In addition to sending an instant message to your friends and family while online, you can also now IM University librarians.

Paul Wong
Linda TerHaar, head of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, demonstrates the new instant messenging feature improving communication between students and librarians yesterday.

Besides reference services allowing students to either e-mail, call or come in to ask librarians for help, the University has added an instant messaging service for students to access librarians, said Barbara MacAdam, Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library reference and instruction head.

“The service provides not only immediate help for basic questions, but it will help connect faculty and students with other information that we provide,” MacAdam said.

Service is available Sunday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., she added.

“The Graduate Library answers, between questions asked at the desk and the telephone and e-mail reference, roughly between 5,000-6,000 questions a month,” MacAdam said. “So if our experience here is typical of other academic libraries that started this additional kind of service, we would expect to have a traffic of possibly 500 questions a month.”

The user can access the instant message service through the library home page using any computer.

“When you click on the button you are told how many people are ahead of you in the queue and wait until the librarian contacts you,” MacAdam said. “Then in a moment or two you get a message from the librarian that says ‘Welcome how can I help you today?'”

The number of messages the librarian can answer simultaneously depends on the type of question he or she is being asked, MacAdam said.

“We’ve had relatively few situations with several people at one time trying to use the service,” MacAdam said. “However, when it happens the librarian gets a warning saying there is a new person in the queue. As a patron, the system will tell the user there is one or two people ahead of them.”

When a student logs in they are asked to provide an e-mail address so after they are done a transcript of the interchange is sent to them automatically, MacAdam said.

She added that the questions asked of the instant messenger service fall into four different categories: students trying to find a particular electronic resource, a particular book, citation verification and general questions, like library hours.

LSA freshman Sean Dailey said he would definitely use the service because he doesn’t know how the library works.

“I think the service is a great idea. It makes it easier for students to get information about using the library and different resources in the library,” Dailey said. But other students said they think the service is unnecessary.

“It seems kind of unnecessary because either you’re in the library and can look for books or you’re in your room and you can use Mirlyn,” LSA sophomore Jason Taylor said.

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