On Thursday, the reference department initiated service via txt messaging. By doing so, we’ve joined a small handful of academic libraries making this format available to patrons.
In order to txt the reference desk, patrons should dial 265010, enter our IM screen name “askzaklive” followed by their question and press enter. The question will arrive at the reference desk computer in an instant message window, and the librarian will enter her response as with any other IM. There only two small differences between a reference session initiated via IM and one via txt messaging: instead of the patron’s screen name, her mobile phone number appears at the top of the window and there’s a limit on the number of characters allowed per message. Otherwise the transaction at the ref desk is the same as an IM. With this program, mobile phone users can send text messages to anyone with an AIM screen name who’s online.
We had been looking for a program to integrate text messaging with instant messaging for several months because most Wake Forest students have cell phones and text messaging is growing in popularity among this demographic cohort. We had been stymied in our efforts by a lack of service providers: one alternative provided only an international phone number which would have been prohibitively expensive to users, while another charged a handsome subscription fee. We had decided to wait until a better alternative became available and on Wednesday evening, Lauren found it. While reading a blog she came across an entry from American University describing their recently-launched text messaging reference service. We tested it on Thursday morning, found it worked seamlessly with AIM decided to go live.
We currently receive approximately one third of all reference questions via instant messaging and we’ll be tracking the statistics for text messaging, as well. We’ll report our finding in a later posting.