Why would I introduce instant messaging to my library environment?

The most obvious reason is the potential for answering reference questions in a fast and expedient way. When online, the librarian and patron can chat in real time and answers will be delivered fairly quickly. If the library has an IM account opened, it is basically a 24/7 open dialog for a patron and the library resources.

The beauty of this system is that even when the library is closed, the patron can send a message that will greet the librarian the next day and their message will be answered regardless of library hours (it just won’t be instantaneous, as in a live situation).

This is a great way for the eldery or disabled to stay in contact with the library without even having to leave their home. This provides a great convenience for patrons who may have trouble getting to the library… including teens who may have to babysit their siblings after school and college students who go to school and work part time jobs!

Here are some statistics on the use of IM in general.

* 87% of teens (ages 12-17) are online.

* 75% of online teens use instant messaging.

* 32% of all teens (50% of online teens) use IM every day.

* 24% of online teens say IM is how they prefer to communicate with friends.

* 78% of teens on IM have used it to talk about school work.

* 12% of U.S. adults use IM on a typical day.

* About 80% of young adults (18-24) use IM at least occasionally.

* More than 25% of online seniors (59+) use IM.

* More than 30% of office employees use IM at work.

* Worldwide IM traffic is projected to triple over the next 5 years.

        Sources: Pew Internet & American Life Project, BIGresearch, ePolicy Institute, Radicati Group.

It would appear that IM is a totally viable form of getting the message across in the new generation. And a most compelling reason, especially in these financially trouble times, is that IM software is free and won’t impact the library’s budget. With some minimal training, reference librarians can provide additional service with little to no impact on their daily routine and provide an extended service to the library patrons giving them the most bang for their buck!