Sarah at Librarian in Black and Michael at Tame The Web have both posted some updates on their libraries’ Instant Messaging reference programs. Both services seem to be returning excellent numbers and are excellent examples of reaching out to the patrons. Both libraries are supporting the big three clients (AIM, Yahoo! IM, and MSN Messenger), which means that there really should be no one left out. Michael is even supporting Apple’s client, iChat.
Their numbers and success are encouraging (or perhaps overwhelming) to folks who may be thinking about starting a similar service. Our library is fortunate to be a member of OhioLINK, which offers a web-based chat service. We are able to staff a seat for our institution during most hours of operation. As mentioned in a previous post, I have made my Yahoo! and AIM screen names available to students at our university in addition to this service. They can find my screen names on my Business Blog, as well as under my library contact information. My hopes are that if they would like to contact me directly, this would be a great way to do so. CurrentlyI have no set hours of opearation as I can’t afford to dedicate a block of time just yet. However, I am available at all times while I am at my desk, so provided I am not in a meeting, teaching a class, or at the ref desk, I’ll be able to answer a question. Currently I am only supporting AIM and Yahoo! but that may change after I get the results of a survey I am doing.
During the first week of this quarter, I had the opportunity to market this idea to 80 business students during an overview of library resources. The last thing I show the students in every class is the business blog and my contact information, and I empasized the IM service in the last few classes that I have taught. During the second week of the quarter, I had six IM interactions in seven days. Not bad, but since then, all has been quiet. I have another round of classes to teach during the month of February, so perhaps this will stir up some more business. I guess we’ll wait and see.
Hi! Thanks for the congrats. I would like to point out, and I can only speak for myself–not Michael, that my library offers both a statewide web-based chat reference service _and_ IM reference.
The reasons for this are many, and are being worked into some articles & conference presentations at present. The short of it is that IM connects patrons with local librarians, is very teen-friendly, and has low system requirements (though it does require a software install). Our web-based chat service offers 24/7 availability, which we could never do by ourselves, but also has very strict system requirements (which results in frequent crashes for the patrons) and does not connect them with local librarians. In my head, at least, it’s not “one or the other,” but both.