Last year, I was very nervous about pushing the idea of IM Reference at my library. If anything, I totally over-prepared before even broaching the subject. I actually created a formal proposal on the Web with links to information about IM Reference (studies and good examples at other schools) and showed specifically how we could implement it in terms of tools used, staffing, training, etc. The funny thing was that it ended up being a very easy sell, as my director was very interested in providing equal services to our online students.
However, I have heard from plenty of other librarians who have been having a hard time convincing their supervisors and IT that IM Reference is a good and safe idea for their library. Fortunately, Aaron Schmidt has just provided some terrific IM talking points on his blog. These are great ways to refute some of the common misconceptions/objections people have about IM and to show what a valuable tool it would be for providing reference services to tech-savvy patrons. So before you go to your library director’s office to discuss the possibility of doing IM reference at your library, look over Aaron’s talking points a few times so you’ll be ready for some of the objections you might encounter and will be able to dazzle them with your knowledge of the subject. 🙂
I used to do IM reference at MFPOW, but not where I work now. What’s changed? My students then were largely not “on campus” and couldn’t come to me… my students now have ample opportunity to come to the library during our open hours. I have more responsibilities now, and not enough time/energy to “do it all.” If we were to offer IM, it would be during the day, when the students are in school – which would mean that they’d be violating the AUP. After school? They’re doing sports or other activities – or they’re in the library studying. After dinner? That’s “after hours”, and I have “a life” (and very tech-resistant staff).
I think that one thing we need to acknowledge is that IM reference may be a great idea in a public library, or even academic, but in a school library it’s likely not to work (or be approved).
Hi Lazygal. I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is any technology for that matter. Some populations don’t IM much. Some libraries don’t have enough staff time to cover IM, making it an unsustainable project. It all depends on what your users need and what you can do given your limitations. This was more addressed to librarians who believe that IM would be a good fit at their library but need help selling it to others.
Hi Lazygal-I am charged with compiling supportive stats and literature on IM reference in libraries, especially with teens, in order to support a proposal to our city IT department. I would love the link to the website you created to support your request to your administrator. Thanks! Lisa
Lisa, I don’t know what website you’re talking about : at MFPOW, I just set up an IM account and told kids about it; at MPOW, I’ve done nothing. As Meredith says, it’s not one-size fits all and you have to look at the staffing and needs of the institution. Also, I work in a school library, which doesn’t really help you or your charge.