IM me. Oh wait, we do not do that here.

Karen G. Schneider has a post on a subject that I have been seeing a lot of and thinking of recently: IM Reference and IM in libraries. I have been thinking about it because my library’s new web developer, and my technology partner in crime, asked me last week why we do not have IM. It is blocked on the staff computers and we do not do chat reference. I sighed heavily and told her that was a conversation best had over drinks, but I also told her to ask someone else at the library to see their reaction. I usually get laughter and a “that’s just a fad, waste of money, waste of time, or all new librarians think that is important but you will soon learn to be pessimists like us” explanation.

This reaction upsets me on two levels.

First, the laughter and the pessimism. New ideas that help our patrons are funny and easily dismissed? Because I am young and an optimist, librarianship will eventually suck out my will to be a good person who helps others? While public service can wear down the love for humanity at times, the day I start to dread helping people find what they need is the day I find another job. If you are unhappy, do something else for Pete’s sake. Stop making the rest of us look like jerks.

Second, the idea that VR or IM is just a fad. A fad? I think this idea stems from the idiotic way libraries started doing VR and IM. Namely, they went out and spent thousands of dollars on programs and interfaces that required our patrons to use special software when there is software that works already out there. For free. It is the age old problem of libraries trying to make things more difficult than they really need to be.

Yes, VR failed in the beginning because we went about it the wrong way. Let’s be smart about how we implement things and not reinvent the wheel every time we get in the car.

As a profession, we need to get over the idea that IM is bad, that it is going to go away, and that it is not useful. This is about reaching our users in the formats they are already using. It is about using technology smartly and efficiently. It is about getting our heads out of the sand and looking around at how our users are actually using our technology and our spaces and adapting. It is about us adapting to them, not forcing them to adhere to rules and policies that no longer make sense.

Ok, I sense more soap box coming. I’ll save the policies thing for another day.

–Jane, has Google Talk on her computer “illegally”

8 thoughts on “IM me. Oh wait, we do not do that here.

  • November 16, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    I went to a job interview last year at a library that had just started using JYBE, but this didn’t mean the library as a whole was progressive. The folks on my search committee told me that their students “aren’t the type to use virtual reference” (what type is that? if they’re young, college-aged students, they’re probably using IM). They also blamed their students’ problems with their horribly unusable website and catalog on the students’ lack of intelligence. Talk about having you head in the sand!!! If I ever get like that, I hope someone will shoot me.

    Karen’s right that Meebo is a terrific tool. My supervisor agreed to do a chat reference pilot project next semester, and we can download IM clients onto our computers, but we are blocked by IT from registering for an AIM username on campus. So if I want to get my colleagues on AIM, I have to register them from home. Sheesh!

  • November 16, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    I’ve secretly used a couple of different IM, um, protocols, tools, whatever! here–trillian and also google talk. But since so few folks are on it, it’s not a useful tool in ye olde office. However, think how great it’d be at the desk. How! Great!

  • November 17, 2005 at 10:47 am

    A fad? This seems really unlikely to me.

    Libraries need to strike now, ’cause the iron is already hot. The latest Pew study of students and information technology show that better than 80% of students use instant messaging for an average of 3-5 hours a week. Email has higher penetration but less time used (average 1-2 hours/week).

  • November 17, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    Gosh, I’d IM you, but we don’t do that here, either–though I’ve been known to open up a discreet Meebo window.

  • November 17, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    I’m doing chat reference for my institution AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT THAT I AM TYPING THESE WORDS!

    Excitement abounds! I’m even TELECOMMUTING! It is insane!

  • November 18, 2005 at 11:28 am

    Captain Haikoo you made me laugh out loud.

  • November 28, 2005 at 11:24 am

    The thing is that you have to show both the utility & applicability to the powerbase in order to convince the majority powers that be the worthiness and practicaility of these tools. It is imcomprehensible to these people that one can look up something on the Interweb from your cell phone! The goal is not to teach the masses anymore. The masses know how to use technology to their advantage. The new goal is to teach the power structures the best way to harnass the free technology & tools to expand the presence of a library. We shouldn’t be an isolated pond, we should be part of the wider world web. Isolation just breeds contempt

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