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The Librarian is IM: Instant Messaging Software vs. Virtual Reference Software… The Great Debate Presented by: Elena Prigoda, Gerstein Science Information.

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Presentation on theme: "The Librarian is IM: Instant Messaging Software vs. Virtual Reference Software… The Great Debate Presented by: Elena Prigoda, Gerstein Science Information."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Librarian is IM: Instant Messaging Software vs. Virtual Reference Software… The Great Debate Presented by: Elena Prigoda, Gerstein Science Information Centre, University of Toronto Jenn Horwath, Mohawk, Mohawk College OLA Super Conference, 2007

2 Agenda Overview of Virtual Reference and IM at the Mohawk Comparison of services Overview of IM at Gerstein Science Information Centre Implementation, Challenges, Results of pilot Future directions for IM services IM Acronym Quiz!

3 Agenda: Virtual Reference and IM at the Mohawk Background 1) Mohawk 2) Virtual reference services Comparisons between services satisfaction, usage, administration, features Next steps

4 Mohawk College Overview Located in Hamilton, Ontario 10,000 students, 42,000 continuing ed. students 4 campuses with libraries at each Partnership with McMaster University for collaborative nursing program Largest apprenticeship program in the province

5 Mohawk College Library Overview 40 staff (6 Librarians, 1 Director) 76,000 items in collection Circulations: over 56,000 Gate count: over 700,000 4 campus libraries plus 1 e-Library

6 Background: Virtual Reference Services 1999: reference changed to BRAIN togo in Feb. 2003: Virtual Reference Software (VAL Consortium) AskTheBRAIN Feb. 2005: IM Chat - screen name: librarymohawk changed to BRAIN togo in Summer, 2005.

7 Background: Virtual Reference Services Consortium with Algonquin, GBC, Seneca, St. Clair. Use Tutor.com software (formerly LSSI) Platform changed in Summer, Hours: 10am – 9pm M-F, 8:30am – 5pm S&S Hours are shared across all colleges. Marketing: student newspaper,, Library homepage, icons throughout web site, class visits Staffed by reference desk person at non-busy desk (at Mohawk)

8 Usage Stats for Virtual Reference: Consortium-Wide

9 Usage Stats for Virtual Reference: Mohawk Only

10 Background: Instant Messaging Trillian is used to monitor AIM, MSN and Yahoo! Monitored 8:30am – 9pm M-F, 8:30am – 5pm S&S. Staffed by reference desk person at non-busy desk (in evenings both web-based and IM are monitored) Marketing: student newspaper, homepage, signage (lots!), class visits

11 IM: BRAINtogo BRAINtogo marketed as a bundled service: phone, and chat

12 Usage Statistics for IM

13 Reference Service – link on homepage went to an online form or users could the above address. BRAINtogo – users can Users are directed to these s when IM is not open.

14 Statistics for BRAINtogo ( )

15 Web presence for all services

16

17 IM acronym quiz break! AAK means: Asleep at the keyboard!

18 Comparison: Staff Satisfaction Fall 2006, Staff were asked to rank IM and virtual reference software transactions using the following scale: 1: poor – a frustrating experience, could not provide assistance due to software problems. 2: fair/adequate - provided assistance but encountered some problems with the software. 3: good – was able to provide assistance with little or no problem.

19 Comparison: Staff Satisfaction Software staff ranked Fall 2006 virtual reference software transactions… …and IM transactions: Poor: 22 % Fair: 31% Good: 47% Good: 100%

20 Problems cited Lack of co-browsing (a problem in 19% of sessions) No response from patron (6% of sessions) Lost connection (19% of sessions)

21 Conclusions Satisfaction Staff are more satisfied using IM chat software… Mainly because of problems with new version of web-based software. Fewer questions through IM software to gauge satisfaction. Student satisfaction? Yet to be studied.

22 Comparison: Usage * Types of questions asked in IM vs. VR service: no difference.

23 Comparison: Usage Usage: Virtual Reference receives more transactions than Instant Messenger.

24 Comparison - Usage Other Libraries? Musselman Library, Gettysburg College: : 4 questions : 3 questions 2005: 110 questions* Duke University Libraries: Sept : highest monthly usage: 140 questions (lowest: 49) UNC Libraries: March 05-Oct.05: highest monthly usage: 200 (lowest: 48)** *Ciocco, Ronalee and Alice Huff. IM Working with Trillian. VRD Conference Proceedings, 2005.Ciocco, Ronalee and Alice Huff. IM Working with Trillian. VRD Conference Proceedings, **Ferguson, Jean and Pam Sessoms. R u there? Adding Instant Messaging to an Established Virtual Reference Service. VRD Conference Proceedings, 2005.

25 Conclusions Usage Virtual reference software achieves higher usage than IM chat - Why? Students associate IM with recreation not work and dont want to use it? Lack of awareness? More marketing needed? Confusion regarding services – competing brands? (AskTheBRAIN versus BRAINtogo) Older service - students are more aware of AskTheBRAIN?

26 Conclusions But…virtual reference software usage is dropping…while IM is increasing…

27 Conclusions Glitches with new virtual reference software (repeat customers dissatisfied?) Students becoming more independent researchers? Browser incompatability using virtual reference software? (Only works with IE – Firefox usage is gaining*)Firefox usage is gaining W3Schools. Browser Statistics. Jan. 2007:

28 IM acronym quiz break! IMNSHO means: In My Not So Humble Opinion IMHO means: In My Humble Opinion

29 Comparison: Administration Cost Virtual Reference: $7,200US per year for the software. New price: $40,000US/year for Consortium. Trillian: free download.

30 Comparison: Administration Training Virtual Reference Software: 2-3 hours/per week in summer. Feature-rich so many features to test More complicated interface than chat IM: ½ hour per staff member (can be done in large group). Many staff use already so minimal training

31 Conclusions Administration of services IM is much cheaper IM takes less time to train staff (all Library staff must be able to cover IM service and only 7 staff are trained on virtual reference software at Mohawk)

32 Conclusions Administration of services Virtual reference software allows for better consortial arrangements Consortial arrangements allow for greater coverage of hours and knowledge sharing …depends on your particular needs and resources

33 Comparison: Features/Quality Virtual Reference Software Co-browsing Scripted messages (for speed and consistency) Database of answers and transcripts Information about patron (college, student/faculty/other, program) available to librarian

34 Comparison: Features/Quality Virtual Reference Software Statistics (access points, number of missed calls, librarian on duty, type of patron, etc.) Ease of sharing service across Consortium Red arrow to highlight items on screen (no longer available in Tutor.com) Transcripts automatically sent to patrons for referring back.

35 Comparison: Features/Quality Virtual Reference Software Co-browsing – Pros: Survey from University of Illinois at Carbondale: found that over 90% of virtual reference users are open to instruction. Found high satisfaction with co-browsing among students surveyed - concluding that cobrowsing is effective as an instruction tool.* * Graves, Stephanie and Christina Desai. Does Co-Browsing Enhance Instruction in Virtual Reference? VRD Conference Proceedings, 2005.Graves, Stephanie and Christina Desai. Does Co-Browsing Enhance Instruction in Virtual Reference? VRD Conference Proceedings, 2005.

36 Comparison: Features/Quality Co-browsing The most used feature is co- browsing with all others (page push, canned greetings and replies, canned URLs, etc.) a close second, except for slideshows. (Survey conducted of all VAL staff, 2005).* Peters-Lise, Jennifer. Using IM for VR Internal report, Feb

37 Comparison: Features/Quality Virtual Reference Software Co-browsing – Cons: Co-browsing now requires a software download to work – no students downloaded the software from Sept. – Dec Co-browsing as a result did not work well in 19% of Mohawk sessions and many sessions from other colleges in VAL.

38 Comparison: Features/Quality IM – Pros Students are already using the software (no learning curve – see Pew Report: The Rise of the Instant-Message Generation)* Staff are already familiar with software Buddy lists encourage repeated usage Quick – no lag time between messages Cheap Can see students typing *

39 Comparison: Features/Quality IM – Cons Basic statistics (logs only) No scripted messages, transcripts for quality control. Sharing across consortium? TBD

40 Conclusions: Features/Quality If co-browsing is problematic, IM will suffice. If limited hours are an issue, consortial arrangement is better.

41 Overall Conclusions Staff Satisfaction: Staff happier using IM to answer queries. If VR software improves? Usage: Greater use of VR software but IM on the rise. Administration: Cheaper and easier to use IM. Features/Quality: More features in VR.

42 IM acronym quiz break! G2G means: Got To Go

43 Future Directions at Mohawk & VAL Monitor stats for trends Investigate use of Instant Messenger software for consortium – co-branding? Investigate other software such as Skype/Unyte, etc. Free co-browsing alternative? Survey users of IM service

44 Questions? Resources: erence Contact: Jenn Horwath eLibrarian Mohawk braintogo (yahoo!/MSN/aol) or jennmohawk (yahoo!)


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