IM Library Reference
In addition to providing traditional reference services, many libraries have also begun to serve patrons through instant messaging or IM reference. For example, Milner Library at Illinois State University recently launched the instant messaging system LibraryH3lp (pronounced as library help) as its primary IM reference service beginning in the fall 2009 semester. LibraryH3lp is an integrated web chat and IM platform designed especially for library reference services by Eric Sessoms, President of Nub Games, Inc., and Pam Sessoms, reference librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
To use the LibraryH3lp for reference questions, library patrons only need access to a computer with an Internet connection. At Milner Library, patrons simply click on the IM link on the homepage of the library website, which loads a pop-up window titled "IM a Milner Librarian." The patrons then type their reference questions or other queries in the box with the message "Type here to chat. Press ENTER to send." After pressing enter, the message is sent to the librarians at the reference desk who can then assist the patron through IM. In addition to standard text chatting, LibraryH3lp also allows file transfers between the librarian and the patron. At the end of the reference session, patrons can send transcripts of the reference sessions to themselves through e-mail.
Other popular software widely-used for IM library reference includes Meebo, Trillian, AOL Instant Messenger, Text a Librarian, Skype, and Windows Live Messenger.