Monday, November 19, 2007

Ball State University Libraries' Chat Services Continue to Grow

The Information Services librarians at Ball State provide a variety of services to library users, including answering questions in-person as well as virtually, through Live Chat instant messaging service.

Chat statistics have risen steadily in recent years as our reference librarians explore new ways to make this virtual reference service more accessible to today’s users. For example, in September 2007, librarians conducted 282 chat sessions, answering a total of 346 questions, up from 190 chat sessions in September 2006. Last year, reference questions answered by chat services experienced an annual increase of 280%.

In an effort to better serve our library customers, reference librarians added several instant messenger accounts to their virtual reference services in June 2006. By creating a BSULibrarian account on instant messenger clients by AOL, MSN, and Yahoo, librarians could connect directly with users on these chat platforms. The three accounts are managed simultaneously by using Trillian, free software from Cerulean Studios.

This platform replaced proprietary software that had been used since the service first begun in 2004. This past summer, reference librarians added the Wimzi widget to their Ask a Librarian Web page, This plug-in allows users to chat directly with reference librarians from that page.

By using the new chat widget, students, faculty, and other users of the service are able to send their reference question through the chat service directly to a librarian without having to first log in to an instant messenger service and then establish a connection to the library’s chat account. The chat widget connects directly to the BSULibrarian account from the webpage, and allows the user to chat with the librarian from within that page. From the librarian’s point of view, the widget works seamlessly with the Trillian chat management software.

During September 2007, the first full month of chat with the Wimzi widget in place, 45% of the chats (128 chat sessions) were from Wimzi widget users. The service saw its peak use that month on Wednesdays, with the majority of chat sessions occurring between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

For more information, contact Stacy B. Chaney, Information Services Librarian,,765-285-3325.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home