Submitted by Heather Edmonds, Director of Library Services, New England College of Optometry, email@example.com
is a free communication tool that is part-IM service, part-email, part-shared drive that also integrates with numerous productivity apps and other services. It’s available as a mobile or desktop app, as well as via the web. Though primarily marketed as a tool for small businesses and start-ups, the staff at my small library has been using it for nearly a year, and we have found it invaluable.
Slack allows for both group conversations — which can be organized by topic/project/etc. via “channels” — as well as direct messages to individuals on one’s “team” (our “team” is small and consists of only library staff members, but teams can be as large or as small as they need to be to accommodate the user group). Messages are archived, and fully searchable.
Slack also permits the sharing of files among team members directly in the app. File sharing is particularly easy when using cloud-based services such as Google Drive or Dropbox, as you need only cut and paste the link to the file into Slack in order to share it.
One of the most useful Slack features for us is the ability to integrate our shared Google Calendars into specific channels that update automatically when an “event” is forthcoming, so that you can see what’s happening on a particular day without having to leave the app. For example, one of the shared calendars we’ve integrated is our circulation desk schedule, so that it’s easy to keep on top of who is scheduled to cover the desk, and when.
We initially decided to try Slack because we found that email, while useful for many purposes, wasn’t fully addressing our day-to-day communication needs as a staff. Face-to-face communication is best, of course — but our library is open many hours, and because we cover different shifts we don’t always see each other as much as we’d like. So we decided to try an IM service, and Slack proved to be the most versatile. I highly recommend Slack for any library staff interested in communicating outside the email box.