IL 2006: IM the Library! Tips and Strategies for Launching an IM Reference Service

Presenter: Amanda Etches-Johnson

“E-mail is for talking to old people”
During her presentation Amanda quoted a teen saying that “E-mail is for talking to old people”
My comment: Wow! So now e-mailing is already old skool communication. Now there is absolutely no valid argument for denying the necessity of introducing chat and IM in the libraries. Now the question isn’t if but when!

75% of online teens use IM
Another striking fact during this very interesting and inspiring workshop was that 75% of the US youth use Instant Messaging applications and that 89% of the teens who go online daily use IM. A lady in the audience said that “the teens are the library users of the future”, and Amanda “added that they are also the tax payers of the future”. From which we can draw the conclusion that if we don’t meet up with the expectations of todays teens when it comes to new technique, we won’t have any funding for the libraries in the future. Interesting – and worrying – thought!

Never log off!
Amanda told us about an interesting conclusion drawn during the Case Study (which she was leading) carried out by the IM Pilot Project at MacMaster University: if, when using IM as a Virtual reference tool, you never log of but instead put status “Away”, the users at least have the opportunity to send you a message, to “knock on the door” and leave a trace. Afterwards you can then revise the incoming messages and from that draw conclusions concerning appropriate opening hours. If, lets say, a whole lot of people “knock on your IM door” at a ceratin hour when your IM Service is closed, you really should consider extending your opening hours.

Multi/Protocol clients rule
When starting an IM Service, Amanda said, one should consider choosing a multi protocol client like:

– Trillian
– MeeboMe

Again MeeboMe is the buzzword of the day.
My comment: I think that in the longrun MeeboMe will win over Trillian and GAIM. Simply because it’s got the nicest interface, it’s a completely web based AJAX application and above all, it’s the most user friendly of them all. No need to install anything, it’s all there and the user doesn’t even have to click anywhere to start chatting. It’s just hit and run.

“Don’t get up, we’ll come to you”
This phrase meets the users of the public computers of McMaster University. A cool way of informing the in-the-library users about the possibility to IM the library staff, even when they’re inside the library.


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