Archive for the ‘Instant Messaging’ category

Virtual Reference

July 6, 2006

I’ve never used a virtual reference product myself and I would be interested in hearing your reactions to this article appearing today on the Information Today web site – Virtual Reference in the Age of Pop-Up Blockers, Firewalls, and ServicePack 2. Apparently technology problems abound with the consensus among librarians that the available technology doesn’t meet the needs. For example, co-browsing is not very forgiving if you stray from the Microsoft world of IE and Windows, leading, I suppose, to more feelings of persecution among Mac users.

Some institutions are turning to instant messenging (IM) as an alternative:

With dissatisfaction on the rise, a number of libraries have started to shut down their virtual reference services, while others are considering this action. Another option many libraries have been exploring is using IM software to offer virtual reference. IM software supports Internet-based synchronous text chat. Some of the more popular programs include MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and ICQ.

Proponents of IM make this argument:

Librarians who offer IM feel that by providing IM reference, they are aligning their services with the preferred technology of an important user group. IM allows patrons to use the technology that they prefer rather than forcing users to communicate with librarians using “library technology.”

If you have had favorable experiences with a virtual reference service, please comment to this post. I would like to read an alternative view.


What’s On My Desktop

June 26, 2006

With all writing we have been doing on social software and web 2.0 I though I would share what I’m actually using on my desktop. This list changes often and I’ll update it periodically. I hope you will leave comments if you have a favorite that I didn’t include or I left out some important feature/disadvantage in my descriptions. & tag — Before it was a chore for me to remember where I found a website. I would bookmark the site then promptly forget where I saved it. With, I can add tags to identify key subject areas. When you add a site to you get a screen where you can add tags and a description. tells you how many other people have bookmarked a site and you can see what tags they used. When you click on the link saved by nn other people you will see the tags they used for the web site as well as their comments. I have used this social aspect of to locate related web pages. There are many ways to use this social aspect of A professor told me recently that he applies a class tag to sites he wants his students to visit. He give them a URL to his account with the tag filter in place and they get, in effect, a citation list. Librarians could do the same for subject guides. Your list is in last-in-first-out order which may be annoying if a site you visit frequently was one of the first added. You can filter by tags so it is managable. There are alternatives such as I am considering a switch to Magnolia. This service carries the social software aspect further along by allowing you to join and create groups. I also like the screen layout in Magnolia. does have a larger number of users so the social network is larger. I plan to use both services for a while. If you really want to look at social bookmarking, WikiPedia has a nice article and a Google search for “social bookmarking.”.

bloglines/subscribe to bloglines — for me, blogs are a major source of information about library and technical issues, trends, problems, concerns, and news. RSS feeds and RSS aggregators are an effective way to manage subscriptions. Before I discovered the beauty and efficiency of RSS, I would bookmark a site in a FireFox folder. Every day I would work my way down the list. A good aggregator will tell you if there are new posts and how many new posts. Your list of subscriptions is fixed in one panel and the blog posts appear in another. No more going back and forth between the website and your bookmarks. Your subscriptions are stored on a Bloglines server so you can get to them from any PC. Bloglines works well for me but you might also look at alternatives. Here is a nice RSS compendium. You’ll find both web-based and PC based reader/aggregators.

Gaim — Gaim is an open source instant messaging client available from Sourceforge. It supports multiple protocols inlcuding AIM, Yahoo, and Jabber. It is a good, solid client for IMing. Like other single front-end clients, you don’t get the bells and whistles that you would have with a service specific product such as AOL. It really depends on how you use IM. there is nothing to say that you can’t have multiple clients installed. Trillian is another single front-end IM client. It has some features not present in Gaim such as automatically saving a chat session to disk.

CiteULike and Connotea — These two services are citation managers. One of their primary finctions is to store links to articles with bibliographic information. I still testing both of these services.

CiteULike is marketed to academics and helps “academics to share, store, and organise the academic papers they are reading.” As with other social software, you can apply tags and see the articles to which other users have applied the same tag. CiteULike has supported sources. this means that if you find an article on one of these supported sites and post it to your account, it will carry over the journal citatioin with it. The supported sites include Amazon, JSTOR, HighWire Press, Nature, Science, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, and Wiley Interscience. If you post an article from another site you have the opportunity to fill in the citation information.CiteULike also has a feature to export to EndNote

Connotea is a bit more like in that it also markets itself as a service to bookmark websites as well as articles. As I write this I tried to go to connotea and got a message that it is unavailable due to very high load. That’s annoying. Ah, it’s back. Connotea also has sites that it recognizes and will autumaticall pull in the bibliographic informaiton. The list isn’t as extensive as CiteULike but I imagine that will change. Connotea would like to be your one-stop reference center. Right now I am leaning towards CiteULike but I recommend you try both services.

Flickr — Flickr is a hugely popular site for storing and sharing your photographs. As with other social software you can tag your images and search for other images with the same tag. A handy little Upload to Flickr client is available. You can also create and join groups. As Wayne snarkily pointed out in a comment to another posting, I failed to mention that Swem has a group on Flickr. Take a look at it here. There are other library related groups. For example, Libraries and Librarians Group Photo Pool. Google has just introduced Picasa Web Albums which has some of the same features as Flickr. It uses the desktop Picasa application to upload web albums.

ZohoShow — This is in my try-it-out-sometime group. zohoshow allows you to create, edit, and show presentations. You can load existing PowerPoint and Open Office presentation. There is a 1 Mb size limit for uploads which might limit this feature. You can also import pictures from your Flickr account. You can invite participants to view and control the show remotely. I can see it as a handy tool for for committees with distant members. You could combine it with voice over IP or IM chat to make it interactive.

LibraryThing — This is a service for cataloging your personal library materials. Right now it is in my fun group of services but it has larger potential. You can tag you books, search for other items with the sam tags, find another user who seems to have similar tastes and see what he/she has in his/her library, write reviews. The folks at LibraryThing are intersted in reaching out to traditional library services.

StumbleUpon — This is a fun site for idle moments. You can select a category then stumble through random web sites. Tag a site as being of interest, see who else is interested in the site. I’ve found some gems this way.

This has gone on long enough so I am going to stop here. The problem, for me, is that I start looking at a web service which leads me to a similar web service which I then have to try by creating accounts on those new services. Remeber what I said in and earlier post about developing a standard naming convention for user accounts. It comes in handy.

Using IM to Search

June 22, 2006

I ran across this cool use of IM on the Librarian in Black blog, IM your library catalog…sort of. If you add byomsWikipedia to your AIM buddy list, you can send a query to WikiPedia. You get back a short answer with a link to the complete WikiPedia article. Nifty. This is something cooked up by Korozu and made available at From the web site: "byoms are personalized instant messaging search you create from information sources you trust and rely on."

TechCrunch has a nice description – Korozu searches your favorite sites by IM – about byoms with additional examples such as the International Movie Database. See also SearchEngineWatch which has a long article, Kozoru Opens Public Beta Testing of Byoms.

The Librarian in Black tried to create one for her library catalog though it doesn't work well she says. Still, it is an interesting idea that will appeal to our mobile population. I'm going to create an account and give it a try.

Michael Stephens on Instant Messaging

June 21, 2006

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.