Library app counts occupancy

The University and the AMS launch a two-year pilot program that measures how many people are in Stauffer Library

The library occupancy app has a 98 per cent accuracy rate.
The library occupancy app has a 98 per cent accuracy rate.

Stauffer Library now has an online tool that will tell students how much space is available in the library, but it’s quite different from what AMS executive team JDL promised in 2012.

The online tool, which will be a two-year pilot project, was launched last Monday.

It will cost the AMS approximately $1,500 in operating costs for two years and around $4,000 for the University to implement.

During their 2012 AMS campaign, Team JDL – Doug Johnson, Tristan Lee and Mira Dineen – proposed a mobile application that would tell students how much seating space is available in Stauffer Library. They went on to win the election, but such a tool wasn't implemented while they held office.

The current tool isn’t a mobile application, but rather a bar on the library homepage that fills up in real time as more students enter the library.

The tool uses sensors at the entrance of the library to count the number of students entering and leaving the building.

Michael Vanderburg, the associate university librarian, said the AMS executive approached Library Services with the idea in 2012, having identified the company Flonomics as a potential company to undertake the project.

“If you glance upwards as you go up the walkway into the library, you’ll notice two beige colored rectangular devices … those are the Flonomics cameras,” Vanderburg said.

He said there were initially privacy concerns about the cameras. Library Services consulted with Campus Security, Queen’s Legal Council and other university committees, he said, before approving it in April 2013.

“After receiving confirmation from Flonomics that the system does not transmit video traffic, only data about people entering and exiting a location, the project was given the go-ahead,” he said.

The current tool can’t tell students which seats are in use, or which areas are full. However, he said the Flonomics system is 98 per cent accurate at measuring how many students enter the library.

“We’ve found the service to be quite sound,” Vanderburg said. Despite this, he said, it can be thrown off when people enter the front doors but exit from the docking area in the back.

“We’re working on ways to increase the accuracy of the counts,” he said.

Eril Berkok, the current AMS president and CEO, said the AMS vetted each potential company for the project, but the library decided on the final design of the tool.

He told the Journal via email that the project took two years to plan, partly due to negotiations over a cost-sharing agreement.

The AMS has agreed to pay the monthly costs of running the data processing service the tool requires, he said, while the library agreed to pay the upfront costs of installing the technology.

He said the library may eventually create a mobile application for the service, but that it’s too early to tell.

“It’s important to remember that this is the first revision of the software and is only just getting up and running,” he said.

The first two years will be a test, he said, and changes may be made if the AMS sees ways it can be improved.

Laura Kuikman, ArtSci ’17, said she would definitely use the application during exam period.

“[I’m] on West Campus, and it’s annoying when we make the trip down here and there are no seats,” she said.

She said the only reason she knew about the application was through Facebook. A screenshot of the application was posted on the 16,000 member “Overheard at Queen’s” Facebook group last Friday.

The tool wouldn’t be as useful earlier in the semester, she added, when Stauffer is less busy.

“I don’t think I’d go now, since it doesn’t tell you which seats are available.”

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