IMing Librarians

The library I chose to IM was the Phillips Memorial Library at Providence College in Rhode Island. The librarian was extremely courteous and willing to help. The questions I asked her were:

  • When did you start using IM reference?
  • What prompted your library to start using IM reference?
  • On average, how many questions do you receive by IM per day?
  • Do you publicize that you offer IM reference anywhere besides your website?
  • Is there any type of question that is harder to answer via IM?
  • Are there any barriers or problems that you have encountered using IM reference?

This particular library started using IM reference about 2 years ago.  I was very surprised when the librarian told me they usually only get 2 or 3 questions per week!  Then when I asked what they do to publicize the service she said that they have it on the website and will occasionally mention it in instruction sessions.  I’m wondering if there’s a correlation between the number of students that use it and the lack of publicizing?!  She also mentioned that any question that’s at all complicated is harder to answer through IM.  I can see where some questions that you get in an academic library setting would be harder to answer because of the whole information literacy movement.

While free IM clients like AIM and Meebo are excellent, I tend to the the new wave in academic libraries will lean more towards services like Elluminate.  Elluminate is video conferencing software that allows the conference administrator to push content at the other people in the conference and receive instant messaged or voice questions.  I know it’s not as nice for on demand information literacy instruction, but I can see where IM clients wouldn’t work as well either.


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