The Problem: As students return to campus after the pandemic, many look towards different amenities and services provided by the UW to study efficiently. One of the best venues at the UW for accessible studying is at libraries. UW has dozens of libraries, with popular ones being the Suzzallo and Allen libraries and the Odegaard Library. At certain times of the day, these buildings can be packed with students. A ten-minute walking trip to the library can turn into a nightmare when students can’t find a seat, access to printing, or study rooms they need. Not only is this a waste of time, but it makes efficient studying inaccessible to many students. To address this issue, our team created a mobile app prototype to compile all UW library services, track locations to approximate capacities of libraries during different times of the day, and connect students with each other so that they can meet at the common libraries and study together.
What it does
Our mobile app, DubLib, short for UW Libraries, compiles information about all Seattle campus libraries. This includes everything from open/close hours, to if the library has printers. We also display a prediction of how busy the library usually is at a certain time of day, which we determined from looking at past activity data using an API. We also used the API to display live capacity/population data that showed how busy a library was currently. The most important feature of this app is location tracking between mutual friends. We integrated social media-like features to connect people to each other for the best study experiences. For example, the app will send users notifications if a mutual friend is in a library near them so that the user can join their friend without having to text each other where to meet.
How we built it
We created a prototype of the UI for our app using Figma, to model the functionalities of our app and test our design. The main back-end was created using Python, which integrated a third-party API to both track live and historical data based on the Google Maps API, and used that to give information on whether a library was crowded or not at that moment in time and historically. Furthermore, we provide information such as opening/closing hours, printing, and extra tags for each library using a JSON document database. For example, we read the current time and computed whether the library was currently open or not, to display to the user. Finally, we then created a quick HTML file with Flask for displaying the information for the UW libraries on a web browser.
Challenges we ran into
One of the challenges we faced was balancing time and effort on our UI prototype versus working on backend development. We ended up modeling each type of page using Figma so we could test our design and then started to work on the backend portion after that. Another challenge was getting real-time data for how many people were at each library. We experimented with many different designs, such as making predictions solely based on historic data, tracking the location of every user, or using AI on security camera footage to determine the number of people, but eventually settled on a mixture of feasibility and effectiveness by using the Google Maps - based third party API.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Creating an aesthetic prototype with Figma, which was cohesive and also accessible to people
Working within a smaller time frame effectively, though we are used to completing bigger projects within a few weeks
What we learned
A majority of our team members had no experience using Figma before, but we were able to learn how to use the application and create a prototype from it
We learned how to integrate a third party API into our program and use it to analyze and integrate past library capacity data into our app
What's next for DubLib
To improve on our current app, we’d like to add several more features to make it more useful. One idea we have is to track a user’s study hours based on how long they stay in a library, and that way they could have a means of measuring their productivity, possibly in a calendar format. We’d also like to expand to other UW study spaces that aren’t just libraries, and possibly pinpoint the live population of places to more precise areas like rooms, instead of a general building. We would also like to mark which libraries are wheelchair accessible to help students with disabilities.