Posted by: sharonlis768 | October 16, 2007

IM Experience

I contacted the Arlington Public Library, Arlington, Virginia for my IM interview.  I ended up talking with two different librarians who spent a lot of time with me and were very informative.


From the start, I was impressed with this library’s website and information that they supplied about how to Instant Message.  I think it is great when a library recognizes that some patrons aren’t necessarily tech-savvy, but interested in learning about Web 2.0 tools like IM.  Arlington Library has been running their IM service since April 2006.  We had a pleasant IM conversation even though it got a little disjointed at times.  I waited only a minute before they connected with me, and after introducing myself and purpose for IMing the following is some of our IM session held on Monday morning, Oct. 15:


whatscooking123: Do you answer IMs from the ref desk or a back office

iqueryarlib: We answer them from the reference desk

whatscooking123: Do you think it is hard juggling face to face patrons, phone calls and IM

iqueryarlib: Yes. It is a bit more difficult with IM than phone, because it isn’t obvious to the in-person patrons that I am having a conversation.

whatscooking123: How do you think patrons like IM

iqueryarlib: The people that have tried it, seem to like it. I’ve gotten comments that it is convenient and “really cool”

whatscooking123: Do you have a separate address or librarian to answer youth services IMs and adult IMs

iqueryarlib: different responder here…  at the present time, we are only advertising the one IM address

iqueryarlib: our YS staff has created accounts but haven’t decided if they are going to offer the service or not

whatscooking123: How do you publicize your IM service–(I really like all the information on your website)

iqueryarlib: The web pages are our main method of publicizing though in early summer, we had postcard size announcements printed

iqueryarlib: those were distributed at coffee shops, the one or two Internet cafes in the area, bookstores, etc

iqueryarlib: we saw a jump in usage after those cards were distributed

whatscooking123: If you are busy with another patron, is there an automatic message that pops up letting the IM patron know

iqueryarlib: No – we do not have any kind of auto message re busy

iqueryarlib: Its rare that we have more than one IM going at a time

whatscooking123: Who initiated the IM service at your library-admin or staff

iqueryarlib: was basically staff driven – scanning the landscape, seeing what others were doing, etc and then moving towards implementing IM

iqueryarlib: We had looked at QuestionPoint back in 2002-03

iqueryarlib: It was suppose to be offered with backing of LIbrary of VA – that fell through and it was too expensive for us to go alone

iqueryarlib: We started looking again in summer 2005 – looked at the commercial services and also web based IM

iqueryarlib: Attended a conference or two, talked w/others, and then decided free IM was way to go

whatscooking123:  Did you have any staff training

iqueryarlib: We trained staff – started off using it internally to build comfort level and went  live about two months later

whatscooking123: Is staff comfortable with it

iqueryarlib: we are currently using Trillian – all staff internal use it w/Yahoo ids

whatscooking123: That’s interesting about internal use

iqueryarlib: Comfort level has grown immensely though we still have a luddite or two who can’t see any reason for it

iqueryarlib: We use it within our unit and also within the system

whatscooking123: How do you evaluate the service?

iqueryarlib: Transcripts are printed out at the end of each month AFTER all identifying patron info has been stripped

iqueryarlib: Statistics are gathered from that – # of contacts, service used, type of question, successful or not, response time, session lenght

whatscooking123: Wow

iqueryarlib: Transcripts are also review in terms of service and ocassionally used for staff training

whatscooking123: Sounds like a very well designed and evaluated service

whatscooking123: You’ve been very helpful and I appreciate all of your time

iqueryarlib: Well, I came along and took over – so two of us have been helpful…

whatscooking123: Thanks to both of you

iqueryarlib: I was one of the instigators – you can im me direct at if you need any additional

iqueryarlib: I note you had asked about usage rates

whatscooking123: Yes

whatscooking123: Since this is for school the more info the better

iqueryarlib: We started off about 30 a month…  the postcards jumped us up to 60 or so for a month or two

iqueryarlib: Then its fallen off to the low 40s

iqueryarlib: Hitting the 60s appeared to be high

iqueryarlib: u have any classes w/Michael Stevens?

whatscooking123: He is my teacher now

iqueryarlib: I’ve heard him speak several times and read his blog “Tame the Web”

iqueryarlib: so methinks you might learn something from him…

whatscooking123: He knows his stuff

iqueryarlib: Okay – signing off from Arlington Public…  Thanks for contacting us. 

whatscooking123: Thanks.  Bye

iqueryarlib: If you need anything else, contact me direct or IM us again

iqueryarlib: sk



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