Monica3800’s Weblog

This blog is tracking my Library 2.0 journey.

Archive for IMreference

IM Reference at SJCPL

I’m here in San Francisco for work and thought I might hook up with the Marin County Free Library. Sadly, I found out that there IM reference service has been suspended. It’s too bad to see such a service discontinued. I decided to contact St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend. Even though this was Michael’s former stomping grounds, I thought it wasn’t exactly cheating. I contacted the librarian on a Saturday afternoon and received a response within a minute and we chatted for about 15 minutes.

 SJCPL has been offering the service for nearly 3 years. The librarians like the service a great deal as it’s another way to reach out to the community. The patrons like the service, however the librarian I chatted with has some concern that the service might not be marketed as well as it could be. The patrons who do use it, use it a lot, but probably not enough of them know about it. I asked about teen usage and the librarian confirmed that mostly teens use it. I also asked if maybe it brought more teens into the library. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as most questions are addressed within the chat session. Monthly stats and transcripts are kept for evaluation purposes. There is no specific evaluation of the quality of the interaction with the patron. My thought was that it may be difficult to get IMers to stick around for an evaluation because of the nature of the interaction they’re looking for.  Additionally, the librarian pointed out that because they use a free cross platform IM application, even if the service was not used much, they’d keep it.

I did check out the library’s website and really liked their instructions for using the service. I also thought the hompage was clear that they offered the service, but if people aren’t going to the website, they could be missing out.  

I think IM reference is a great tool for libraries to use. I do see how it can be difficult to maintain especially if librarians aren’t excited about it. It was really nice to learn about this from someone who clearly enjoyed it and recognized it’s value to reaching out to the community. Kudos, SJCPL!  And finally, “hi” to Michael from SJCPL…