Category Archives: IM, Meebo & Chat Reference

New IM Report

Via Stephen Abram:

This post includes facts from a new report from AOL on IM use ( and then Stephen weighs in:

More grist for the library mill. I recall seeing a 1956/57 article in the Wilson Library Bulletin advising libraries not to adopt telephone reference. From my travels this year, we seem to be split on piloting IM reference and resisting it. This seems to be a watershed issue in libraries and our relationship with our users.

Several folks have informed me that their library IM trial yielded poor results. I asked how they marketed and promoted the service. As a rule, they hadn’t done very much promotion at all. Some feared getting too many questions (an odd irony). I know of one library that got amazing results just by getting every staff member to give the special group IM address on a bookmark to every teen who arrived in the library. The word of mouth marketing this generated worked very well. Now that the average IM user is 32, this kind of promotion could be done very effectively by circulation and information commons desks.

Brenda Hearts Meebo

I do still see some libraries prohibiting the use of instant messaging (IM). One of the reasons libraries have prohibited it is because of the need to install the Instant Messaging client on each public access computer. That, however, is no longer required. There are web-based tools that allow you to use IM without having to install software. My personal favorite is Meebo. It allows users to access their AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, Google Talk, ICQ or Jabber accounts, without needing to install any software. And it’s free!

When you access Meebo, you will frequently see interesting notes from the developers. Today, for example, Elaine from Meebo posted about some statistics they have gathered about text customization. 75% of users just use the default black font when are chatting. If people do change the color of the text, what do you think is the most popular choice? Hot pink!

What story is this library telling?

One of my students calls one of the large, urban local libraries doing research for group projects. He encounters this intriguing story:

Librarian: Hello? ________ Public Library, may I help you?
LIS753 Student: Hello, I’m working on a project for my library school class and I have a question.
Librarian: Of course.
LIS753 Student: Does the library have plans to start an IM reference service?
Librarian: Oh God, No!

Wow, not even a “We have heard of libraries doing that but we haven’t looked into yet..” or anything! Shame on you, large, urban Illinois-located Public Library system!

On Using IM Reference

Nicole writes:

I just finished my first conversation with a reference staff member at Drexel via IM! I needed to find a required journal and was thrown off by the interface they provided me with. I went right to my comfort zone – InfoTrac because that’s what we have at work and I know how to use it – but turns out that even though it said my journal was in there – it wasn’t! So I opened up IM and asked the librarian. Now that I think back I guess a complaint would be that he/she didn’t provide a name so I can’t tell you who helped me – for now we’re going to assume it was a “she” – based on statistics.

Anyway, she walked me through each step in the process and when I hit a bump she came up with a way to help me. She also introduced me to ProQuest which is way prettier than InfoTrac! I found both of my journal articles and am ready to sit down and do some reading.

IM Reference is totally handy!! I love it!

Use this post as evidence for the discussions at your library about IM reference. :-)

It won’t be long before IM is the “phone” and Email is a delivery tool

why in the world doesn’t every library with an internet connection offer IM Reference? This includes my own library where I have introduced the concept to my staff on a couple occasions, but where we have still not taken steps to get it going. My sense is that some of them just are not ready to make this leap. Maybe it’s my fault for not pushing my people harder, hoping instead that one day someone will come to me with the same idea I had two years ago. However, if that doesn’t happen soon, I can’t see how we can continue to afford not doing it.

It won’t be long before IM is the “phone” and Email is a delivery tool (and it probably is already that way for a lot of our own patrons). Whether we like it or not we don’t get to choose how we communicate with our clientele- it’s their choice. Or maybe it would be better say that we do get to choose, but that they may not use the tools we hope they will. So, it’s up to us- do we want to be relevant or not?