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Google Forms: A success for the Libraries!

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A great big thank you to Marlo Welshons, the Communications Director for the University Libraries. She answered my questions about Google Forms both for this blog post but also following the recent UMCF event about surveys. Our office uses a survey tool for a variety of purposes including RSVPs for events and Marlo explained how they use Google Forms for that purpose. Since Google Forms is more university-friendly than a third-party survey tool, I figured I needed to learn more about how that works! Her wisdom has been helpful for me in my department and I thought we could all benefit from her experience. Do others have helpful hints regarding RSVPs using Google Forms?

When did you start using Google Forms and why them instead of another program or service?

We started using Google Forms last summer for the simple reason that they were easily available now that we've all moved to Google Docs. We didn't research other alternatives, we just started playing around with the Google Apps suite to see how it worked and what was possible.

What are your primary purposes for using Google Forms (i.e., surveys, registrations, etc.)?

Although I have used Google Forms to create a few basic surveys to gather information from project groups I'm working with, the single most frequent use is providing a customized, online RSVP form for our many events.

I have to credit our graphic designer, Jen Peters, who figured out how to embed a Google form in a web page (when in form editing mode, select "embed" from the "More actions" drop-down). She created a form to let people RSVP to a retirement party for one of our senior administrators, and then embedded it in an HTML wrapper that looked like the HTML email invitation she had created for the event. Attendees really liked being able to RSVP online, and also that there was a field where they could write a congratulations message to the event honoree. We've since implemented this for nearly all of our Friends of the Libraries events.

You can see an RSVP example of this in an email we've developed for an upcoming poetry reading.

Who in your office manages your Google Forms?


We don't have a central manager for using these. For event RSVP forms, we create the form and give edit rights to the event organizer(s). We also give view rights to other staff who may wish to know how many people are coming, or if specific people will be in attendance.

What benefits do you see from using Google Forms?

The coordinator for our Friends of the Libraries events has seen a tremendous benefit from this new process. In the past, attendees were asked to RSVP by phone or email. The time saved by no longer processing those email and voicemail messages is huge, and she uses the spreadsheet created by the form to generate name tags and keep track of other details related to managing the event guest list.

Additionally, we ask attendees to provide us with an email address or phone number in case we need to contact them with changes to an event date or location. This has proven helpful because we can suppress the email addresses of those who have already responded from the mailing data when we send reminder emails. We have also on occasion used the email addresses of those who have RSVP'd to send a confirmation email with customized parking information and directions to the event.

Do you have some tips for other communicators who want to use Google Forms but aren't sure of how or why?

A couple of things we've learned from doing this:

1. Be sure to customize the submission confirmation message (access this from the same "More actions" drop-down for getting the embed code). We use the confirmation message to repeat the time and location information and contact information for the event organizer. For example, the confirmation message for the Pankake Poetry Reading email reads:

Thank you for your reservation.

We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. in Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Ave S, Minneapolis.

Please contact Lanaya Stangret at 612-624-9339 or stangret@umn.edu with any questions or concerns.

2. We make a copy of a previous RSVP form instead of starting from scratch with each new RSVP forms. If you do that, be sure to go into the associated spreadsheet and delete the rows that contain the information collected from the form you copied. If you simply delete the contents of those rows and not the rows themselves, then Google will insert the new data below the last row used by the previous form.

We learned this the hard way: we had a scare where we thought the form was not capturing the information from people who had RSVP'd, but luckily we thought to scroll down and discovered it all appeared starting with row 73 (72 people had filled out the RSVP form for the event that we'd used as the template for the new RSVP form).

1 Comment

So apropos! I'm just looking into using Google Forms for a project I'm working on...keeping an editorial calendar spreadsheet among a big group through use of a form. thanks!

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  • Adam O: So apropos! I'm just looking into using Google Forms for read more

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