Texting at the Reference Desk! Implementing an SMS-to-Email Service for Mobile Patrons
Keith Weimer Reference and Instructional Technology Librarian Alderman Library University of Virginia Digital Services Humanities and Social Sciences
Alderman Library • Main humanities and social sciences library forU.Va. • Largest collection, houses library administration. • Primary contact point for U.Va. Library email and chat reference. • Culture of experimentation: try a new service or idea; don’t be afraid to fail!
Alderman Reference • Single service desk combining circulation and reference (incl. phone, email and chat). • Reference side double-staffed.
Why Experiment with Text Messaging reference? • Looking for new ways to push out content and enable remote users to connect with us more easily. • SMS is a growing communications medium. • Reach users at points of need not met by phone, email or chat.
What influenced our choice of model? • Phone number not short code and keyword – believed easier for user, more intuitive, can add to Contacts. • Integration with existing reference service—either chat or email. • As little new technology for staff to master as possible.
Upside Wireless • SMS-to-email service, Canadian company. • Pros: • Local phone number. • Integrated with reference email. • Familiar technology. • Can send mass notices (ex., circulation). • Cons: • Expensive--$2000 to set up, $2700/year to maintain.
Advertising the Service: Spring 2008 – “Soft Rollout”: • Link on Library home page. • Information on “Questions” page. • Table tents in main study areas.
Advertising the Service: Fall 2008 -- “Harder Rollout” • Banner on library home page. • Asked subject librarians to promote the service to departments. • Library orientation classes for freshmen. • Posters in libraries, campus center and bookstore.
Future Directions • Growing usage, still small compared to other services. Need more time to investigate. • Need to compare data for other types of reference service. • May need to explore cheaper models for service.
New SMS Reference Models: “AIM Hack” • Text 265010, then type library’s AOL Instant Messenger screen name: message (ex., uvalibref: help me!) • Pros: • Free! • Integrated with chat reference service. • User gets immediate response. • Cons: • Method of “texting” not intuitive. • Not available at time of grant.
Questions? Text me! 804-543-9269 Or AOL IM: weimerkeith Email: email@example.com Office phone: 434-924-7702 Thanks!
For more information: • American University Library. (2008). Ask a Librarian: Instant Messaging. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2008, from http://www.library.american.edu/ask/im.html • Hill, J. B., Hill, C. M., & Sherman, D. (2007). Text Messaging in an Academic Library: Integrating SMS into Digital Reference. The Reference Librarian, 47(1), 17-29. • Mosio. (2007-2008). Mosio. Retrieved Sep. 30, 2008, from http://www.mosio.com/ • Upside Wireless. (2008). Upside Wireless Text Messaging. Retrieved Sep. 30, 2008, from http://www.upsidewireless.com