Michael Stephens on Instant Messaging
Instant Messaging: Do You IM? The second session in the Alliance Library 2.0 Extravaganza is available at the OPAL Library Science Archives. Use Internet Explorer. The first link which synchs, audio, chat, and slides won't work with Firefox. It is only 50 minutes long but has high information density. Michael gives additional resources in his blog.
This session was very helpful for me since IM is one resource I've never really used. Inspired, I reactivated my AIM account and installed the Gaim client. My AIM screen name is malundy.
As with other tools in these sessions, Michael describes how IM can contribute to building a community. And what a large community it is. Statistics from 2004 indicated that 80 million people in the US use IM; 250 million world wide; 7 billion messages sent daily. These numbers can only be larger now.
IMing provides immediacy and talking to people where they are. It is also fast, easy, and cheap. To that I should probably add that IMing is a lifestyle for millennials. We ignore it at the risk of being labeled "last gen" librarians.
IM is not just a tool for librarians to communicate with users. It cal be a powerful means of communication amongst colleagues considering the widespread availability of wireless Internet (how about Panera Breads in Newport News). Michael gave us an anecdote about a person who uses the away message in her IM client to indicate where she will be.
Michael and other participants had some interesting observations about virtual reference. Someone told us that using a commercial product for virtual reference costs them about $300 per question. "The cost per unit of service is abysmal" said one participant. Some libraries have abandoned the virtual reference products for instant messaging.