Improving the reference and information experience of students in regional areas - Does an instant messaging service make a difference?

Johnston, Nicole (2008) Improving the reference and information experience of students in regional areas - Does an instant messaging service make a difference? In: Breaking Barriers. From: 4th ALIA New Librarians Symposium, 5th-6th December 2008, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

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“The user is not remote; it is the library that is remote from the user.” (Lipow, 1999). Users of university libraries are very technologically advanced and expect to be able to access most information electronically and immediately. University libraries need to account for user needs by using technology such as instant messaging and chat to communicate with their users. These services benefit remote users of the library, users on campus but not near the reference desk and users who don’t like to approach a reference desk. These services also offer fast access to information not offered by e-mail reference. Universities in Australia such as QUT, UQ, Curtin, (Grey-Smith & Padgett, 2006) and Monash currently have IM services. The purpose of this project is to give clients of James Cook University Library, a regional university in Queensland the opportunity to use current technology to gain access to reference and information services. The instant messaging trial was launched in June 2008 and over a five month period from June to October a total of 239 chat sessions occurred during semester times and holiday periods. The service was available Monday to Saturday 12pm-5pm and on Thursday evening. The service was promoted heavily across the university and was prominently placed on the library homepage and in Blackboard (course management software). Although the statistics show that it was not overwhelmingly popular, the usage is high enough to justify continuation of the service after the trial. Users of the service were satisfied with the service and liked the convenience, speed and value of having an instant messaging reference service as an alternative option to asking questions in person or by phone or e-mail. Although the uptake of off campus students using the service was low, the service has benefited students living in a regional area by giving them access to librarians using the latest technology. Technical problems and some staffing issues were sometimes a hindrance to the project but overall the project was successful and improved the reference experiences of students and staff at James Cook University.

Item ID: 2076
Item Type: Conference Item (Non-Refereed Research Paper)
Keywords: instant messaging, academic libraries
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2009 02:53
FoR Codes: 08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0807 Library and Information Studies > 080706 Librarianship @ 0%
SEO Codes: 89 INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES > 8903 Information Services > 890302 Library and Archival Services @ 100%
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