IM stands for Instant Messaging, which is "a form of real-time communication between two or more people based on typed text. The text is conveyed via computers connected over a network such as the Internet." (from Wikipedia) There are several different IM applications that people are using to communicate these days: AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN, Jabber or GTalk to name a few. Libraries across the country have started offering reference service via IM and are having a great deal of success doing so.
The following resources have been selected to help you learn more about IM, how it is being used in libraries, and what IM tools and services are out there.
Wikipedia's article includes an overview, history and more about IM use in general.
This article provides a pretty good description of the basics of IM use in libraries and was written by 2 of Library Journal's 2005 Movers & Shakers.
An IM reference report
Michael Stephens answers some questions posed to him about IM reference at his library.
10 points on IM in libraries
A brief entry on the walking paper blog by Aaron Schmidt. The points are interesting but the comments below add to them, so be sure to read on.
Teens and Technology
This report from the PEW Internet & American Life Project discusses how youth are "leading the transition to a fully wired and mobile nation." A portion of the report shares their findings in teens' preference for IM and text messaging over email as ways to connect to friends and others. An interesting read! The full report is available as a PDF file.
Homer Township Public Library
This library's IM info is located in the left-hand column (you'll have to scroll down a bit). What is remarkable about this web site, in addition to their IM service, is their use of RSS feeds to provide up-to-date information about their events and other news taking place in their community.
St. Joseph County Public Library
This library offers IM during library hours of operation. They also include a nice FAQ about IM and how to use their service.
Thomas Ford Memorial Library
A nice combination of email, IM, and a statewide reference service like AskAway. Offer all points of access to your staff and go where your patrons are.
The examples above focus on services provided by public libraries. For more examples, including academic and other types of libraries, go to the Library Success wiki's list of Libraries Using IM Reference.
of instant messengers
Wikipedia offers a comprehensive page of info comparing all of the IM products out there, free or otherwise. Not for the faint-hearted, but great if you're investigating options.
This service allows you to log into your IM networks from any computer with a browser and an Internet connection, rather than using the proprietary software you would IM with via your desktop computer. Works for AIM, ICQ, Jabber, GTalk, Yahoo! Messenger, and MSN.
Multi-network IM programs: Trillian and Gaim
Networks are competing for your IM traffic, so a user of one network can't communicate with someone on another network. Applications like Trillian and Gaim allow you to operate on multiple networks at the same time.
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