One of the arguments for using Instant Messaging as a reference tool is that the technology allows the librarian to go to where the users are. However, the tool can also be used to get the patrons to come to you.
On Wednesday night I had a business student IM me. Wednesday is my usual night to work, and I think business students are becoming more aware of this. Her topic was kind of difficult, and the resources that she needed for her research were only available in print. Since we are primarily a residential campus, it was of little inconvenience for her to walk up the hill to the library.
When she got to the library, I already had a pretty good idea about her topic, and had pulled some reference materials for her to peruse (D&B’s Industry Norms & Key Business Ratios and Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios ). Her topic, as well as the resources, were definitely a little too advanced to handle completely through an IM exchange, but using IM helped initiate the in-person transaction. Because the IM is a real-time communication mechanism, I was able to conduct most of the reference interview before she came to the building. She came to the desk, got what she needed, and left happy.