Category Archives: IM, Meebo & Chat Reference

Librarian: How Do You IM? A TTW Survey

I think IM in my public library is an example of the generation gap between staff members. We do not allow patrons to IM on library computers, and staff are not supposed to IM, either. However, many of the young professionals do have one or more IM programs downloaded onto their computers (inclduing the IT department), and we use IM at work. The staff that uses IM are more likely to want the IM and games ban dropped on public computers and want to start reference IM, a library blog, etc. So I see a direct correlation between librarians/library staff who IM and those who are forward thinking about library programs and technology. Survey Respondent

This is a companion report to a brief presentation I’m gave at Computers in Libraries on Wedenesday. It was a quickly created and mounted survey. Someday I hope to do a much more official one. Here’s what I found:

Are Staff Allowed to IM?

Here we see most of the respondents can use IM at their workstations.

Next, does your library do IM outreach or are there plans to do so:

Does your library offer IM Reference?

Plans to Launch IM?

My conclusion: Our Work is Not Yet Done

Many libraries might find that IM would work very well as an add on or as a replacement for virtual referebce, depending on their users.

The focus for my few minutes was on IM building community. Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches-Johnson came after me to share real world examples and insight.

Here’s what Howard Rheingold said about virtual community: “Social aggregators that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” (Rheingold, 1993)

Survey Respondents said:

IM communication builds community between colleagues – 89% agree or somewhat agree

I feel like I’m part of the community of IMing librarians – 53% disagreed or somewhat disagreed

I have IM contacts in libraries throughout my country on my Buddy List – 66% disagree

I have IM contacts in libraries all over the world on my Buddy List – 84% disagree

The last two prompted me to say “I live in a bubble” because I IM with folks all over the world. I think folks like me are the exception.

Qualitative Data:

What are the benefits of IM:

It’s made it easier to communicate and to arrange meetings, carpools, etc.

I can discuss projects in real time with colleagues that are thousands of miles away or right down the road. It makes collaborating easier and opens up many doors.

IM has begun to build bridges across the traditional staff/faculty divide.

There is greater connection between us than before.

This comment was telling. Could it be about your library sytem? Do you have discouraged librarians in your system? Be careful or you may lose them! Here’s the comment:

Many librarians in my library system would like to use IM both for reference and for staff purposes. However, this library system is very reluctant to change and slow to respond to most new ideas. I feel very discouraged when I meet with professionals in other library systems that get to try new things.

I also got some feedback about barriers in some libraries that prevent the librarians from using IM. One type of barrier was the perceived intrusiveness of IM:

I don’t use it. email works just fine for me, without the intrusiveness of IM.

E-mail is much better, or the phone.

Another was time:

We are a small staff and don’t have time to be confined to the computer

Or IT barriers:

Our City IT has forbidden its use for security reasons, so we rely on email, phone, and face-to-face conversations to communicate and maintain relationships.

The most interesting to me was the perceived “digital divide” in many libraries.

Creates a digital divide, lots of LastGen librarians at MPOW who don’t use it and are out of the loop.

I think IM in my public library is an example of the generation gap between staff members. We do not allow patrons to IM on library computers, and staff are not supposed to IM, either.

So, again, our work is not yet done. Did you know that there are only 65 libraries doing IM reference listed on the LibSuccess wiki? Maybe in another year we’ll see a lot more — maybe even more school libraries!

Here are my suggestions for moving forward if you are interested in IM in Libraries:

More education
More case studies/ Let’s tell some stories of successful IM interaction
A guide to librarian’s IM names on a wiki (I think Meredith had the page done before I sat down)
More discussion with key players (IT, etc)
Examination of security issues

Librarians who IM

Add your name to the growing list! Click here!

AOL Opens AIM to Developers

AOL gets it that opening up their IM platform may prove very succesful as social networks grow. Will we see AIM built in to new Web 2.0 sites, services, etc?

“It’s a dramatic turnaround for AOL,” said Joe Wilcox, an analyst at Jupiter Research, who called the move shrewd and well timed.

AOL is “opening up to other companies, some of whom can create products to compete with AIM,” he added.

Communicating by typing messages, making phone calls or video-calls and the ability to see if recipients are online at the same time are seen as integral to successful future versions of Internet services, analysts said.

Librarians & IM: A TTW Survey

Please take just a few moments to complete this little survey about librarians and IM. I’m doing some background work for a brief talk at Computers in Libraries 2006 as well as collecting some data for my upcoming Library Technology Report “Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software.” I’m interested to see how many librarians are using IM at their desks to commiunicate with colleagues and as a reference point.

Click here to take survey

Thanks! :-)

TTW Mailbox: Those Teenies!

I got a note from a TTW reader from Europe, who’s excited about upcoming plans for IM in their libraries!

Don’t be surprised if the city’s libraries offer IM communication with the users from all 20+ libraries. The head of the libraries just said “Go do it!” Now, what remains is to convince our colleagues that it is a good idea. Do you have the same problem with convincing your collegues about that?

We sure have: “That’s stupid and just for young teenies who want to chat nonsense to each other”, “We don’t have time for that, emails and telephones are sufficient”, “IM? – can’t we have a little privacy here”
Do you recognize those phrases?

I do, reader, I do!

What I might suggest is offering those librarians an evidence-based session on user-centered services, highlighted by OCLC Perceptions, some IM in Libraries articles, and a tour of what some librarians have done with IM!

Get them in a training room and let them IM with each other. Sometimes just playing gets folks on board!

On the Radar: AIM Triton

Good review at the Social Software blog:

To say that AOL’s new AIM program is an instant messenger is to diminish it unacceptably. AIM Triton, as the program is now called, is an online communicator that bundles IM, email, voice chat, video chat, browsing, bookmarking, and RSS aggregation into a two-window interface. This whopping upgrade to previous AIM configurations adds welcome features, but also—disappointingly for a program now out of beta—still houses a couple of bugs…

LiB notes SMS Reference

This is huge and should not be ignored. Read Sarah’s excellent overview of South Eastern Louisiana University’s SMS Reference project.

Two Ultra-HOT bits of many:

He also noted that an ongoing issue is trying to limit your response to 160 characters. You can send the response in multiple messages, but librarians tend to try their hardest to fit it into one. The system auto-abbreviates some words (for-4, too-2).

What an excellent point and a big vote for librarians to really “get” the vernacular of chat. We can’t ignore it much longer if we are to be relevant to future SMS users in all of our libraries. Have a cell phone that can SMS? Find an SMS buddy at your library and practice!

This also speaks to one of our themes from CPL: The more we attempt to be perfect in everything we do (how many librarians do you know that wordsmith a simple proposal until everyone has lost sight of the prooject and/or timeline for the sake of grammar, spelling and the like), the more we fall behind. Do you think anyone sending a question via SMS would care there was a typo or abbreviated text?

R U crazy?

The system keeps track of the time and number of transactions, but not the actual transcripts of messages. [I think this is a good thing?I don?t want any records, and if the system automatically doesn?t keep them, all the better].
Students are asking a wide range of questions, but mostly short simple factual questions. He noted that they never get short simple questions through e-mail, phone, or web-based chat. As such, he believes they?re tapping whole new user needs with this service.


Oh LiB, thank you for this insight and your incredible blog!

University of Michigan Library pilots IM service

Via Sherri

I am tickled that they are piloting and being so up front:

“During Fall semester 2005, Ask Us Now! will pilot a new enhanced real-time reference component using AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). If you do not have the AOL Instant Messenger installed on your computer, we recommend that you use the “classic” Ask Us Now! service.

Help us evaluate instant messaging with AOL’s IM software! The University Library is conducting a pilot of IM for answering your library- and research-related questions.”

I hope the students, staff and faculty use the service and the library reports out on their pilot. If you are pondering such a pilot — and you should be! — look at their informative pages for guidelines and inspiration.

I wonder how their “Ask Us Now” service will fare if IM takes off?

Plugged in and iPod’ed Up

From Beatrice at edifice ref comes this gem of a post, looking at the start of a new semester at Providence College Phillips Memorial Library :

“Just coming up for a bit of air after 3 solid weeks of back-to-school activities. This is my first full ?fall? semester and it has been a doozy. I haven?t done a tally, but I have to believe the early indicators that our new IM service is a big hit. We launched on the first day of classes, sent campus-wide emails the following week, and we?re now receiving several IMs a day. Lot of reserves queries, messages for full-text assistance, longish reference questions and research appointment requests. I have also personally witnessed my share of ?hi library? pulse checking IMs.

The new kids are sooooooo plugged in. They come to the library in search of usb ports to download the papers stored on their Ipods. They are sprawled all over the library with their own laptops, wander through the reference collection, and more importantly, ask lots of questions about our services.

The staff here also seems to be keen on IM, which is great. I won?t say we?re fighting over them, but everyone is eager to answer them. We are also dealing with privacy issues (storage, chat cleansing, etc.) and different levels of comfort using IM. I created two FAQ?s?one for patrons and one for us. It?s a process, and all of the anecdotal feedback I am receiving will be very useful for my November talk to public librarians about launching an IM service.”

Hey Beatrice..can we see those FAQ’s?

For everyone: This speaks to me. What more proof do we need that our young users are plugged in, turned on to the wired ways of collaboration and communication and comfortable using IM to ask questions at the library. Are we comfortable? Can we handle this “conversation?”

If you haven’t subbed to edifice ref, do so now!

Putting a Face on with IM

Christina has a great post about IM, some recent research and setting expectations here:

Good stuff:

And I was thinking that besides the fact that we?re afraid we?ll scare the customer away? we still need to properly negotiate the question if we?re going to successfully use this service with people we don?t know. The point is that we?re in an unequal power relationship: we have the info the customer needs (customers aren?t known to appreciate the fact that we need to keep ref stats to justify our existence). What?s preventing the IM reference staff from asking more questions? Is it wanting to be cool? Not enough time (or perception that if they?re not quick enough the customer will run away)? As the customer vanishes into the ether, do we know with IM that we?ve successfully answered their question? (yes there are studies by Kaske, Hernon, and others on VR? but how about IM where stats aren?t uniformly kept, and questions are answered from the desk?not by a dedicated staffer.) Maybe we need to be more careful in setting expectations from IM reference (as some libraries have done)