Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Talking to IT about IM

Sarah Houghton-Jan has a nice post today detailing how to have a conversation with IT staff that may be resisting the use of IM software in the library.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

It's ok to refer digital reference patrons to print materials...really

In our cooperative chat reference service, I have noticed that some librarians rarely point students to print resources when those resources may in fact be the best (and sometimes only) source of information for the topic in question. In one example, a student logged in repeatedly asking for help on the same question, and no one thought to recommend what is pretty much a standard reference source that would have quickly answered the question.

There are a lot of reasons why a librarian in chat or IM might rush to recommend an online source:
  • The librarian assumes that the patron isn't on campus (or even in the library) and thus has no interest in print resources. This assumption is not often accurate. In our chat service, we find that at 40% of all chat sessions originate from computers here on campus.
  • Fearing impatience (often, rightly so) from the patron, the librarian takes a satisficing approach to the patron's information need and rushes to show the student something that is maybe, just maybe, good enough to placate the patron for the moment. It may be that some librarians then intend to recommend to print sources, as they feel they have earned the trust of the patron; some do go on and suggest specific sources or suggest a search strategy in the catalog, but many never do.
  • The librarian mistakenly assumes that since the patron is online, ergo the patron only will accept online sources.
Although I am beginning to scale back on my acquisitions here at the library in Baruch for print reference sources, I still feel that librarians in digital reference must advocate on behalf of the richness of their print collections whenever appropriate. If we don't speak up for print collections and remind users of them, who will?

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Video IM at Ohio University

Char Booth at Ohio University talks about an interesting pilot using Skype for a video IM reference service. Hear an interview with her (MP3) from the ACRL conference at the PALINET web site and read more about the service here.

FYI, interviews with other presenters from the Cyber Zed Shed program at this year's ACRL conference can be found online on the PALINET site.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

QuestionPoint's strengths and weaknesses

With his latest post about using enterprise IM as a proof-of-concept project for chat reference, Caleb Tucker-Raymond shows himself to be one of the most thoughtful and innovative persons around working in chat reference. How did I learn about this great idea of his? By reading this well-reasoned blog post about "the problem with QuestionPoint," which itself was crafted in response to Rikhei Harris' post, "No Love for QuestionPoint."

I'd have to say that if there's one thing that I am most annoyed about with QuestionPoint, it's the buggy co-browsing feature. Yesterday, while doing a training session at Brooklyn College to help set up a chat reference cooperative consisting of the library at my school (Baruch College) and at three other CUNY schools (Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and the CUNY Graduate Center), all was going well with co-browsing demos with web pages and our catalog. Trying to co-browse an authenticated database (most of us at CUNY use EZ Proxy for authentication) was a typical mess: all the gifs from the patron's and librarian's interface for the database (in this case, Academic Search Premier) were missing from our screens, making navigation nearly impossible.

How do we get around co-browsing's funkiness (a work-friendly euphemism) when we need to teach a patron how to run a search in a database? We ask the user to open another browser on their screen, navigate to the database, and then follow our step-by-step instructions typed into the chat window (something that we could do with IM software, too).

Our patrons at Baruch absolutely love that we can offer the service 24/7, and our patron surveys reveal a high satisfaction rate with the service overall (83% say they are "very likely" to use the service again). Without QuestionPoint, it would be very hard to give them the round-the-clock service they need (our students are all commuter students with busy schedules, as most of them work part-time or full-time). For me, the ability to offer cooperative reference around the clock is the biggest reason why we stick with QuestionPoint. But I am also completely sympathetic to the kvetching among librarians about the software itself. In short, I love the service, not the software.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

UPenn librarians making IM friends

For a long time, I've been lurking on the RSS feed for the blog for library staff at the University of Pennsylvania and was amused today to read this post about an exchange a librarian had with a student on the library's IM service.

By the way, if I am reading a blog feed that is clearly not aimed at me but rather at a small group of people who work together, is it accurate to call me a "lurker?" A "busybody?" Or maybe just "plain curious?"

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