Things I wish I knew earlier 3. Importing Excel into Outlook appointments

At work I use Outlook as my all-in-one software for emails, appointments, and personal task management.

All my meetings, appointments, and time I’ve chosen to specifically allocate to work on certain tasks – go into the Outlook calendar. Excpet for one very important thing – the desk roster. Until today.

Before I would consult a piece of paper with the roster printed on it which created discordance between my desk duties and other responsibilites which were managed electronically. This meant that:

  • I would occassionally double-book myself into a meeting when I’m meant to be on the desk, as it is harder to detect conflicts.
  • My availablity in Outlook would not represent reality, as colleagues would see me as free when I actually have a desk shift.
  • I would sometimes forget to go out to the desk, being too absorbed in my work and there is no electronic reminder pop up, so I’d either be late or the colleague that’s meant to hand over to me would need to remind me. This is pretty rude on my behalf and I’d like to be punctual to my desk shifts.

I hear you asking – why don’t you just enter your desk shifts into Outlook, like everything else? The answer is: the effort outweighed the benefit. It wasn’t a problem often enough to justify entering all my desk shifts into my Calendar, which happen several times a day and are not neatly recurring, so the data entry is a repetive task without good return on investment.

But – yesterday I had the sudden insight that it would be much better to put all my forseeable desk shifts into a spreadsheet and import them. You can import data via csv into just about any software these days. So I found this how-to and imported a week’s worth of rosters. Adding several individual appointments every day is too cumbersome, but doing it via excel is a 5 min task that I do every few weeks when the roster comes out and that will help my productivity and organisation immensely.

The guide I linked to above gives a quite detailed example, but mine is more simplistic.

2017-10-29 15_38_49-Calendar import.xls - Excel

You need to give your table headings that match the field names used in Outlook.

Subject: name of the “appointment”

Start date: self-explanatory

End date: put in the formula so it just equals whatever is in column B.

Start and end time: self explanatory

Reminder on/off : Entered TRUE to enable reminders

Reminder date: Did the same formula as the end date so whatever I put in start date automatically populates.

Reminder time: What I did was in column I, I entered how many minutes warning I wanted, usually 2 mins except for Refchatter (where I want a bit more time to get ready before I log in). The reminder time column has a formula which minuses that time from the start time. This is simpler than working it out for each row.

Save as an excel file so you can keep the formulas and overall template, so next time you only need to adjsut the dates and times. Then save it as a .csv and import into Outlook.

This approach has less manual data entry and is more customisable. (Outlook only lets you set the reminder time a minimum of 5 minutes prior, while I prefer a very short reminder of just 2 minutes).


#23mobilethings – 4. Maps


For this topic I’m gonna talk about how Google maps applies to libraries.

Google crawls the web and various directories to populate Google Maps with places and landmarks. Most libraries will be a searchable “destination” in Google maps with name and address information. You don’t need to take any action to create this listing- it’s made from information extracted from web pages plus user contributions. You can “claim this business” so you control what information gets displayed. Or anyone can suggest edits to the information. I once made a suggestion to change the name of our library when the name Google’s listing gave us was far too similar to a local public library – we would get many phone calls from people who wanted the other library. Sometimes people would pull up driving directions from Google Maps and drive to our library – not even realizing that they were going to the wrong place! This problem has very much subsided since I fixed the name. It goes to show that people don’t usually go past Google for directional information like phone numbers and addresses. Not even to the relevant website, just the Google search results page, with information pulled from Google Maps. So it’s important to check your presence there. Adding photos, opening hours and other details will be notoced, too.

Another interesting thing is that if you have “location services” enabled it will track your every move on your smartphone. A new feature I noticed a few months ago is that it will use this information from users to create something like this:

 This can be pretty handy for clients if they want to come when it’s quiet. I’ve heard Google are working on a “live” version of this too so people can see how busy a location is right now.

#23mobilethings – 3. Email


Emails are an important way of communicating with library clients. Our system emails loans receipts, changes to due dates, and due date reminders by default. We use email to communicate with students when holds become available.

The fact that smartphones are pretty ubiquitous means email is an instant form of communication. I’ve had situations where a student has come to the desk to pick up a hold, but when I go to retrieve it for them it’s not available on the hold shelf. I ask them when they got the email and they’ll say – “just now, a couple of seconds ago!” The item had been scanned in but not yet processed and placed on the shelf! I love it. So instant. We also send emails to students about things like lost property, if we can identify them as the owner. Sometimes they’re still on campus and they’ll come back right away.

One challenge at our library is that we communicate with students via student email, never a personal email address, and many don’t check their student email regularly. That’s why it’s important to encourage them to set up their student email to forward to an address that they do check regularly and that sends push notifications to their phone or tablet.



#23mobilethings – 2. Photos


Social media is very visual. Platforms like Snapchat and Instagram have a lot of potential, I don’t think the majority of libraries have taken them up yet. Even on “traditional” sites like twitter and facebook, photo posts get much more engagement (in terms of metrics – clicks, likes, shares). They can be a great way of communicating what’s going on in the library. Photos of events, displays, new arrivals, new services, can communicate a lot. There’s always the issue of getting permission from people to use their photo, but it’s as simple as getting them to sign a clearance form.

One thing I’ve seen libraries do is set up an interesting “selfie” opportunity as part of a display or exhibition and asking patrons to take tag their photo with a particular hashtag can build community too. And maybe running competitions where users can send in a photo?

#23mobilethings – 1. Twitter


Hey, so I’m doing 23 mobile things. In the mobile spirit I’m doing it all on my android, so apologies in advance for the typos.

First off the ranks is twitter. I opened a twitter account in 2009 but it’s only in the past year or so that I’ve tried to be active with it. I followed a bunch of other librarians and try to post interesting content (I know that sharing links and retweeting isn’t enough, but it’s so easy!) It’s a great way to keep up with interesting developments in libraryland, and take part in activities like #BlogJune and 23 (research data) Things #23RDThings which I did this year, and were largely spurred on by twitter.

Twitter also enhances the experience of attending conferences. I find it amazing to sit in an auditorium where the only voice you can hear is the speaker, but everyone has their devices out and twitter is positively abuzz with conversations. It’s like a parallel dimension. It really enriches the experience of attending a conference.