Kansas Tri-Conference: Day 1 – IM (Instant Messaging): 101

Kristin Whitehair (K-State)

Gave history of IM

Gave a couple of examples of IM reference questions at K State

IM in Libraries

  • our users are using it
  • 42% of all online users use IM – Pew
  • 90% of teens using IM (AOL IM Trends)
  • all age groups are using IM

IM is:

  • immediate
  • real time 
  • point of need (answer question when customer needs the answer)
  • interactive

Virtual Reference vs IM – Advantages over VR:

  • easy – few requirements
  • free
  • widely used outside the library world
  • lite programs
  • cell phone and video features

Sacrificed Features for IM:

  • co-browsing
  • page pushing
  • statistics gathering

Discussed K-State IM reference statistics

Types of IM available:

  • client (downloaded)
  • web-based – chat widgets embedded on webpages
  • internal – staff IM

Gave example of Reference librarian who embedded Meebo widget onto her subject guide page and her own staff “who am I ” page

Internal IM: mentioned enterprise IM like GroupWise, opportunity for practice without contacting patrons

Popular IM Services:

  • Yahoo Messenger
  • Google Talk
  • MSN Messenger
  • AOL Instant Messenger (AIM)


  • GAIM (recently renamed Pidgin)
  • Trillian
  • Meebo


  • staffing – how will you handle it
  • security – files, sketchy links, individuals with questionable intent…
  • dependability of service

staff training:

  • etiquette and training
  • traditionally casual and short messages
  • appropriate use
  • selecting a name
  • lingo