More Chat in the Catalog

Remember my post on TSCPL’s Meebo chat widget embedded in our library catalog? Since then, we have stopped using the Meebo Me widget. It was great – it helped us start our IM reference service, and it was easy to embed pretty much wherever we wanted. But we grew out of it!

We discovered a few shortcomings, like not being able to send hotlinks through it, and our public services staff really wanted the ability to send an IM to someone else. So now, we’re using Libraryh3lp for our IM reference service. Libraryh3lp gives us those added benefits and more.

And we’re doing a few different things with the catalog embed, too. Here’s a pic of the keyword, No Records Found search:

New version of the Chat Reference service in the catalog

We’re trying to make instructions clear, friendly and attractive. If you click the Ask Now button, you get a tiny IM widget pop-up page. Why pop-up? With our Meebo widget, we discovered that a lot of people would start asking a question, then click something … and they’d be gone, because they had clicked away from the page with the embedded IM widget. Bumer! With our new pop-up version, that problem is solved. Users can click away all they want … and still interact with us.

But even cooler than that – Michael, our web designer (one of his many hats) discovered a way to embed a similar thing on the Search Results page:

Search Results page - Chat added!

This provides more opportunities for patrons to ask questions when they get stuck on a search – even if they’re finding things. Basically, they have access to us ON EVERY SEARCH they do.

And not just IM access – that’s provided via the Ask Now button. But we also include our phone number and a link to our email Ask a Librarian form.

We’re excited about this – should be fun to see if we get more catalog-related questions.

More MeeboMe Ideas

Wow – there have been lots of comments on the MeeboMe widget. Great! Some other libraries are trying it out – check the comments on my original post and on Jenny Levine’s post titled Mashing on the Library, Part I to find them. Others have been emailing me, asking for details.

Now, let’s take this one further – where else can you embed this thing? For example, Edward had a great idea (left it in my comments). He said “Very cool. I think I might go ahead and add this to our log-in failed page for EzProxy.” Great idea, Edward!

And that made me think… I’ll bet there are other good places to embed something like this. For example, my library’s looking into other places to drop it in the catalog, like on the search results page (idea swiped from Paul Pival).

Think about it like this – where do your patrons get hung up? What stops them… confuses them… makes them click away? Maybe that’s a good place to embed a MeeboMe widget (or something similar). Don’t think “well, I put a link to a Help file there, so that’s good enough.” Come on – do YOU click that Help link? That’s like removing the Information Desk and replacing it with a bin of tipsheets on using the Dewey Decimal System!

Finally, a couple of commenters have mentioned being wary of embedding an IM widget in the catalog because it’s not a 24/7 service. My thoughts:

  • Well… it CAN be a 24/7 service, if you’re willing to not sleep :-)
  • I think the focus is off – you’re concerned with what is most likely a very small minority of patrons searching the catalog at 2am. Instead, focus on helping the majority of your patrons… and add text stating your IM hours.
  • Most 24/7 virtual chat reference services (the only thing I can think of providing 24/7 live help) have people in other libraries answering those 2 am questions… do you really want someone at another library answering a question about YOUR library catalog? Maybe yes, maybe no…

Are you planning to embed a meeboMe widget in your catalog? Leave a comment!

Fun With our Meebo Widget and the Library Catalog

meebo in the catalogUpdate: I’m getting some questions on how we did this, so… We have a Horizon system – look for the searchinput.xsl page in your XSL folder. Then find the appropriate chunk of code where the “nothing found” message and table appears, and add the meebome widget there.

And if you have more questions, feel free to email me (davidleeking at gmail dot com) – and I’ll put you in touch with our Web Administrator.

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I was reading Helene’s post about online chat, and remembered I had wanted to try something in my library’s catalog… and we just went live with it.

What did we do? We added a Meebo widget to unsuccessful keyword searches in our library catalog. This way, when a customer searches our catalog and doesn’t find anything, they can contact us via IM and ask for help (we also display our phone number if they want to call).

SO – should be interesting to see what we get from this (since we just turned it on maybe 15 minutes ago). If nothing else, it’s a solid attempt at “humanizing” the OPAC!

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