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Pros & Cons of IM/SMS for Virtual Reference. Kris Johnson, Coordinator AskColorado Virtual Reference Collaborative Colorado State Library Albuquerque, New Mexico - March 15, 2007. For Your Consideration -. Using IM or SMS for Virtual Reference. General Presentation Outline.

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pros cons of im sms for virtual reference

Pros & Cons of IM/SMS for Virtual Reference

Kris Johnson, Coordinator

AskColorado Virtual Reference Collaborative Colorado State Library

Albuquerque, New Mexico - March 15, 2007

for your consideration

For Your Consideration -

Using IM or SMS for Virtual Reference

general presentation outline
General Presentation Outline
  • Virtual reference defined
  • Changing nature of library public services
  • How libraries can use new communication technologies to stay in the forefront
  • About IM and SMS…and Call Center software
    • Virtual Reference Choices: Pros and Cons
  • Questions - Discussion
virtual reference
Virtual Reference?

Real-time reference

Live reference

Digital reference

Online reference

IM reference

Call Center Software

Chat reference

SMS reference

eReference

24/7 reference

Virtual reference

virtual reference definition
Virtual Reference Definition

From RUSA:

“Reference service initiated electronically, often in real-time, where patrons employ computers or other internet technology to communicate with reference staff.”

chat reference definition
Chat Reference Definition

From liswiki.org:

“A form of virtual reference (or digital reference) in which the librarian and user exchange typed messages via an internet connection. Distinguished from other types of Virtual reference because it is a synchronous communication method, rather than something like email, which is asynchronous. ”

collaborative virtual reference definition
Collaborative Virtual Reference Definition

From RUSA:

  • Some libraries may choose to provide virtual reference services collaboratively with other libraries:
    • to extend their hours of operation
    • to distribute staffing of the service across multiple libraries
    • to extend the expertise available
    • to realize cost saving associated with economies of scale.
  • Such collaboration may include working with virtual reference vendors, and/or participation in large regional or national collaborations.
im definition
IM Definition

From Wikipedia:

“Instant messaging or IM 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.”

sms definition
SMS Definition

From liswiki.org:

“A form of virtual reference (or digital reference) in which users can send questions on their cell phones via SMS (also known as text messaging). ”

SMS = Short Message Service

slide10

"This site is awesome and I recommend it to many people. I know the internet has a wealth of information on it but so often it is hard to find. Your site takes so much of the frustration out of research. Thank you! Thank you!”*

*AskColorado patron

AskColorado received 50,000+ queries in 2006

slide11

Google receives ~91 million searches…

per day.

"The ultimate goal is to have a computer that has the kind of semantic knowledge that a reference librarian has," says Google's director of technology Craig Silverstein. But truly smart search engines are probably decades away.”*

*Newsweek (3/29/2004): p.58

what has happened to the library brand
What Has Happened to theLibrary Brand?
  • Recent reports suggest libraries could benefit from new, innovative methods of outreach to the public.
    • The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap Between Internet-Savvy Students and their Schools, 2002, Pew Internet & American Life Project
    • White Paper on The Information Habits of College Students, 2002, OCLC
    • Environmental Scan, 2003, OCLC
    • Perception of Libraries and Information Resources, 2005, OCLC Membership Report
imagine what would happen to google
Imagine What WouldHappen to Google…
  • If it was only online 10 am – 7:45 pm (PST).
  • If it closed on Mondays and all major holidays.
  • If it required you to login with a proxy server password and login, 12 digit barcode, or SIN: student identification number.
  • If it made you type your searches using strange sounding search logic called Boolean operators and truncation.
  • If it required you to use proper spelling!
changing nature of library public services
Changing Nature ofLibrary Public Services
  • “The place libraries hold today is no longer as distinct as it once was.”
    • OCLC Environmental Scan, 2003
changing nature of library public services15
Changing Nature ofLibrary Public Services
  • “College students have confidence in their abilities to locate information for their study assignments. The first-choice web resources for most of their assignments are search engines (such as Google or Alta Vista).”
    • OCLC White Paper on The Information Habits of College Students, 2002
changing nature of library public services16
Changing Nature ofLibrary Public Services
  • “Much like a school-issued textbook or a traditional library, students think of the Internet as the place to find primary and secondary source material for their reports, presentations, and projects.”
    • Pew Internet & American Life Project The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap Between Internet-Savvy Students and their Schools, 2002
changing nature of library public services17
Changing Nature ofLibrary Public Services
  • “It is time to rejuvenate the ‘Library’ brand.”
    • OCLC Perception of Libraries and Information Resources, 2005
how to rejuvenate the library brand
How to Rejuvenatethe Library Brand
  • Libraries can use new communication technologies to stay in the forefront.
    • Blogs
    • Wikis
    • RSS Feeds
    • Synchronous and asynchronous Virtual Reference communications
how vr can aid rejuvenation
How VR Can Aid Rejuvenation
  • People are starting to expect real-time online service everywhere; e.g. retail, government services
    • Can help attract new users
    • Change expectations of current users
    • Puts us where our users are: online
    • Makes us more findable in the online environment
how vr can aid rejuvenation20
How VR Can Aid Rejuvenation
  • Get our knowledge, helpfulness, and information expertise out there where the users are
    • Lead newer users towards thinking of libraries as the “go to” resource for their information needs
    • Lead older or lost users towards remembering that libraries are the “go to” resource for their information needs
instant messaging im
Instant Messaging (IM)
  • Uses popular IM programs:
    • AOL’s AIM
    • MSN Windows Live Messenger
    • Yahoo Messenger
  • Free
    • to library
    • to patron
why use im
Why Use IM?
  • Used by many libraries as a low-cost method of offering chat-based reference - most are free
  • Instantaneous, synchronous (simultaneous) communication - very fast!
  • Easy – for librarian and patron
  • Generally not platform dependent (works on Macs and PCs)
  • Potential for high visibility/impact with minimal effort
why use im23
Why Use IM?
  • Your Patrons (or future patrons!) may already be using it
    • 75% of online teens IM
    • 42% of online adults IM
    • 50% of IMing teens (32% of all teens) IM every single day

* Pew Internet and American Life Project. Teens and Technology. 07/27/2005.

im considerations
IM: Considerations
  • Patron and librarian have to download a program
  • Commercial chat terms of service may include privacy concerns
    • read, then inform your users
  • No co-browsing
  • No 24/7 availability
  • Can’t do queuing or multiple patrons
    • unless you maintain more than one IM account
libraries using im
Libraries Using IM
  • A good list is available at:
    • Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki
im aggregator software
IM Aggregator Software
  • Allows you to monitor multiple IM accounts through one interface
    • Trillian
    • Gaim
  • Free
embedded chat
Embedded Chat
  • Completely web-based chat — no installations (downloads)
  • Sign-in with multiple accounts at once
  • Works even if IM is blocked at your site
  • Connection embedded directly into your website
libraries using embedded chat
Libraries Using Embedded Chat
  • MeeboMe for Embedded Chat:
    • Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki
  • Chatango for Embedded Chat:
    • Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki
  • Plugoo for Embedded Chat:
    • Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki
web based im with meebo
Web-based IM with Meebo
  • Completely web-based—no installations (downloads)
  • Sign in with multiple accounts at once
  • Even if IM is blocked, this still works
short messaging system sms
Short Messaging System (SMS)
  • Reference via cell phone text-messaging (patron-side) and an e-mail account (librarian-side)
    • Need a special, third party software called “Reference by SMS” from Altarama (Australian based company)

Text messagee-mailtext message

why use sms
Why Use SMS?
  • Again, your patrons (or future patrons!) may already be using it
    • 45% of Americans (any age) have cell phones
    • 27% of them use SMS (text messaging)

Pew Internet and American Life Project. The Rise of Cell Phone Text Messaging. March 14, 2005.

sms considerations
SMS: Considerations
  • Patron needs a cell phone
  • Currently uses servers based in Australia (Altarama) and not all cell phones can handle international SMS
  • Limited message length
  • Not synchronous
libraries using sms
Libraries Using SMS
  • Very few:
    • Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki currently lists five (5)
call center software
Call Center Software

a.k.a. Live Chat Support Software; Live Support Software

  • Used mostly by businesses
  • Allows web site visitors to instantaneously communicate and interact with customer service personnel
why use call center software
Why Use Call Center Software?
  • Used by many libraries as a middle-ground method of offering chat-based reference
    • between Collaborative VR and free IM
  • Cost $$
    • But generally not as much as VR software
  • Fast and offers some advanced features over basic IM
  • Can embed in your webpage
    • Patron doesn’t have to download anything
call center software considerations
Call Center Software: Considerations
  • Call center software companies are not “library” focused
  • No true co-browsing
  • No 24/7 availability
  • Can’t do queuing
  • Can’t do multiple patrons
    • unless you pay for multiple “seats”
library vendor based virtual reference vr software features
Library Vendor Based Virtual Reference (VR) Software Features
  • Fee-based software application that offers a suite of reference services and features:
    • Synchronous communication
    • Instant messaging (IM)
    • Co-browsing of web pages (or modified co-browsing)
    • Document sharing
    • Queuing and notification of incoming calls
    • Call transferring
    • Customization of pre-scripted messages
    • Storage of chat transcripts – and e-mail features
    • Statistical reporting
    • Exit surveys
three major vr software companies
Three Major VR Software Companies
  • QuestionPoint 24/7 Reference:
    • www.questionpoint.org
  • Tutor.com:
    • www.tutor.com
  • Docutek VRLPlus:
    • www.docutek.com/products/vrlplus/index.html
collaborative vr software considerations
Collaborative VR Software - Considerations
  • Slower - than basic IM
  • Training – advanced complexity requires longer training (than basic IM)
  • Less Compatibility – stiffer computer requirements r.e. operating systems, browser versions, firewalls, and connection speeds
  • Disconnects: advanced complexity leads to more frequent disconnects (than IM)
collaborative vr software considerations46
Collaborative VR Software - Considerations
  • Stored transcripts kept in-definitely
  • Patron generally not connected to a local librarian
  • Cost: Depending on co-cop, no co-op, library size, etc. cost could be thousands of dollars
why libraries join vr cooperatives
Why Libraries Join VR Cooperatives
  • Power in numbers
    • Combined financial and human resources distributes costs and staffing
    • Partnering helps to increase usage by offering continuous hours of service
    • Allows libraries to extend their service hours and outreach efforts – 24/7 model
why libraries join vr cooperative
Why Libraries Join VR Cooperative
  • Many libraries want to provide virtual reference service to patrons, but can't afford to start service on own
    • Gain the benefits of the virtual reference software package
    • Better use of taxpayer dollars to collaborate
why libraries join vr cooperatives49
Why Libraries Join VR Cooperatives
  • For rural areas:
    • Library may be too small, isolated, or under staffed to offer adequate services
    • Library are often closed when patrons need access or assistance
  • For colleges and universities:
    • Virtual reference can be used to enhance distance education
why libraries join vr cooperatives50
Why Libraries Join VR Cooperatives
  • Opportunities for librarian rejuvenation
    • Learn new skills
    • Interact with patrons in new, exciting environment
    • Share expertise with larger audience
    • Extend the library to new Internet based society – ‘social networking’
how vr works 24 7
How VR Works 24/7
  • AskColorado uses the Tutor.com Librarians By Request (LBR) service provide the service after-hours and in Spanish
  • Many libraries organize their won 24/7 staffing
  • OCLC QuestionPoint offers 24/7 back-up service
libraries offering vr services
Libraries Offering VR Services
  • Links to many others from the LIS wiki.com
    • http://liswiki.com/wiki/Chat_reference_libraries
collaborative vr queues
Collaborative VR – Queues

http://www.askcolorado.org/

vr implementation considerations
VR Implementation - Considerations
  • Prior to implementing, think about:
    • Who are you going to serve?
    • Do you separately staff for VR service?
    • If not, how do you handle multiple services (VR, in-person, phone) at the same time?
    • Who is your primary responder to VR?
    • What kind of questions do you answer on VR?
    • What kind of security issues are there?
    • What kind of technical issue do you have locally?
questions discussion
Questions - Discussion

Contact Info:

Kris Johnson - AskColorado Coordinator

Colorado State Library

johnson_k@cde.state.co.us - 303-866-6922