Guest Post: Google Docs Forms

Librarians everywhere want to know what their patrons are thinking.  Which titles does the public or campus community want added to the collection this year?  Are they interested in library instruction workshops? How effective was my library instruction anyhow?  Basically, we want to know how we could do a better job with what we are already doing and what we should be doing differently.  How do we often get this information?  Enter the survey.

Many of us already have experience with online survey forms such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.  Google Docs Forms are a little different in the way they work.  Every form is automatically attached to a Google Docs Spreadsheet, similar to Excel.  When someone fills out a form you have created the data they input is automatically populated to Google Docs Spreadsheet where it can then be viewed or manipulated.

Why would you want to use Google Docs Forms for surveys?

The single best answer is flexibility, but here are a few other details to consider:

  • Google Docs Forms are a free part of the overall Google Docs suite of tools.  There are no subscription fees to deal with.

    Image of how to open a new Googledoc Form.

    Start creating a form in your Googledoc account by selecting "Create new," then click on "Form."

  • Surveys can be quickly and easily created from an individual account.  You don’t have to ask someone else for access to a specialized survey account.  Forms can be created and edited by anyone who has a Google account.
  • Forms can be shared with others.  Do you have multiple people who need to work with the data collected?  You can give access to anyone with an email address to look at and manage data.
  • There are multiple ways in which you can let users access survey forms.  You can send a link or you can use the embed code provided to put the survey on your own web page.
  • Google Docs Forms have a variety of themes that allow you to change the look and feel of your form.  This is especially useful when you are embedding the survey on your own website so that it can match the look of your pages.  Take a look at and fill out the form I created for this blog post that I embedded on a LibGuide here.

The main drawback to Google Docs Forms is that there are less question types to choose from than you would find in some of the other survey tools out there.

Personally, in my role as a librarian for distance and off-campus programs, getting feedback from the library users I serve is especially challenging.  It is not so easy to drop by and have a chat with them, nor are they likely to visit the physical library very often, if ever.  I have found embedding Google Docs Forms on a library website to be a successful way to collect information from students.  Because they are so easy to create I have also begun to use forms to organize personal work tasks.  For instance, I use a form to to enter data on items I want to look at later for collection development.

Google Docs Forms are a great tool to experiment with.  I recommend finding a colleague interested in trying it out with you and experimenting together.

Click here for a step by step getting started tutorial for librarians.

Features to take advantage of

  • Choose a theme that matches your website or the season.

Google form theme image

Example of an embedded form.

  • Manage survey results in a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

Example of form results in a Google spreadsheet

Gabe Gossett is the Librarian for Extended Education and Human Services at Western Washington University.  His professional interests include outreach to distance education students, service-learning in libraries, and for-credit library instruction.  He is currently immersed in a project to expand the use of LibAnswers reference tracking software to all of the library service desks, teaching an online research skills class, and revising a research mentoring service-learning class.

You don’t have to be just a Libtechtalk groupie. Did you know that this blog is looking for guest authors? Contact ctomlinson at to find out how you to o can write about your favorite technologies and how they might be used in academic libraries.

Guest Post: Sign me up! Event registration with GoogleDocs and Calendar

By now, if you’re not a GoogleDocs convert, you at least know enough about it to resist it’s Google-y charms. If you fall into the latter group, well, you might just come around by the end of this post.

Nestled among Google’s answer to the trifecta of productivity software is a gem that will make registration for your next library workshop a breeze, especially when used with Google Calendar.

Behold the Form:
Google Form

Essentially, it’s a very stripped down survey-making application that feeds results into an accompanying spreadsheet. To get started:

1. Create a new Form from the GoogleDocs front page.
2. Add a name and a description for your event.
3. Add your question fields with the Add Item button. (Here you can choose a question type – text, paragraph, scale, etc. For registration forms, I use Text and ask for first and last name, email address and academic department.)
4. I like to edit the confirmation message – the note students get when the form is submitted. Do this under More Actions.
5. Also under More Actions, select Embed and copy the code for your form.

Edit form

Now you can add the code to a web page, but why stop there? Go a step further and paste it into the description field of an event in Google Calendar.

Edit event

The trick here is to tweak the HTML a little to make a link instead of an embedded object. I just change the <iframe src> tag to an <a href> tag and edit what I want the link to say.

Finally, take the code for the Google Calendar and paste it into your website. This code can be found in Calendar Settings for the desired calendar.

Calendar code

Now, you have a fully integrated library events calendar and sign up sheet. When participants fill out the form, their responses will be added to a spreadsheet in your GoogleDocs item list.

One last detail I like to customize, is notification – you can be sent an email when someone submits the online form. To set this up, open the spreadsheet, go to Tools → Notification Rules.

Notification rules

This GoogleDocs/Calendar combination has been immensely helpful in setting up workshop registration and keeping attendees organized. Plus, it has all the benefits that come with GoogleDocs – it’s web-based so I can set up registration forms anywhere and I can add co-instructors who can view the class list and make any needed edits. To see all this in action, feel free to check out my workshop calendar.

Allie Jordan is the Emerging Technologies and Instructional Services Librarian at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  While she’s not exploring the ins and outs of the graduate student psyche, she’s cross stitching or watching roller derby.

You don’t have to be just a Libtechtalk groupie. Did you know that this blog is looking for guest authors? Contact ctomlinson at to find out how you too can write about your favorite technologies and how they might be used in academic libraries.

Google Docs

Have you ever tried to work on a Word document on a computer that doesn’t have Microsoft Office? Or maybe you’ve had to email yourself a document in order to open it on another computer? Online applications such as Google Docs allow you to create, edit, and save word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the web rather than on your computer. Not only does this make it possible to create Microsoft Office type documents without purchasing any software, but it also makes it easier to share and edit a document between people.

In the library setting Google Docs can be used many ways. The ability to share a document or presentation gives students a way to work on group projects without messy emails. Library staff can easily co-author papers or simply share a spreadsheet between departments. This can be especially useful when working with people at other institutions who do not share a common server. Need a place to hold all of your committee documents that is accessible by all members? Google Docs can serve as that online repository. Although document sharing is a nice feature of Google Docs, it is not required; Google Docs can simply be a way to access documents on different computers or on computers that do not have Microsoft Office. Google Docs even lets you upload documents currently saved on your computer as a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file.

Google Docs