In Christina’s Library Rant, she has notes from the CIL2005 session on Collaboration & IM: Breaking Down Boundaries. During this session, Michael Stephens talked about the use of Instant Messenger (IM) at St. Joseph County Public Library. The library dropped its virtual reference service and is using IM instead? Why? It is less expensive and many Internet users are already IMing. It is a known technology that people are used to AND like using.
Do you tell people your IM screen name(s)? I haven’t broadcasted mine yet (jillNYS on AIM), but I do tell my graduate students and occasionally one will message me. In the last week, I’ve had a student contact me about an assignment and another contact me about her status in the class. In both cases, IM allowed me to address the situation in the now and avoid the delay that would be caused by e-mail. With one student, we did continue the conversation by phone and a follow-up e-mail.
For digital libraries, having a tool that allows users to ask questions when they’re in the product could be very useful. It would stop users from being frustrated when they “hit a wall”. They could get help when they need it. The staff member who is IMing could be anywhere, which would allow the responsibility to be shared and even done by someone who is working from home (or in a different time zone), rather than sitting in the library's cubicle.
Interesting food for thought.