As instant message reference freed patrons from having to come to the library, text messaging reference frees them from their desks or laptops. Yale Science Librarians offer a text messaging reference service to meet this preference for mobility: patrons can text a librarian from study halls, classes, laboratories, dorms, offices, or even from the stacks without having to approach a librarian.
To deliver this service, we use an Apple iPhone which allows us to simultaneously provide instant messaging, phone, and email reference service. Using the iPhone also enhances our social networking services; we use it to post directly to our Twitter and Facebook accounts via texting. Using a mobile device instead of SMS/email
conversion software allows librarians to benefit from the same mobility our patrons now enjoy: we can even answer questions from the stacks.
The lack of programmatic precedents required us to devise new policies for implementing and evaluating this service, as well as a sustainable and scalable management model to ensure its success. Evaluating this service
provides unique challenges/opportunities because most SMS devices can save but not export text messages. Pushing a survey URL over text message is not feasible considering most mobile devices don’t support hyperlinks, so our library links to a simple evaluation form on our website. We also gather information about patron categories (undergrad, grad student, faculty, staff) and their departments by asking patrons to include their email address.
Marketing is not as easy as branding a screen name for IM reference, but advertising Txt a Science Librarian for example and having patrons add the number to their quick-dial list might be quite effective. Plus, by being so new and different it tends to market itself.
Text messaging reference is a great complement to diffuse and traditional reference services, so let’s give patrons
an opportunity to Text a Librarian!
General Science Librarian & Instruction Coordinator.
Kline Science Library, Yale University