiness with the change hit new levels once I discovered the possibilities of Google Docs in a work environment.  Here are some of the ways that I use Google Docs at the library.

Google Document (similar to Microsoft Word): Our management team meets twice per month and distributes minutes from the meetings to all staff.  With Google Docs, I can take the minutes at the meeting using only a computer and internet connection.  No longer do I need to be connected to the library’s staff network for the meeting.  After the meeting, I modify the settings for the document so it can be shared and viewed by anyone in the organization.  A quick email with the link to share is all I need to send out after the meeting.  There’s no longer any need to attach the minutes to an email for everyone to read.

Google Document also makes it a breeze to share a document in progress with multiple people.  A colleague and I recently worked collaboratively on a grant proposal using a shared Google Document.  The document could be accessed by either of us any time we had access to a computer connected to the internet.  It even allows the opportunity for people to collaborate on a single document at the same time.

Google Spreadsheet (similar to Microsoft Excel):  In addition to the standard spreadsheet functions that you’d expect from Excel, Google Spreadsheet really shines like the other tools because of its accessibility from any device connected to the internet.  I can access my running “work list” from home, work, or on the go.  The spreadsheet with multiple tabs includes things like tasks to do, completed tasks, notes for upcoming library board reports and more.

The collaborative nature of this product is again a huge asset.  I created a spreadsheet to track some ongoing issues related to a technology project.  Several people were granted access to edit the spreadsheet which allowed input and updates from many in the organization.

It also makes sharing spreadsheet data a breeze.  When the Friends of the Library recently funded a wish list for the library, I could share the approved list with everyone in the organization without the use of an email attachment.  The “share” properties of the Google Docs family are intuitive and comprehensive.

Google Form (similar to Survey Monkey):  This little gem came in handy when signing up volunteers to march in the two spring parades the library participates in.  It only took a few minutes to create a form that gathered the needed information in the desired format (text field, multiple choice options, comment field, etc).  The responses are then automatically populated into a Google Spreadsheet that I can view.  Rather than relying on email responses to gather marchers for each parade, I could use the form to quickly and efficiently collect the information.  It’s also helpful when collecting data for benchmark studies on library issues.

Google Chromebook:  This is outside of the Google Docs realm, but worth sharing.  If you want to really bring the Google Docs and Gmail environment to life, get yourself a Google Chromebook.  For the small one-time investment of $250, you’ll have a simple netbook device that offers access to all the richness of the web.  Sure, there are some shortcomings, but for the money, the benefits far surpass the drawbacks.  In my home life, my Chromebook is always floating around between the dining room and living room.

Having used it for several months at home, I pitched the idea of getting one for the library.  Given our recent migration to Gmail and the small price tag, it was a quick sell.  The library’s Chromebook is now used to take minutes at committee meetings and monthly board meetings.  IT staff no longer need to do computer setups for these meetings in advance.

It’s also handy to grab when heading into a meeting when easy access to the web will be beneficial.  The offline functionality allowed me to take notes with the Chromebook at a workshop location that didn’t offer wifi.  When I connected to the internet with the device later in the day, all of my notes were synced right away.

And that folks, is a wrap.



Matt Church is the library director at the Berkley Public Library (Berkley, MI). He was previously associate director at the Baldwin Public Library (Birmingham, MI). He's all about libraries, Tom Waits, coffee, trekking and family adventures.

2 responses to Great Finds: What’s up, Doc?


    Did you know that on a Google spreadsheet, you can set it to alert you when the spreadsheet has been edited? I use this to keep track of new items added to our Office Supply list. That way, I don’t have to be constantly emailed, or be constantly checking the document.


      Good to know–thanks, Kelly! Just added email notifications to a spreadsheet to see how it works. I’m sure I’ll like it!

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