R U There? Virtual Reference in academic libraries by Carolyn Groom, Eithne Barry and Laurence Patterson. Napier University and Carnegie FE College.
Virtual enquiry research project - looks at how libraries can use IM to support reference - Begin with short video clip - shows how users can use it and across different hardware (including iPhones!)
90 percent of pre HE students use IM - so this seems like a good way for libraries to reach out and be where the students are and "interact with students in real time." One of the points they reminded us of is that it supports users at point of need and can be aimed at Distance Learners and PT students.
It's a one year project that is about to finish - FE/HE collaboration.
Showed example of other IM projects - http://www.qmu.ac.uk/lb
university of wolverhampton - http://www2.wlv.ac.uk/lib/qp/chatinput.html
They undertook a survey to id what the state of VR services - they did this via survey monkey and distributed it via email lists and direct email - 190 responses. The break down indicates that about half of HE institutions took part, but only about a tenth of FE institutions.
Even though there are issues, non of the respondents wanted to cut or reduce the service.
Quarter of institutions currently have a service - and half of those surveyed want to implement one.
Not a chat room - this is a place that a librarian sits and waits for the student to come along.
The software breaks down into 3 categories -
Free Popular - MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Meebo, Skype (problems here include the fact that MSN and Yahoo need all of the students listed as contacts - Meebo is different, the widget can go anywhere - as we've shown in team blogs in the past.)
Free Dedicated - Meebo, VLE Chat (e.g. Blackboard, LibraryH3lp. LibraryH3lp is an open source piece of software, but is free.
Commercial- LivePerson, QuestionPoint, Elluminate Live!, VRLPlus
Prob here is that the software is expensive, but it does heave the bells and whistles that are missing from the free dedicated and the free popular.
Project website - http://virtualenquiry.net. Will have to check this out later.
Good question about whether or not meebo widgets have been put into the spaces that students are in - such as Facebook.
Where to position it? Have to do some analysis for how people find and use your library pages.