Electronic upgrade saves reams of paper, reaps award


The room scheduling team (l-r) of scheduling coordinator Elizabeth Salton, room scheduling specialist Katie Baumgarn and scheduling coordinator Alesha Magee won a Live Green! Award for Excellence in Sustainability in the operations category. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Scheduling a classroom used to leave quite the paper trail.

The stacks of paper got so high that room scheduling specialist Katie Baumgarn and her team decided there had to be a better way. It led to a digital revolution in the office that swept away piles of paper and earned Baumgarn and scheduling coordinators Alesha Magee and Elizabeth Salton a Live Green! Award for Excellence in Sustainability in the operations category.

Nearly 15 years ago, the room scheduling team began receiving electronic requests, but with it a hard copy automatically printed to assist a team member with data entry. Requests for more than 200 general university classrooms, and requests from student organizations and departments needing space for meetings, tutoring and exams used reams of paper. On top of that, hackers occasionally would get into the system and make copious amounts of fake requests, leading to additional wasted paper. 

With the help of facilities planning and management's (FPM) technology services staff, the entire process now is electronic, saving paper for more than a decade and making the entire process more efficient.

"It has improved the efficiency of all the offices that deal with this because we no longer have to go through piles of paper looking for what we need," Baumgarn said. "With the old process, it was easily three to four reams of paper per semester."

To further cut down on paper use, the same team digitized the course offering change form, eliminating a process that featured triplicate copies shared across campus. Preliminary lists of room assignments -- ranging from one to 30 pages -- used to be sent out for review at the start of each semester before departments made changes and photocopied the pages. The move to an electronic format eliminated the excessive paper use.

These efforts also inspired the office of the registrar to migrate some of its paper reports to electronic format, something Baumgarn hopes other departments and units may consider.

Recycling also has been important to the room scheduling team members, which dutifully used the backs of all those discarded printed pages for scratch paper and were among the first in FPM to remove trash baskets from their workstations.