Pushing the Library IM envelope

Reflections on Thing 3.

I spent the end of August working to set up IM Reference service at MPOW, and it’s safe to say that things have gone pretty well. We’ve started the service as a “soft rollout” with no outside promotion in the interest of giving staff some time to get up to speed. But patrons have discovered the service anyway, and we now have several regulars who IM us questions. Now that the Youth department has their page set up, we’re going to start promoting the service in earnest.

Which of course begs the question: what now? IM is a great way to build connections with new groups of patrons. Can you use it to do something more? I’d certainly like to think so.

One way of pushing things forward came via Lori Reed’s  (from Charlotte Mecklenburg County, the originators of the Learning 2.0 model from which The 10 Things takes its inspiration) blog, where she cited the way the Bank of America website automatically pops up a chat window in case visitors need assistance. David Lee King from (Topeka & Shawnee County) took this idea and ran with it, adding a Meebo widget to his OPAC’s “oops, no results” page.

So basically, his library has taken one of the most consistently frustrating moments that patrons run into when searching for books, and turned it into a teaching opportunity. Way to go, David!

This is what I love about IM, as far as library service is concerned. It’s already in widespread use, so there’s very little training required. (Can you say that about the last database you purchased?)  If someone sees an IM window, chances are they already know what to do with it. Even if they can’t, they can probably intuit what to do. As we look for further applications of this tool, let’s take advantage of its built-in cachet with a larger audience.

  • http://kongtemplation.com rich

    I agree that the IM project has gone smoothly so far. I’m looking forward to seeing if we get more people using it with the help of a little promotion.

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