EDC kick-starts equipment reservation website

by Katherine Salzberg / Beacon Correspondent • September 28, 2017

Emerson’s Equipment Distribution Center is rolling out a new website for reserving video production gear.

Tim MacArthur, associate director of Television, Radio, and Film, said that after the EDC moved from the Little Building to 19 Avery Street last year, the flow of students making and picking up reservations at the EDC frequently caused jams at the front desk. To combat those issues, students in specific visual and media arts and journalism courses are now able to use the Patron Portal service to request equipment online.

Students using Patron Portal can make equipment reservations at any time as long as the EDC has the item in stock. To prevent congestion, the site may keep students from scheduling a pick-up or return time that has become too busy, MacArthur said.

Even though the online system is meant to expedite the process for students, MacArthur still suggests making reservations at least 24 hours in advance.

“If [a student books] something at three in the morning for the moment we open, it won’t be ready waiting for them because nobody was there overnight,” he said. 

The college has used WebCheckout, the software company that created Patron Portal, for over a decade, but bugs in the initial software caused the EDC to set it aside until recently. MacArthur said once the developer made progress with the portal and the EDC’s need for the program increased, the new site was tested with film and photo courses in the spring.

Patron Portal can be accessed at webcheckout.emerson.edu.

The site is only accessible to students in specific production courses—and only after they participate in an in-class contract session at the start of each semester explaining the portal and the EDC’s distribution policy. The equipment a student can reserve depends on the courses they take and the progress their class makes, with an instructor then authorizing the use of additional tools, MacArthur said.

The EDC is also working on “bundles,” which package cameras with other items that are often forgotten.

“Students would book cameras, but they wouldn’t book batteries, tripods, any of those things,” MacArthur said. “We’re still working on implementation, so it’s going to continue to improve as we go.”

Halley Dewey, a senior visual and media arts major who uses the EDC about twice every month, said she thinks the new site has potential. 

“One of my problems was not being able to order online,” she said. “You had to go in, and just because I had a busy schedule, it was hard to request equipment. It was a little out of the way … I think the online thing will help with the wait times.”