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Collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session V

Instant Messaging: Considerations, and Compatibility with collaborative vr

Facilitator: Caleb Tucker-Raymond

Presenters: Alex Hodges (American U) & Sarah Palacios-Wilhelm (George Wash. U) – Reclaiming our Collaborative Past: How Instant Messaging has Brought us Back Together
-Evolution of Collaboration @ WRLC Wash. Research Lib. Consortium
-8 academic libraries part of the consortium in Wash. DC
-consortium works together in many areas of library services and resources, online catalog – added link for ask a librarian on many of these wrlc pages
-shows their students the different resources, services they provide through the consortium

American U
-11000 student pop
-vr stats 04-05: 236
-hours m-f 11am-6pm
IM stats: 06-07: 708
Hours: m-f 1pm-9pm

George Wash U
24000 student pop
-vr stats 04-05: 392
-im stats 06-07: 1333
-hours: m-f 2pm-9pm

-collab. Vr failed for them, moved to IM
-lasted from 02-06
tutor: 02-05
-didn’t have a coord. w/in consortium
-time and pressure affect service provision, working out kinks plus other duties and instability of software made for collab. Serv to fail

IM pilot services paralleled qp private collab. 05-06

Consortial Concerns
-lack of strong coord. Role
-lack of personalized service
-tech hiccups
-barriers to service
-quality control issues

-integrated stats – collections w/in software
-integrated logging
-co-browsing – when it worked it was great

w IM stats are not integrated but they do have an outside stats collection but it is problematic
-can’t do quality control and follow up like you could do with chat software

end of collab. Vr service didn’t end collab. In consortium
Cross-institutional assistance
-AU->MU (marymount)
-GW->GT (Georgetown) – helping gt get im service up and running

Best practices, assessment, training
-IM forum, all 8 schools
-IM Reference Google Group – post all info, docs. Share info

Institutional Collab
-working groups
-service models – creates consistancy
-integration of multiple service desks
-incorporating non-librarian staff – collab. On training, policies – students understood the IM software aspects they trained the libs. On that – libs. Trained them in on ref skills
-working w faculty & instruction – spreading IM handles to all
-students: social networking & webpages – speaking the students language, advertising their IM handles, group handle
-outreach & marketing – telling students “just AIM us” – speaking their language

Marketing – progressive marketing campaign
-“IM too sexy” – everyone, not just students, is seeing this, provost, parents.. – they say “get use to it”
-they want to make sure the library is putting their mark on the materials
-stress – hire graphic designers! – they help
-“IM reference, no shirt, no shoes, no problem” – guy lying in bed w laptop no shoes or shirt – AIM logon: AskAULibrary
-“Research Saves Lives!” – transition of someone going through cancer and their recovery – “Patricia Kinney’s Path to Survival”
-AIM logon: GalmanInfo – not using library or librarian in handle

-improving assessment
-web-based chat
-IM widgets
-IM google group
-further integration w web 2.0


Presenter: Valery King (Oregon State U-Corvallis)– Acting Globally, Acting Locally: Local Instant Messaging and Collaborative VR
-participate in statewide plus own service at osu

-at osu, using aim yahoo…. Plus widget
-osu is a land-grant institution, must provide services/connection to greater state
-“Think Link” was a first connection to state residents for answering quest. – 1st by mail, then phone, email, fax…
-dropped this when L-Net (statewide vr service) came about
-@30% of quest. Thru L-Net were osu based quest.
-wanted to encourage their own students to come to libs. Directly
-so decided to create own queue w/in l-net – reasonably successful
-w staff #s decreasing, more of a problem to schdule
-decided to drop the queue and went to IM – did it simultaneously so there was no gap
-used trillion, multiplatform

barriers w IM
-students weren’t using it, had @ 20/mo quest.
-l-net: a lot of people were coming in annonomously
-ah-ha moment – added widget, chatango widget – can remain annonomous
-redesigned website – kept live help options: l-net, other im options
-usage soared: jan – 110; may – 580, shot up 400% in 1st 2 months
-having that widget on every page helped a lot
-simple to use, easy to find
-other ref stats did not go down at all – realized it was a need

-doesn’t keep logs, keep tick marks
-if you click away from the page it drops the chat – have to warn them right off the bat
-leave message function on chatango is wimpy – next lib that logs in has to capture it and save
-alert sound is wimpy – can’t change it

-training is minimal
-embedded widget can be monitored from any computer
-easier for patrons
-catches quest. Not otherwise asked

still use trillion, not hard to manage both at the same time
buy-in from staff was immediate, not that way with l-net queue – had to work hard on that

why do both?
-university land-grant mission
-collaboration w statewide colleagues
-patron choice
-affordable after-hours coverage

chat is better for:
-in-depth quest.
-co-browseing, form filing

IM is better for:
-quick quest.
-local quest

how we manage both:
-l-net: reduce staff to 4 per term, 1 shift/week – l-net is big enough now
-im an easy add-on, easy to handle
-backup librarians can cover it from their own desks or at the ref desk

-complimentary, not mutually exclusive
-chat not dead, but im preferred by many and met a previously unknown need
-both have their uses, and their fans
-really not difficult to do both
-switching from chatango to meebo, moving the widget down a little on the page
-specialists can put their own meebo widget on their web page (not ref unit’s meebo widget) – get’s specialized service


Presenter: Kenneth Furuta (UC-Riverside) – Instant Messaging and Collaborative Virtual Reference

-started im service in nov 2006, AskaUCLibrarian

instant messaging:
-uc digital refernce common interest group should explore im software in a collab. Environment
-action item: 3 libs. Dedicated to researching this

environmental scan – feb-april 07
-there is no single source solution for IM reference for a collab. However, there is interest and development on a number of fronts
-individual libraries have implemented im ref – monitored from a single physical location – none over geographic distances
-but is it scalable? – expand in size to accommodate a wide variety of users

vr schematic (figure)
users connect w librarian thru vr server
IM schematic
One or many users connect directly to librarian, no vr server in the way

A day in the life of ask a uc librarian
San Diego covers 11am-1pm
Irvine 1-3pm
Santa barara 3-5pm
Merced 5-9pm
-shift changes, don’t necessarily need multiple logins for a shift change
-in looking at stats it seems that all uses login at the same time, human nature?
-clustering of patrons – not sure why that happens
-3 patrons or more at one time was @27% of the day
-27% of time the librarian is really busy

-if we want to support im ref in the collab. Then we will have to build it
-near term: do not support im ref at this time. Monitor the environment for an effective, scalable solution

project updates
-my idea: multiple patron IM accts – multiple users at one time, maybe have a back-end server to manage use – couldn’t talk anyone else into it
-UNC-chapel hill – modifying pigeon (use to be gaim) – looking to do small scale pilot project with multiple libs. Logged on but look like one lib. To the patron – multiple handles, queues – patron will be told where they are in line – looking at open source to do this
-natl library of Australia – creating system w nultiple lib logons, overflow patron queue, archiving transcripts, stats reports, want to work w meebo, jabber as back en piece
-l-net (Oregon libraries network) – using enterprise im – partner w public library, who owns it, what server, pilot project in the fall maybe
-vendors: qp and tutor: - w qp working to figure out the problem statement about im – next gen platform is something else they’re working on

Questions from Audience:
Q: for sarah & alex: where do you cover im? Desk or office
A: alex, we cover at office, libs. Don’t like desk, s: we cover at desk

Q: for ken: it sounds like a vr package using a backend server, what do you plan to do?
A; it does sound like a vr package, we are staying open, maybe commercial, maybe open source, our patrons are there how do we get to them?

Q: for Valery: where is your link to l-net
A: just on ask us page, widget wrote into template, l-net link not useful on every page like research tutorial, redesign looking at specific pages it needs to be

Q: for valery: no transcripts what about follow ups?
A: if we do have to follow up we ask for email

Q: for valery: meebo doesn’t save anything either
A: western Oregon has added something to widget to save the logs, still can come in anonomously

Caleb: our pilot project is so its easy for libs, to jump on and use it. Is it easier for libs. To use than vr? What do we want to keep from im? Make it easy fro libs. To use.

Sarah: we don’t have the widget yet, adding in fall, students add us as a buddy, they don’t need to go back to gelman website to ask us a quest.

Q: for sara: do they request a particular buddy?
A: we’ve had have people ask for specific, we use both lib im and personal ims, if we’re logged on personal we may get quest. From students

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