Friday, August 07, 2009

Presentation at Princeton University

I had a great time with the folks from the libraries of Princeton University and Temple University today at a joint staff development day held at Princeton. After the presentation that I gave on digital reference in academic libraries (a whirlwind tour of services, tools, and issues), we broke out into discussion groups. My group focused on SMS reference and had some good conversations about Temple's plans for this fall to use Library H3lp's Google Android SMS gateway for their SMS service and Princeton's intent to use the AIM/SMS hack. A librarian from Columbia University revealed that they too were looking into ways to provide SMS reference. As I noted in my presentation, SMS reference seems to be very much on the radar screen lately.

I hope that I succeeded in my talk in focusing on four key points:
  1. For a variety of reasons, IM software (and widgets) are more popular than ever among libraries that want to offer synchronous online reference, as new digital reference services are launched using IM (as opposed to using web chat clients from QuestionPoint, Altarama, etc.) and other libraries (like Temple) are moving to drop their longstanding subscriptions to web chat software.
  2. The last few years have seen an explosion of new ways to communicate online with our patrons; pilot projects to try out these new tools and see what works are flowering everywhere. Some tools and technologies that either just launched this year or will very soon (such as Google Wave) are worth keeping an eye on, as they might expand the ways that we our patrons can reach us and enrich reference interactions.
  3. Collaborative reference services continue to grow and offer an institution a viable alternative to trying to staff an online reference alone.
  4. We need to find more ways to expose reference work to raise the profile of all our reference services. Much as Lorcan Dempsey has suggested we need to make (library) data work harder, we also need to make the traces of reference transactions work harder by repurposing and reusing them in various ways.
For the presentation, I made a simple set of slides (see below). Instead of distributing a paper handout, I put together this online set of presentation notes with links to the tools and services I discussed and a bibliography of sources I found useful in preparing for my talk.

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